Week 16 of The Way: a new series on the Book of Acts
Acts 14 continues telling the story of Paul and Barnabas's ministry; this time as they preached to the Jews in Iconium and Lystra. At both locations, Paul and Barnabas experienced an initial success followed by serious setbacks whereby their lives were threatened and they were forced to leave the city (14:6, 14:19-20). It is tempting to see Paul and Barnabas' rejection as a result of their doing something wrong, however, this passage holds several key signs that the apostles were actually doing something right.
If you are anything like me, you probably are asking this question right now: if Paul and Barnabas were succeeding in their mission, how is it that the people turn from the truth they shared so quickly? After all, in the modern world we don't typically see rejection as a sign of success. Still, that was exactly the case for Paul and Barnabas. It is important to understand that the world the apostles are preaching in in Acts 14 is a world that is desperate for a transcendent truth. The peoples of Iconium and Lystra were searching for anything that would provide them a source of life.
The apostles were able to provide this when they preformed miracles and signs. Not only were they verbally speaking the Truth, but their words were backed up by life changing actions (After all, what could be more life changing than a lame person suddenly being able to walk! 14:8-10). Even so, the apostles were eventually confronted by mobs and driven out of the city.
What does this rejection mean? Well, one perspective is to see the hostile reactions from the Jews and Greeks in Acts 14 as a sign that they are afraid of the power of the apostle's message. Paul and Barnabas weren't a couple of nut jobs screaming at people in the streets; they preformed real acts that changed people's lives! What's more, when Paul and Barnabas preformed such acts, they immediately used the situation to point back to the source of their power: a God who sent His son to save the world.
Rejection is hard for many Christians to deal with, especially after experiencing an initial success as Paul and Barnabas did. When the world rejects us, we want to give up hope. When we are not met with open arms, we fear that our success as been stifled. This is not true, however, because our strength comes through perseverance (James 1:2-4). When we perservere through trials and tribulations we become a direct reflection of Christ. Like Paul and Barnabas, we point to the source of our power: a God who's desire to be with us is so great He pursues us to the ends of the earth even as we run away from Him. In Acts 14, even after the people of Iconium and Lystra rejected the Word of God, God sent Paul and Barnabas back to care for the Christians who were there. So, this week I would encourage you to persevere through whatever God is calling you to do. Do not be discouraged because refusing to give up, even when the weight of the world is bearing down on us, is what ultimately brings success.
-Andrew Nelson, ASC Partner and Blog Coordinator
How can God become more the source of power in your life?
How can you help the A Seattle community to PERSEVERE in our mission?
Where are the "cities" God is calling you to go to?