Both Praise and Persecution

Summary Acts 14:1-18

Paul and Barnabas, and perhaps John, too, were being faced with much opposition and persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ and for their testimonies for Jesus and for his gospel of salvation. But they did not let this stop them from proclaiming boldly the word of the Lord.

At one point, though, because they had been instrumental in the healing of a man lame from birth, the people tried to make gods out of them. But the apostles immediately responded in all humility, and they let the people know that they were human just like them.

“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.” Acts 14:15 ESV

Thus, the apostles did not take the honor upon themselves, but they gave the honor to God. And they continued to preach the truth of the gospel of our salvation, that people should turn from idolatry to the living God.

And, when people praise us, as though what we share comes from ourselves, if truly we are sharing what we have received from the Lord, we need to give the glory back to the Lord, and we need to point them to Jesus, not to ourselves.

And what is the “good news” the apostles were proclaiming? It is that we should turn from vain things, from our sins, from our idols, and from love for the things of this world to the Lord, to follow him in surrender and in obedience to his ways (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24).

Acts 14:19-23 ESV

“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. 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. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 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. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

This reminds me of how the people were praising Jesus one day and a few days later they were calling for his death, saying, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” One day the apostles had people trying to make them into gods, and not long after that, it appears, they had people stoning Paul and leaving him for dead.

And we may face similar treatment. One day people may be thanking us and encouraging us in our walks of faith, and then another day they may be blasting us because we said something with which they did not agree. So, we need to be prepared to know how to respond to both praise and persecution.

So, even though Paul was stoned nearly to death he continued on in sharing the gospel of salvation to all who would listen. And not only that, but he went right back to where he had been severely persecuted so that he could encourage the saints there to continue in the faith.

And his encouragement was not like what a lot of people think of today when they think about people saying nice things to them to make them feel good about themselves, even in their sin. They were honest with them, telling them that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Acts 14:24-28 ESV

“Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 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. And they remained no little time with the disciples.”

When the church gathers together today, is it for the same reasons as in the days of the New Testament apostles? Is it so that we can encourage one another in our walks of faith? Is it so that we can expose the lies for what they are and so we can proclaim the truth? And is it to give glory to God and not to ourselves?

Are we about strengthening the souls of other followers of Jesus, encouraging them to continue in the faith, in faithful surrender and obedience to our Lord? And are we sharing with them the truth of what God’s word teaches us, in its fulness? Or are we trying to give them feel good messages to soothe their consciences so they can continue in sin?

When the church gathers together, it is not to be for entertainment, fun, jokes, movies, and all that appeals to the flesh. It is to be for the glory of God and for the strengthening of us in our walks of obedience to our Lord.

And one man is not to do all the ministering, either. We are supposed to be encouraging one another and using our gifts and callings for the building up of the body of Christ to maturity in Christ and to unity in Christ, not to unity with the flesh of man and marketing schemes.

I honestly don’t see this happening much at all face to face, at least not in today’s modern church gatherings. But I am seeing it take place on the internet in the blogging world, on Christian discussion sites, and on some social media. So, for however long this lasts, I praise the Lord for this Christian community on the internet where we can encourage one another.

But much of what is called “Christian” these days, or “the church,” is not functioning like the Lord’s body is supposed to function, but are feeding the world with more of the world, and thus many who are following Jesus with sincere hearts are being pushed aside and being told they are not wanted.

But the Lord is our healer. Amen! The same God who healed people back in the days of Jesus and of the apostles is still our healer today. So, whether we are suffering emotional or physical pain, the Lord can heal us. He can take what is broken and put the pieces back together and make us whole.

Broken and Contrite

An Original Work / May 13, 2012

I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.

Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.

Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.

3 thoughts on “Both Praise and Persecution

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