Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
Paul was an incredible man with an incredible story. Like most individuals who were used mightily of God, Paul had a rough start. He was highly religious and trained under one of the most prolific teachers of the day. He was a faithful Pharisee. Paul had a reputation for harshly resisting false doctrine and heresy which eventually led him to resist the Christians. He had obviously not come to believe the gospel himself. Most know his story. His resistance eventually led him to consent to the murder of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. It wasn’t long after this that Paul had a powerful encounter with Jesus and becomes a believer himself. Thus began his fruitful ministry. He planted churches, wrote most of the New Testament, and reproduced himself in disciples that shook the world.
Paul was highly effective in what he did but he also experienced heavy persecution. Hunger, poverty, sickness, shipwreck, betrayal and imprisonment were all part of his kingdom building journey. On one occasion, in Acts 14, we can read about the response of the people to his gospel message. The people he was ministering to were so angered by his message that they drug him outside the city to be stoned.
Assuming he was dead and the job was done, they left him there. Shortly after this several believers gathered around Paul’s lifeless body and began to pray. Paul was raised up alive but was still pretty beat up I’m sure.
The Bible says that Paul went back into that city to preach and minister which brings us to the scripture
verse I led with. Paul strengthened and encouraged the disciples.
Can you imagine the scene? Paul had probably limped into the room. He looked at them through black and blue eyes. His body, which was already scarred, had plenty of fresh bruises and cuts. He spoke through swollen lips, “Don’t give up this faith walk, its through many tribulations, through hardship, that we will see the kingdom of God.”
Do you want to know how that encouraged them? Can you imagine any issue you are dealing with this week and comparing it to the stoning that Paul endured? Can you imagine any offense greater than someone attempting to kill you for loving them? Our burdens are quickly brought into perspective when we consider the suffering that others endure.