Encouragement to Continue
After they (Paul and Barnabas) had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the hearts of the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith, and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
Paul and Barnabas did not sugar coat anything in their evangelistic efforts. The truth was that the world would persecute the early believers for their faith, and they needed to be aware that suffering was part of the package. I fear too many people today come to Christ with the false assumption that everything will be wonderful and prosperous now that they have decided to become a Christian and lose faith once something bad happens. As we are all aware, becoming a Christian does not exempt us from loss, hardship, tragedy, or trials; it just changes how we deal with these things that are inherent in a fallen world.
In planting churches and spreading the gospel, Paul and Barnabas made a point to encourage those who became disciples. In Christ, we have a hope that the world does not have. God is for us and is working everything that happens to us for our good and His glory, and we can count on Him to be with us in every situation. When we go through difficult times, God makes sure we gain something from the experience that increases our faith and transforms us more into the image of Christ. Our goal as a Christian is to gain Christ – not earthly prosperity. Christ suffered on this earth, and the apostles suffered. We can expect to suffer, as well. Our suffering, however, is not without purpose or hope. We can come through it stronger and more effective in ministry than before, and we should pray God will use our suffering as a tool to increase His kingdom.
I can’t promise you a life without pain on this earth. I can, however, assure you that whatever you have to suffer for the kingdom of God will be worth any pain you endure. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and keep pressing ahead in your faith. There is another side to your suffering, and God is waiting with a reward. He loves you like no one else ever could. You’ve come too far to turn back now, anyway. You might as well run forward and claim your victory in Christ.
Have a blessed day!