Acts 13 and 14 record the first missionary trip of Paul and Barnabas. The scene in which Saul and Barnabas were sent from the Antioch church was very impressive. Church leaders fast, prayed, and blessed them. Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Holy Spirit to the land of the Gentiles (Acts 13: 2,3). Everything looked good. What was the expectation for the mission trip that started with the blessings of so many people? Everyone they met was filled with joy, believed in Jesus, and praised God? Yes/No. Some persecuted them, blasphemed, cast stones, and tried to kill them.
What I would like to say is that people started in fasting, praying, and blessing, but in many cases, there were opposition and suffering followed. Perhaps it is why people need fasting, prayer, and blessings when they are doing what God is pleased.
Indeed, the way that Paul and Barnabas were going was not wide but narrow. It was not a peaceful road but a hard road. Nevertheless, they were choosing this way. Was it because of the strong love of God to them? Was it because they were filled with the Holy Spirit? Would God have given their hearts to love the others’ souls in their hearts? Anyway, Paul and Barnabas chose this difficult and harsh road.
What path did you choose? And why did you choose the path?
The Lord gave us freedom of choice. He says us to choose one of them: wide or narrow road; wide or narrow door; large crowds or small crowds. We can build houses on rocks or build houses on sand. We can serve God or serve money. But the end of that choice will be different. One is the way to death, and the other is the way to life. But people want to believe that the way they are walking is the way to life.
Think of Abel and Cain. Both are the sons of Adam. Abel chose God, and Cain chose murder. And God left them as they were. Think of Abraham and Lot. Abraham chose God, and Lot chose Sodom. God just left them as they were. Think of Peter and Judah. Both of them denied the Lord. Peter sought mercy, and Judas sought death. And God just left them as they were ("Jesus crucified, from Max Lucado")
Hearing the gospel preached by Paul and Barnabas, some welcomed the Lord, filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. But some were angry and hated enough to kill Paul and Barnabas. Some have chosen the Lord, others have chosen hate. But God just left them as they were.
It also happened when the Lord died on the cross. On the sides of Jesus, two robbers were hanging on the cross. What the two robbers did was to ridicule Jesus since the only thing that robbers hanging on the cross could do was curse the world. It was also considered a privilege they enjoyed at the end of their lives. Imagine a scene where the two robbers dying on the cross cursed the world that killed them. And people were gathering and listening to their disgust for their fun. But for some reason, the heart of a sinner who has been blaspheming has changed.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, 'Jesus, please remember me when you come into your kingdom.'
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23: 39-43).
One recognized Jesus as king, and one chose to insult Jesus and died. But Jesus did not persuade other sinners. He loved him, but he left him as he chose.
What did you choose? What way are you going?
It is interesting to note that the responses of people who have heard the message of God's mercy and love for us were different. Even before the death of Jesus, people make decisions that were different from each other. One chose Jesus and the other rejected Jesus. And God just left them as they chose.
Paul and Barnabas chose a narrow path. It is surely they chose the path God wanted, it is the way of life, but also the way of the suffering and the persecution. In the letter to the apostle Paul to Timothy, he described today's text said:
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings--what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3: 10-12)
Paul confessed two main things. The first was that the Lord saved him from all difficulties, and the second was that everyone who wants to live godly lives in Jesus Christ will be persecuted. If you want to live according to God's will, you will be persecuted. There will be wounds to those who obey God's will. You might be told that there will be tear in your body and mind. It may be worthwhile for God to do it, but can I say it is painful?
But when we come to this kind of hardship and persecution, you may ask such questions: 'Why is this trouble happening to me? Is there anything else God wants? ' These questions may be common if you are in difficulty. However, this might be our thoughts and wishes: “If we do as God's will, all obstacles will disappear.”
I saw a TV show that someone who does business well mentored people how to do business. Someone is operating food trucks. But there is no guest. Sometimes guests come, but the owner does not give any eyes contacts with guests. After the mentor saw this, he mentioned that "The owner was hurt by the guests," he says. And the following statement says that the neglection of the guest hurts the owner.
I understood what he said. The owner should prepare fresh and delicious food and now wait for guests, the owner will be upset if the passers-by do not give them a glance. So what the wounded masters do was to turn away from the guests. The owner was also trying to get less hurt. But this mentor also said, 'If you want to live or to be success, you have to get hurt as many as you can like drinking water.' It was shocking comment, but it was right. You have to get accustomed to the hurt that you get from the customers, and you can do the good business, so you can live.
I heard him like this: 'If you live according to God's Word, you must be hurt as many as you can like drinking water.' Is not that what Paul said to Timothy? There is suffering and persecution if you try to live godly.
Think of Jesus’ cross. Jesus also chose the path of suffering by obeying God. The Lord ripped his clothes, his body was torn. Jesus was hurt severely. People spit and insulted the Lord. He was struck with a whip and was tore his hands and feet with the nails. The suffering of the Lord who was obedient to Heavenly Father was more than we can imagine. The Lord chose this way because there was glory at the end of the path.
'Therefore, brethren, we have the courage to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, a new way of life that has opened up for us in the veil. The veil is his body (Hebrews 10: 19,20).
With the wound of Jesus Christ, a new way of pay to heaven has opened for us. Paul and Barnabas were also greatly hurt and they also opened a new way of life.
Interestingly, a reaction of the Bible to the Jews is in the today’s text. In Acts 14: 2, this is how it is. "A Jew who is not obedient." Those who did not accept the Lord and were filled with wrath, the Bible regarded “those who are not obedient to God”.
Even if we do God's work, there will be suffering and persecution. This is natural. However, we need to remember that a new road was opened with the wound that the Lord received. Through the suffering and persecution of Paul and Barnabas, a new way of life was opened through them. Maybe the Lord challenges us too. I hope that with the wound we have, a new way of life will be opened.
Nevertheless, I have anxiety. People tend to listen more to blame than to praise. It is the person who falls to criticize a word rather than a hundred of praise. But Paul and Barnabas have been able to overcome these situations. And what I found is verse 3.
" So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. (Acts 14: 3, NIV) "
Paul and Barnabas said that they relied on the Lord when suffering and persecution came. And boldly proclaimed the gospel of the Lord. The surrounding environment did not dominate Paul and Barnabas. Rather they have dominated the environment.
This is what we need. When we may get tired when we walk in the way that the Lord wants, what we need is to rely on the Lord and boldly speaking for the Lord. Because the Lord has already overcome the world.
Those who do business for a living also endure the scars as many as they can like drinking water. There is suffering in the way to live. But it is natural that there are more wounds to do for eternal life, but there is something we should see. At the end of that path, a new flesh path will open. When Paul and Barnabas was about to be stoned by the Gentiles, the Jews, and their officials, they left to the two Lycanonian cities of Lystra and Derbe. They saw that God opened a new path for them.
The Lord will open a new way for those who live according to His will. God will save those who want to live a godly life. But if you live like that, you will suffer and be persecuted, however, it is a way to open a new life. I pray to the Lord that He may give us the strength and the boldness for the Lord.