I've been reading in the book of Acts in my morning quiet time with Jesus every day.
Y'all. If you're like me, you might not have read the book of Acts lately. It's probably been since my teen years (and maybe not even then) since I've actually read the whole book of Acts. Sure, we hear sermons that quote a verse or two. Or a devotional that sends you to a scene or chapter. Or read it along side a devotional that then tells you what to think about each part.
But there is just something about starting at the beginning and reading a few chapters a day, just me and the Holy Spirit and no outside voices, that has made the book really come alive for me. I can't tell you how many things God has impressed on my heart the last week reading it, and I'm barely halfway through!
This morning, I was in chapter 14. Paul and Barnabas are on Paul's first missionary journey. And the moment I finished reading the chapter, I KNEW I needed to write this blog post.
I'm a fan of YOU reading it yourself, so I highly suggest you get out your Bible and read the chapter before coming back.....
You done reading yet?
That's okay. I'll wait.
Okay. So you read it. WOW right?
In case you didn't have your Bible handy, I'll summarize. Paul and Barnabus went to Iconium (after they had been in Antioch and been run out of time by the "influential religious women" and leaders of the town. YIKES right there.) Anyway, they stayed in Iconium for a good while, preaching the gospel, right? BOLDLY the Bible says. But there was always this small section of people that would rile up the others. Finally, the mob was planning to attack, so they left the city and went to another one named Lystra.
And that's when it REALLY got crazy. These people, so deep in their worship of false gods, thought Paul and Barnabas were gods and started to sacrifice and WORSHIP them. Paul and Barnabas probably about wet their pants when they found out about it, and tried their best to get the people to stop and to understand they were only human, and that there was only ONE true God where the power came from. But the people weren't listening well.
Then some of the Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and convinced the people that not only were these people not gods, but should be killed. So the mob of people ended up taking Paul outside of the city and stoning him.
What did Paul do? Yeah, he stood right back up after they all thought he was dead and walked BACK INTO THE CITY. Of course, then he left the next day and went to Derbe. I'd be getting the heck out of Dodge too!!
There was so much here I thought was good, but I haven't even gotten to what really struck me yet.
They went to Derbe, right? And preached and people believed, and considering the Bible doesn't talk about people stoning them and threatening to kill then, you'd think that'd be a great place to stay for a while, right?
But in verse 21, what does it say they do?
THEY WENT BACK TO Lystra, Iconiu, and Antioch.
The three places where they were just stoned and threatened to be attacked.
"... they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that they must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God."
This struck me for two different reasons.
1.) "Strengthen the believers." This, my friend, is what I feel the calling of my writing is, and what I feel many people struggle with as seeing value in. Some people debate the merit or need or value or even Christianity of Christian Fiction--but I've felt since day one that my calling for my writing was to help edify and strengthen the church. To encourage other believers to stay strong in the faith. To help make not only believers, but disciples. I definitely don't think Christian Fiction is THE way to make disciples. Please don't hear me say that, because it's not what I'm saying. But I think it is A way, and it is a way God has called me to. Am I "preaching" to a choir? Maybe. But that choir is a messed up bloody mess right now and could use some strengthening, and if those who God calls to help edify the church refuse because it doesn't seem important enough, then who will? In the end, I obey God, not man. Paul and Barnabas saw such value in strengthening believers, they went back to towns where they had a decent shot at being killed in order to do so. If God wants to use these stories I pen to strengthen the faith of fellow believers, then I am humbly his servant and honored to be obedient to that calling.
2.) I don't know about you, but if I was run out of a city and stoned, I would have a hard time going back. I would feel like I'd failed. If people started worshiping me, I would feel pretty rotten and horrible too. I definitely wouldn't be going BACK for a repeat. But that's exactly what Paul and Barnabus did. They picked themselves back off, swept off the dust and kept going in the calling God had given them. Too many times I think we can take what looks like failure to our human eye and believe this means we did the wrong thing.
Poor book sales?
FAILURE. Shouldn't have published it. Should have marketed it more. Should have... Should have... Should have....
FAILURE. They hated my book. I never should have written it.
Rejection after rejection?
FAILURE. God called me to write but dad gum it, I'm not good enough to get it published so what good is that??
I was chatting with a friend the other day about results. SO many times we judge the success of what we have done by the results we achieve. But I challenge you, especially related to your calling: It is YOUR job to be obedient to God, it is GOD'S job to handle the results.
The parable of the talents come to mind. The 3rd guy didn't get judged for working hard and not making much. He got judged for burying his talents and not trying in the first place.
All that said...........
Are you being obedient? To what God wants, not what you want? Because if you aren't, that IS on you, my friend. Paul could have run away when the rocks started being thrown. He could have refused to return. He could have licked his wounds and stayed in the places where it was easy, where he was seeing easy results. But he didn't.
"How do I know what God wants me to do" you might ask.
I can only answer this based on my own experience.
If I'm not daily on my knees asking him...
If I'm not daily in the Word of God seeking him...
If I'm not daily dying to self and picking up my cross....
Then I rarely have a clue what God is truly asking of me.
I might THINK I know. But 9 times out of 10, that really ends up being what *I* want disguised with pretty intentions. But interestingly, THOSE are the times we want to blame the results on God....