“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 hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.’ they said.” –Acts 14:19-22
What we learn here from Paul and the disciples is the strengthening of faith despite our hardships. The ones who stone Paul here are the same people persecuting him a few verses earlier. People are going to throw rocks at us, most likely figuratively, because they don’t like the message you’re spreading (the Gospel!). This isn’t an excuse to stop spreading the message. Paul kept on preaching until the crowds had left him for dead.
While the crowds had left him for dead, the other disciples hadn’t. Scripture tells us, “but after the disciples gathered around him he got up and went back to the city.” His friends had his back, and today, your brothers and sisters in Christ are there for you when others “leave us for dead.” The power of friendship and encouragement is paramount to spreading the Gospel.
Paul didn’t let this setback stop him. The next morning he went on to the next city. Less than a day after he was nearly killed, he set out clothed in the Lord’s armor, and moved on in faith. Because of Paul’s continued drive to preach the Gospel to all the nations, they “won a large number of disciples” in the next city. Then Paul did the unthinkable, he returned to the city where we was stoned because there was unfinished business. Often times we give up, take the beating and never return to the site. Memories are too bad. Our past has put up “Keep Out” signs on the front lawn. We ask ourselves, “Why return to that hurt, to that failure, to that situation that is only gonna lead to more pain?”
Why return? To strengthen your faith! Paul says it clearly, “We must go through hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” We’re all called to a certain place in life, be it a new city or ministry, and it ain’t gonna be all rosy. Hard times will come, but persevere like the early disciples! The Kingdom of God doesn’t come easy, but it’s worth every bruise, every scar and every tear.