How often do you think about the necessity of strengthening your soul?
How often do you think about the fact that others need encouragement, redirection, prayers?
How often do you think of trials and disappointments as training that is necessary to grow in your endurance in the faith?
This week we jump into Acts 14 to address some of these questions as well as wrapping up this first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas (seems like they have been on this mission forever doesn’t it?)
Take a second to Read Acts 14 in full before moving on to looking at some key points and questions to walk through the scripture.
Let’s start with breaking down v. 1-3
“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
As we read these verses we are met with this idea of push back, rejection, of someone objecting the truth the disciples are presenting.
Ask yourself these questions:
(1) How do you handle push back? Truly.
(2) How do we typically see the church deal with opposition? Individually? Corporately?
We have to be aware of our own attitude towards opposition before we can know what to do to train ourselves in the strength and power of the Spirit.
So, how do you respond?
Do you tense up? Do you get fired up and say things harshly? Do you back down and leave silent? Do you seek peace above stating the truth you know to be?
What is your attitude?
Do you get mad? Do you feel defeated? Do you get annoyed? Do you exude patience? Do you have a loving spirit towards others?
Spend some time here and let your tendencies come to the surface. Place them at the feet of Jesus and ask for a spirit of confidence, a spirit of love, a spirit of power in His Name!
Now that you’ve thought through how YOU react, let’s look back and see how the disciples responded in vv. 3
“So they remained”
In another version the verse reading “Therefore they stayed”
In the face of opposition…they chose to stay.
In the face of hardship…they remained.
In the face of defeat…they fought on.
“[they spoke] boldly for the Lord”
Not only did Paul and Barnabas remain, they continued to fight for the name of the Lord to be proclaimed.
We need to remember that as Christians, our convictions matter. We must not back down from the things we believe, the things we know to be true. We must not let others sway us or let the opposition of culture leave us running to hide.
Ask yourself the following:
(1) What are the things you would choose to fight for?
(2) What’s the attitude you have to have to speak up and fight for something?
In our discussion on Sunday, KJ brought up a good point about how there needs to be both determination and conviction when it comes to things worth fighting for. Robbie similarly reminded us that often the things we choose to fight for comes from an extreme feelings about said thing; either we love it so much we choose to fight, or conversely our hate leads to strong action.
As Paul and Barnabas were obedient, faithful to continue in the work they had previously been commission for…the Lord meets them. As God is proclaimed, His Spirit provides. We have seen this in Acts several other times. Here, as the men are sharing of the name of the Lord, He is faithful to provide tangible “signs and wonders” for the crowds to see. God knew the people needed to hear AND see His Power in order to believe.
–> Have you ever seen the Lord’s power show up in your life as you were obedient to speak, to fight, to step out in faith?
Continuing on in the chapter with vv. 4-7
“But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.”
Here we see Paul and Barnabas gaining discernment from the Spirit on knowing when to leave and take their efforts to another city.
Yes, the men fled.
BUT…they didn’t stop the mission. Upon arriving to Derbe and Lystra, they continued to preach the gospel. See, the men knew they needed to leave the city of Iconium (spoiler…just for the time being) but they did not need to leave behind the mission.
Where God moves His people, His power goes with them.
Rob challenged us to think through what could have come in verse 7. The story could have read something like Paul and Barnabas fled from the persecution at hand to go and rest, to recover, to take a breather (admit it, you probably would like that if you were them, right?).
(1) How often do we escape/ flee situations in order to just take a break?
(2) When have you actually moved on from one hard situation to another, but felt stronger instead of weaker?
Continue on in vv.8-13
**vv. 8-11 is a similar story to how the people treated Peter earlier in Acts, just with a different culture response.
“Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. “
Here we see a city thinking Paul and Barnabas were gods among them. So we see them wanting to worship them, wanting to make sacrifices before them..
Yet, Paul and Barnabas tried to set the people straight in the next few verses.
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
We are also men- of like nature with you
Sometimes it is SO important to be aware of our place in the Kingdom of God. Yes, we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us, but we are still man. Still able to see eye-level with those around us- whether fellow child of God or not.
