Acts chapter 14, verse 21. 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.
These verses are talking about the initial churches that were being planted on Paul and Barnabas’s first missionary journey, and so they’d preach the gospel in each of these cities and then they returned to them, and they strengthened those disciples, and they were helping gather them together in churches.
If we are going to be serious about following and proclaiming Christ, it will not be easier for us in this world.
But what’s interesting, at the end of verse 22 it says, “They encouraged them to continue the faith and they told them that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” I think it’s really interesting that in the very initial discipleship process for these new believers, that Paul and Barnabas are emphasizing that they’re gonna go through many tribulations in order to enter the kingdom of God. Like this is part of initial discipleship, they were training them in a sense to suffer.
Well, they knew that these new believers would face all kind of challenges in their lives for following Christ, particularly as they proclaim Christ, as they worked to spread the gospel, that they would encounter much persecution and trial and tribulation, and so they’re encouraging them from the very beginning, suffer. Well, walk through tribulations with trust in Christ.
This really needs to be built in, doesn’t it? Into our initial discipleship as well, like sure, we don’t live in first century Roman world with exactly the same kind of challenges there, but there is no question that if we are gonna be serious about following Christ today, and serious about proclaiming Christ, really sharing the gospel, that it will not be easier for us in this world.
Things will get harder in this world. The more we obey Christ and proclaim Christ, in a culture just like any culture in the world, that will not be favorable the Christ, and will get harder not easier. So we shouldn’t be surprised, we shouldn’t be surprised by suffering. At the same time, we can be confident in the middle of suffering because we know that we have our savior who suffered, and he is able to sympathize with us in our suffering, in our tribulations, and this a part of what it means to enter into his kingdom.
I can only imagine there’s people walking through trials, even right now who are listening to this, trials that you’re facing as you’re following Christ, trials you’re facing as you’re to share the gospel, so I just want to pray specifically for you, and for all of us, when we think about trials we will face in the future. God’ll help us, help us to suffer well as we walk in obedience to you.
God, we pray that in a Paul-like way, we would count it pure joy to know you and experience fellowship with you, even in suffering. Lord, we know that tribulations will come, trials will come as we follow you, as we proclaim you, as we work to make disciples of all the nations, as we work to take the gospel to places where it’s not yet gone, that it will not be easy, so help us, we pray.
Help us in the midst of trial. I pray for people who are walking through trials right now in their faith. I pray that you give them faith on days when faith is hard to come by. I pray that you would strengthen their faith, you would uphold them with your righteous right hand, that you would comfort them, that you would give them James-like joy in the middle of suffering. God, I pray that you would give them grace in their trials today, and tribulations they’re facing today.
We pray that you would give us confidence and boldness to share the gospel, even when it is not easy, even when that increases tribulation, we pray that we would not shrink back from sharing the gospel, that we would not shrink back from mission because of cost. We pray that you would help us to endure whatever cost, knowing that you are our reward, that yes, we walk through tribulations, but we are entering the kingdom of God, that you are our reward, that we have nothing to fear on this earth because our eternity with you is secure.
Help us we pray, help us to suffer well for your glory. Help us to walk through trials and tribulations with trust in you, and in the process, help us to proclaim you all the more, as the one who who is sufficient and satisfying, far above everything this world has to offer. In Jesus name we pray.