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. [acts 14:19-22]
paul had a very clear mission. with the love of Christ, preach the gospel. it’s the same mission we carry, by God’s grace to us. so i hope that this passage is just as encouraging and motivating to you as it is to me this morning.
paul endured so much for Christ. but like the energizer bunny, he kept going. he was so rooted in Christ’s work being done through him, he had no reason or, it seems, even a desire to slow down or shy away from the mission at hand. being human, i’m sure he had many moments of doubt, many lies of inadequacy, and many moments of regret when he was distracted from his calling. but i think we have one of the greatest examples as is humanly possible in this man abounding in grace. he was stoned…he rose up. he was shipwrecked…he found natives to share the gospel with. he was thrown in prison…he sang through the night. he returned to persecuting towns. he equipped others for persecution. with the peace that surpasses all understanding, he just never stopped.
in my own realm of this mission, i am so easily slowed down to think about how i’ve been hurt. i so quickly shy away when things get awkward. i stop pursuing others when i’ve decided they’ll never change their ways. but what would it look like if i never stopped? what if, like Jesus himself, we in the church were always on mission until the day we saw him face to face, and were so rooted in his sovereign plan for reconciling the world that we could boldly spread his glory and love with no regard for ourselves? like paul, we would see revival. we would see neighbors come to know the Lord. we would know more people at the grocery store and their stories and struggles. i think more of the people around us would love the word of God. I think also that we would experience much more rejection, slander, and discomfort, as the aroma of Christ stirred up deeper rebellion in many. so what would it look like in your daily life? who do you regularly come into contact with who doesn’t know that Jesus loves them and longs for them to know him? what mission has God laid out for you today?
Father, forgive me for hoarding your grace! fill me with such confidence in your mission and such compassion for the lost that the gospel is ever on my lips. give me a disregard for my own comfort. bring about conversations today that show you as glorious. bring souls to know you and love you through me today. thank you for your sovereign grace. thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. amen.
therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [heb 12:1-2]