THIS WEEK’S FOCUSED SCRIPTURE
“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. 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 gospel 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.” Acts 14:19-22 NIV.
THOUGHTS FROM GREG
Years ago, I realized that one of my powerful drives is to seek to avoid discomfort, tension, and grief at nearly all costs. To make matters worse, I spent many years mistakenly believing that God’s mission in life was to help me avoid discomfort, tension, and grief at nearly all costs. Since I was a Christian, wasn’t God supposed to make my life easy and trouble free? You can imagine how my faith would be challenged every time God did not fulfil my misguided expectations of His mission for my life.
I’m not sure where I got the idea that God’s main mission was to make my life comfortable; it certainly did not come from the Bible. Right here in this passage from Acts, it says that we must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul wrote these words based on real experience. He pursued the Kingdom of God like it was the only thing that mattered. In this one brief example, Paul got pelted with stones so badly that his opponents thought he was dead. When God allowed Paul to recover from this unbelievable crisis, what was Paul’s response? Did he whine to God: “How could you let this happen to me, especially while I was trying to serve you by preaching the good news?” NO!! Paul got right back up and went back into the city where people had just tried to kill him!! His message to those who believed in Jesus: “This won’t be easy, but God’s Kingdom is so worth it!” (Greg’s paraphrase).
This same idea is echoed throughout the New Testament, including from the words of Jesus, right before He went to the cross:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. See also 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV; James 1:2-4 NIV.
I think I read right over these passages for so many years because I did not like the truth conveyed here. I did not want to hear that God was not going to partner with me in making my life smooth sailing all the time. Ironically, these passages have now become a great encouragement to me. My faith is no longer challenged when I encounter choppy waters because I know that God is not primarily concerned with my comfort. Rather, He’s concerned with my growth and development, and He’s concerned with my impact on His Kingdom. I don’t have to resist everything that may bring me discomfort because I have learned “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV.