Saturday, August 28, 2010

running to the battle

Acts 14:19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
Acts 14:21-22  And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
Paul was moving through what is now modern-day Turkey on his first missionary journey, with Barnabas.  They are going to the synagogues and preaching to Jews, with Gentiles hanging out and listening also.  Some are coming to faith...miracles of healing continue...some locals confuse Paul and Barnabas with the legendary gods Zeus and Hermes.  The apostles speak to the Jews from the words of the law and prophets and they speak to the Gentiles of the God who made heaven and earth.  Unbelieving Jews, who were jealous of the following that was developing toward Jesus, decide to kill Paul and destroy the messenger of this gospel.  They come out of the towns that Paul has already visited (Antioch and Iconium) and they actually stone Paul to unconsciousness...and possibly death.   But God preserves, or restores, Paul to life.  The first thing Paul does is to resume preaching the message of salvation, just has he had been preaching.  The second thing Paul does is return to the very towns that sent emissaries to stone him.  He encourages new believers there to stand strong in the midst of difficulty and is living proof that God has stood with him despite being stoned to apparent death by their neighbors.  Courage like this comes from two sources: (1) a strong conviction that trusting in, and obeying, Jesus is more important than earthly life and (2) a strong confidence that what God has begun, He will also finish. 
I am challenged to live for the Message more than for myself.  The satisfactions of self are nothing compared to the joys that will ring forever in Heaven.
Rob Smith

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