Then some Jews arrived from Antioch & Iconium & won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul & dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up & went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. After preaching the Good News in Derbe & making many disciples, Paul & Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, & Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Acts 14:19-22
The Apostle Paul suffered violent opposition, persecution, slander, & threat of death for his persistence in declaring the gospel. In Lystra, the mobs that had been chasing him from town to town finally caught up with him, dragged him out of the city, & stoned him until he was dead. Or at least they thought he was.
Whether he was resurrected from the dead or somehow had “shaken off” the stoning & recovered enough to walk we don’t know. (And just how might one “shake off” being pelted with rocks as big as your head?) What we do know is that Paul got up, & moved on to the next city, Derbe, continuing to preach the gospel to any & all that would hear it. If that wasn’t enough, Paul & Barnabas soon went back to Lystra, Iconium, & Antioch of Pisidia, all places that angry hordes had either wanted to or attempted to kill them. And the message they preached was Good News – & that this Good News & following Christ was worth every bit of suffering & hardship that would come, something they all knew he had experienced firsthand.
It makes me think about the confidence that Paul placed in his relationship with God, & how much he depended on the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain him through a life of such physical difficulty & suffering. What’s more, his chose to set his mind on Christ, the author & finisher of our faith. To be steadfast, firm in his pursuit of the goal, the mission he’d been given: that all would hear & come to know Christ, our hope & glory.
When Paul challenged the disciples in each city he visited to stand firm in their faith, to boldly persevere in the face of suffering, he spoke from experience. He had discovered the very real peace of God that goes beyond circumstances, & had fully committed himself to the fact that God would sustain him until such a time that he died or was martyred. And this death (& even the threat of it) had no power or sway on him, for long before, he had chosen that whether he lived or died, it would be for the glory of God.
I pray for a fresh filling with the Holy Spirit for each of us. For boldness to live & declare the Good News without fear of what may come. And I set my eyes on Christ & purpose to follow in His footsteps, & encourage others to do the same after me.