suffering for faith
This was a guy who traveled the world talking about God. He was bold, action-oriented, and totally committed to God. He was someone who lived his life to the fullest.
But then I read stories about Paul’s experience in a city called Lystra.
When Paul first arrived there, everything went well. He was able to talk about God, people were listening, and some even started to believe. But as time went on, people began to change their minds. They began to no longer accept Paul’s teaching. So they did what comes naturally to any crowd after a lecture they don’t like – they picked up rocks and threw them at Paul. In fact, the crowd was so confident in their aim, they drug his body outside of town thinking he was dead.
Days like this make me want to reconsider my plan to be more like Paul.
But as Monty Python might say, “he’s not quite dead yet.” And so Paul got up and went back into town.
I don’t know about you, but heading back into the town where people threw blunt objects at me would not be high on my ‘To Do’ list. But for Paul, that’s just who he was. So after returning to town, he and his friend Barnabas moved on to a different city. Presumably to do the whole thing over again.
But Paul wasn’t done with Lystra.
After visiting a few more cities Paul came back to encourage the Christians who lived there. But he didn’t say, “don’t worry everything’s okay” or “believe in God and everything will go smoothly.” Paul actually said, ”It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14: 22)
Ouch. This being-like-Paul-thing sounds less fun all the time!
In a world that values comfort over all, this is hard to swallow. How can suffering be a part of God’s Kingdom? But the truth is the closer we get to God’s will the more dangerous it can become. Just look at Paul’s life. Even Jesus, someone who probably knew what God wanted, died a horrible death.
Now if suffering was all there was, this would be bad news. Fortunately we don’t suffer because God enjoys it, or because it’s an initiation. We suffer because sharing God’s message often means being in direct conflict with the world’s message. And we suffer because this world is broken.
The people in Lystra went from thinking Paul was a god to trying to kill him. Why? Because Paul didn’t stop talking about who God was when they thought he was a god. He kept teaching and explaining. And eventually they decided they didn’t like his message anymore. But if Paul had stopped teaching, no one would have learned about God. And no one would have been saved.
That’s why Paul could be so bold and passionate when he knew some people might try to kill him for his beliefs. Paul knew that sometimes to accomplish a bigger goal sacrifices personal have to be made.