Consider vv. 15
“that you should turn from these vain things”
V a i n : producing no result; useless. having no real value, empty,
Our culture is full of “how can I please myself” “how can I gain man’s approval” “how can I be happy right now” “how can I make my life look beautiful online”
Some Questions to think through on this:
(1) Is our culture wrapped up in vain things? Things that don’t hold any true value?
(2) How have you in your life over the past few weeks been chasing after things that won’t provide any lasting value, things that won’t leave you complete and satisfied?
(3) How can you be aware and distinguish between things that are neutral and the things that are taking control over your life?
Be aware of the things that you feel as though you cannot live without.
Be aware of the things that dictate your emotions at any given moment.
Be aware of the things that monopolize your thoughts.
“… to a living God”
Here we see Paul and Barnabas telling the crowd that they actually do have something else to turn to….something that is not vain! They are able to turn from the vanity that the world wraps itself up in and they can turn instead to a living God.
There and only there can we find true peace, true rest, true meaning, true comfort in life.
A point we made on Sunday–> the Bible is not simply better than Netflix. The Bible itself acts as a counter-agent to the lies, to the culture, to the identity we seek from the world.
The Bible is supposed to be active against the bitter-spirit that lies in one’s life before they become a follower of Jesus.
(1) How does the truth of the Bible act as a counter-agent to what is out there in the world today? How does the Spirit fight against the lies of the Enemy as we sit with God and His words?
continuing on vv. 19-20
“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.”
Even as Paul was stoned, tormented by those still in opposition to the gospel…the disciples gathered around him. There was a true sense of community, or oneness here.
“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, “
You’re saying Paul and Barnabas decided to GO BACK to the place where they had to previously flee from due to violence and fear of persecution?
HOW? tell me how!
“strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. “
Sometimes we need to be strengthened in order to go back and face something the Lord intends for us to face. Sometimes we need to walk through a season of endurance, a time of building up, a series of trusting the Lord in order to be obedient where God has called us. Paul and Barnabas returned to Iconium stronger, more confident in their power from the Lord.
(1) How important is it that we take the steps to strengthen ourselves, specifically our souls?
(2) How much did Paul value being strengthened?
(3) What can the church do to help strengthen others, to provide encouragement more than just once a week?
(4) What were the disciples strengthening? (hint: it wasn’t their physical bodies)
Raise your hand if you need encouragement?
We all need people coming along side us, being consistent in their pursuit of knowing where our heart is. We need constant encouragement, constant words pointing us back to Christ. If Paul and Barnabas need it, so do we!
So..what is the goal of this strengthening, of this facing trials and tribulations?
To enter the Kingdom of God!
There is an internal struggle we all face to remain in the Kingdom of God daily. Letting Him rule and reign over all aspects of our lives. This is where Paul is correct that life is like running a race, always having to be active. We cannot always just wait on God to move us forward, we have to take the steps and then He will meet us along the way providing living water able to sustain us.
Go back and read vv. 22.
Kind of summarizes a lot of the Christian life does it not?
Sit with these thoughts. Let the questions flood your mind and lead to honest conversations with the Lord this week. Below are some questions that the group on Sunday said came to their mind:
(1) What is it that I love?
(2) What are things I should love?
(3) How can I aim to have all my relationships with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ be those that encourage each other, strengthening in nature?
(4) Am I letting my fears and imperfections hold me back?
(5) Am I truly placing others at a higher significance in my life than myself?
Go on and finish reading vv. 24-28
“Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.”
Through it all, through the ups and downs, the successes and failures, the fleeing and the remaining– a door of faith was opened!
The disciples faithfulness coupled with the strength and power of the Lord allowed the men to fulfill the work set before them.
What work is set before you that you need to be faithful in?
What can we take from the missionary journey and apply right now in our lives?
Father, thank you for being present in our lives. Thank you for the presence of others along side us in ministry. Those to encourage us, those to push us forward, those to walk beside. We are incredibly thankful for your guidance and your ability to see when we need to take time to strengthen our souls and when we need to remain and push through. Lord, we pray that this week we are open to your guidance and that we are in your Word often. Let us not strive after things such as the wind, but let us strive to remain fruitful to your Kingdom. Amen