Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.
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“…They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said …
“From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” (v 19-22, 26-27 NIV)
A chapter earlier, Your call for these two men to be set aside is recorded: “… the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'” (Acts 13:2 NIV). They traveled to various cities in that region on the northeast shore of the Mediterranean Sea. As they went, they encountered success AND opposition. Some opposition was even to the point of stoning to near death. Yet, they kept going.
Later in Paul’s ministry, You have him pen something to the Corinthians that could’ve been referring back to this kind of treatment: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed … For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Cor 4:8-11 NIV).
These early disciples were hurt by the people with whom You’d sent them to share Your gospel. But that didn’t stop them. They “got up and went back into the city” (Ac 14:20). For they knew, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (v 22). So, they pressed onward in the task You’d given them: “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (v 22).
Father, no matter what kind of opposition or struggles I face in the process of sharing Your Word and “strengthening the disciples” I meet, You have promised to carry me. Though my circumstances may not include “stoning” as in Paul’s time, some of the stuff the enemy sends my way or gangs up on me with can often seem like the same. Thank You, though, that I have You with me at ALL times, guiding, protecting and encouraging …as You keep on making me just like Jesus. Amen.