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 14:21-22)
Paul and his missionary team’s first journey continues around the Mediterranean Sea. In our last passage, the team had shaken the dust off their feet from Antioch in Pisidia after being driven out by angry Jewish leaders. Luke tells us they went to Iconium, and this is where chapter 14 picks up.
You will notice a recurring theme in Acts wherein the disciples encounter opposition, move on, and keep preaching.
Why don’t they give up? Why do they keep stirring up towns, getting people angry, running into obstacles, yet continuing on?
In chapter 14, the gospel brings division to an entire town. The gospel exposes idolatry. The disciples are found in physical danger. Saul is stoned.
Yet they continue! Again, why?
This missionary team understood the mission of the church.
The divisions in the town of Iconium didn’t stop them because they did not believe the mission of the church was to merely make Iconium a better place. The idolatry in the Lystra didn’t stop them because they knew that the one true and living God puts all idols to shame. The physical harm they experienced didn’t stop them because they did not count their lives more worthy than the name of Jesus Christ.
Opposition didn’t stop the early church. Yet, it hinders us. Why might that be?
Perhaps we’ve misunderstood, twisted, or ignored the church’s mission. Perhaps we’ve gotten too comfortable in this world. Perhaps we see the church as a means to an end: a better life, a cleaner town, wealth, or something else.
But, when you understand the mission of the church as making disciples by the power of the Spirit, through the proclamation of the gospel, for the glory of Jesus Christ, and you actually believe this, then nothing can stop you.
The problem is, we often forget this; thus, we need to be reminded of it often. Acts 14 is a God-inspired reminder. May the Lord use it to empower our commitment to the mission he has given us.