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Through “many troubles” to God’s kingdom

April 28, 2023

Daily Scripture

Acts 14:11-22

11 Seeing what Paul had done, the crowd shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have taken human form and come down to visit us!” 12 They referred to Barnabas as Zeus and to Paul as Hermes, since Paul was the main speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was located just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates. Along with the crowds, he wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
14 When the Lord’s messengers Barnabas and Paul found out about this, they tore their clothes in protest and rushed out into the crowd. They shouted, 15 “People, what are you doing? We are humans too, just like you! We are proclaiming the good news to you: turn to the living God and away from such worthless things. He made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them [Psalm 146:6]. 16 In the past, he permitted every nation to go its own way. 17 Nevertheless, he hasn’t left himself without a witness. He has blessed you by giving you rain from above as well as seasonal harvests, and satisfying you with food and happiness.” 18 Even with these words, they barely kept the crowds from sacrificing to them.
19 Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won the crowds over. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing he was dead. 20 When the disciples surrounded him, he got up and entered the city again. The following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
21 Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the good news to the people in Derbe and made many disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, where 22 they strengthened the disciples and urged them to remain firm in the faith. They told them, “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

“Okay, Jesus trusted God through suffering—but he was God. I’m just human!” The apostle Paul was just human. He (and the very human Christians in the first churches he planted) knew first-hand about suffering. A hostile mob, thinking they had killed Paul, dragged him out of Lystra! Instead of dashing for home, he went back to that city. With utter honesty, and likely a dash of holy defiance, he told the believers there, “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.”

  • Scholar William Barclay wrote about Paul’s teaching to his converts, “He offered them no easy way. He acted on the principle that Jesus had come ‘not to make life easy but to make men [and women] great.’” * In what ways does it seem to you that following Jesus today is a good bit easier than it was in Paul’s day? In what ways is it still true that entering God’s kingdom involves “many troubles”?
  • Pastor Lloyd John Ogilvie wrote that after the stoning, “Raised up by their prayers, Paul strode back into the city and got Barnabas, and… they exhibited the raw courage to go right back into the jaws of the enemy in the cities of Antioch and Iconium.” ** In what ways does living out your faith call for courage (moral if not always physical)? In what ways can you trust God to give you the necessary courage?

Lord Jesus, you sent Paul and Barnabas bravely traveling through hostile foreign territory. Often you just ask me to be a good neighbor, or to be your presence in my workplace or school. Give me the courage to do whatever you need from me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe & his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 & were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew & Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

With Kansas City hosting the NFL football draft this weekend, the whole town has been abuzz. Even our sons will return from K-State to join the masses attending the live events at Union Station. (I’ve made a friendly wager with our sons on the percentage of fans wearing Patrick Mahomes jerseys.)

Aside: Guy with his date at the NFL draft: Is your seat comfortable? Her: Yes. Is your seat soaking wet, because someone spilled their beverage on it? Her: No. Do you have a New York fan behind you screaming, “J-E-T-S” every 3 minutes? Her: No. Would you like to change seats?

One of the KC Chiefs’ draft picks on Saturday will be announced by Tik Tok sensation, James Droz. James is a young man with special needs who loves life, sports, & the KC Chiefs. He became famous for his playful question to teams after a defeat, “What Happeneduhhhh?!?!” * Today’s passage is full of scenes that force a reader stop & ask, “Wait. What happened?” Let’s take a look:

Aside: In the event of tornados at the draft, meteorologists suggest fans congregate in the Raiders’ section. They rarely experience any touchdowns. (We apologize to Raiders’ fans &, well, fans of quality humor – Editor.)

Preceding our verse selection, we learn that Paul & Barnabas came upon a man born lame & healed him so he could walk. The crowd and even the priest of Jupiter offered sacrifices to Paul & Barnabas thinking they were some form of gods on earth. (Huh?  What happened?) This over-the-top reaction suggests that the crowd is so desperate to worship something, that they will worship anything.

Paul & Barnabas are rightfully appalled at this reaction & quickly admonish the crowd saying, “We are mere humans like you.” The crowd is still enthralled with Paul & Barnabas until some of the religious leaders from the neighboring towns persuade them that Paul & Barnabas were actually blaspheming God with their actions. (Wait. What happened?) One moment they proclaim Paul as god-like. The next moment they are jostling in line to be the first to stone him.

Aside: A running back is standing next to his coach during the National Anthem. He turns to his coach & says, “Man, I’m jinxed. Every time they play that song I have a game with multiple fumbles.” The coach just stares back.

So, then “they stoned Paul & dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up…” (Whoa. What happened?) Was Paul dead or merely stunned? Did the Disciples do anything to help Paul? Why wasn’t Barnabas stoned as well? (After the Jesus fiasco & now this, the pagan religious leaders have to be wondering, “What is with these Christians? They won’t stay dead.”)

Next, we read, “Paul got up & went back into the city.” (Huh?  What happened?) If I were in Paul’s sandals, I’d be happily looking at Lystra in my rearview mirror.

Then we read, “The next day he & Barnabas left for Derbe.” (Wait. What happened?) I sneeze unexpectedly & my back hurts for the next 2 hours. Paul has just been stoned within an inch of his life & the next day he embarks on a 55-mile journey?

Finally, Paul & Barnabas tell their congregants that, “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.” (Whoa? What happened?) Who makes a sales pitch like this?

I would submit that the Bible is full of these “What happened?” moments. Jesus telling us the first shall be last, or the meek shall inherit the earth, or Him forgiving His persecutors because they knew not what they did.

Unlike the gods of the pagans, our God isn’t a front-runner/band-wagon kind of God. He never abandons the defeated locker room to join some victory parade. He also doesn’t promise His believers that every illness will be healed, that every relationship will be made whole, or every bank account will overflow. What He does promise us, though, is that He will be with us every step of the way, be it the awesome peaks or the challenging valleys. And at the end of our journey, as we review our lives, I suggest we’ll realize all of the instances when God was indeed there, comforting us or cheering us on. As we look back, we’ll say with a smile, “What happened?”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my vintage Todd Blackledge Chiefs jersey. Now, there’s our “What Happened?” moment from the NFL draft.

* Here’s a video of James receiving the news he’ll be announcing a draft pick: NFL Draft Feel Good Story #shorts – YouTube

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 111.
** Lloyd John Ogilvie, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 28: Acts. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, p. 222.