And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:19-22)
Been reading this week through the thrilling record of the history of the early church in the book of Acts. This account in chapter 14 really stuck out to me as I read through.
It is interesting to note that Paul was stoned at Lystra, but he was not stoned by the people of Lystra. The people of Lystra thought Paul and Barnabas to be gods, and they could barely restrain the people from offering sacrifices to them (14:18). The people who stoned Paul were a bunch of Jews who chased him down from Antioch and Iconium, cities he had visited prior to Lystra.
Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch in Acts 13:14. There many Jews, proselytes, and Gentiles believed the word of the Lord and were exhorted to continue in the grace of God (vv. 44, 48). Paul's crowds (v. 44) filled the Jews with envy (v. 45) and they stirred up the VIPs of the city to have Paul and Barnabas expelled.
From there they came to Iconium, where again a great multitude of the Jews and Greeks believed (14:1). Again, some Jews stirred things up, but Paul escaped the rock party they wanted to throw [at] him there (vv. 5-6).
It apparently wasn't enough for these Jews to have Paul and Barnabas gone from their cities, they wanted them gone from the face of the earth. So they chased them down in Iconium and stoned Paul [they thought] to death.
But look what Paul does. He rises us and immediately walks back into the city. He and Barnabas left the next day for a new town to evangelize, but then returned to Lystra (where Paul was stoned), and to Iconium (where he narrowly escaped being stoned), and Antioch (the hometown of some who came to Lystra to stone him)…all to confirm and encourage the believers and let them know that there is tribulation associated with the kingdom of God.
Now, I don't know what lies ahead in our futures (Proverbs 27:1), but I have a reasonable measure of doubt that any attempt will be made on our lives for the cause of Jesus Christ. However, I realize that 2 Timothy 1:13 is still in the Bible. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Here's the lesson we need to learn. If mocking can stop you, then you're going to be stopped…because you will be mocked. If ridicule can derail you, then you're going to be knocked off course…because the ridicule will come. If persecution can make you quit, then you'll not go for long…because the world will not put up with your stand for Jesus Christ. You can't order righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (the kingdom of God; Romans 14:17) and ask God to "hold the tribulation."
What every one of us has to do on a continual basis is recognize that there will be costs associated with our decision to devote our lives to Jesus Christ. And we need to count the cost and settle the matter in our hearts…that it's worth it. It's worth it because everything I enjoy is a blessing from God, and He deserves my all. It's worth it because I'll be better off in the long run for following Jesus. It's worth it. It's worth it. It's worth it. For so many reasons, it's worth it.