Today’s Reading: Acts 13-14
While spending time worshiping the Lord and fasting, the early Church heard from God, through the Holy Spirit. They were told to dedicate Barnabas and Saul (now known as Paul) to a special work God had for them. The next two chapters of Acts describe Barnabas and Paul’s first missionary journey from Antioch. Their experience varied from town to town and so did their response.
In Paphos, Paul and Barnabas met with the governor, Sergius Paulus. There was an obstruction in the way of the governor accepting the good news of salvation and they were there to remove that barrier. Sometimes there are barriers or distractions in our lives preventing us from trusting in God fully. In the governor’s case it was a Jewish sorcerer named Bar-Jesus. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, identified the man for what he was – a tool of the devil and an enemy. Instantly mist and darkness came over his eyes and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him. The distraction was silenced and the governor became a believer for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord (Acts 13:6-12).
Sometimes we face DISTRACTIONS on our journey.
Next they ended up in Antioch of Pisidia, where they were invited to give a word of encouragement for the people during the weekly service in the synagogue. Paul reminded them of the history of Israel and how Jesus fulfilled many prophecies, how he was condemned instead of recognized and how God raised him from the dead.
“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God…” (Acts 13:38-39).
Paul’s message was accepted and they were invited to stay for another week. During that week, the Gentiles were thankful for these missionaries and many became believers. Opposition arose, however, among the Jews and a mob ran Paul and Barnabas out of town.
Sometimes we face OPPOSITION on our journey.
So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium. And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. – Acts 13:51-52
The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. – Acts 14:1-3
Paul and Barnabas experienced the same thing in Iconium that they did in Antioch of Pisidia, yet instead of moving on, they stayed. Sometimes in the face of opposition, the Holy Spirit leads us to WALK AWAY. Sometimes he tells us to STAY. And sometimes he directs us to FLEE. That is what Paul and Barnabas did next when a mob of both Gentiles and Jews threatened to attack and stone them.
Sometimes we face PERSECUTION on our journey.
They went on to Lystra and Derbe and preached the good news there instead. The reaction at first was quite the opposite as the people tried to make Paul and Barnabas into gods to worship.
“Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings – just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the Living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” – Acts 14:15-17
Trouble followed Paul and Barnabas to Lystra, stirring up the crowds against them. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. So what did Paul do this time? Did he shake the dust off his feet and leave? Did he choose to stay or did he flee? As the believers gathered around the injured apostle, he rose to his feet and went back into the town.
The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe, where he made many disciples. Paul and Barnabas stopped by Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia on their way home from this long journey. They had one more message to convey using the example of their own lives – a reminder that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God (14:22).
Sometimes we face SUFFERING on our journey.
This is a good reminder for us today. God has called each of us to a special purpose. He promises to be with us but He does not promise that our journey will be without distractions, opposition, persecution and sometimes suffering. He has given us the Holy Spirit who will show us what to do when these problems arise. He might lead us to walk away or He may call us to stay. He might warn us to flee from the enemy or He may give us the strength to get up on our feet and go back.
I am so thankful for His direction and strength in any and every situation. I praise Him and thank Him for the wisdom He gives us to know how and when to respond. As long as we continue to worship and fast and remain close to God, He will communicate to us through His Spirit. Praise God!