Whenever I read the story of Paul’s stoning at Lystra in Acts chapter 14, I can’t help but wonder how a person could be so obedient in the face of such danger.
This section of Scripture recounts the story of Paul healing a crippled man, causing the people of the city to begin calling Paul and Barnabas gods, and trying to make sacrifices to them. Shortly thereafter, due to the persuasion of some Jews from Antioch and Iconium, those same people stoned Paul. After surviving the stoning, Paul met Barnabas in Derbe to preach the gospel. After making disciples there, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra. This is the part that really gets me: they returned to Lystra-- the place where Paul had just been stoned!
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be inclined to return to a city in which I had recently been stoned. Frankly, I don’t relish returning to places in which a person gave me a nasty look.
So what would cause Paul to return to a city where he had met such violent opposition? Clearly Paul was committed to his mission of spreading the Gospel as God had called him to do, no matter what the cost. In their message to the people of Lystra, Antioch, and Iconium, Paul and Barnabas said, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you already know that the Christian life is not one of ease and comfort. This world is not our home, and it often treats us as such. Jesus says to his disciples in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” In John chapter sixteen, verse thirty-three, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Scripture doesn’t tell us this explicitly, but knowing that Paul knew Jesus, we can infer that Paul also knew these truths, and we can probably assume that he clung to this promise-- that Jesus has overcome the world-- as he chose to be obedient to God’s call on his life.
We all know that none of us are able to be obedient to God in our own strength, but we must depend on His strength to persevere. I’m so grateful for stories like this one, and others throughout Scripture that remind us that ordinary people, like Paul, you, and me are able to do extraordinary things for the cause of Christ, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit working within us! What is God calling you to do today? Is it frightening, or even dangerous? Take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world!