“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. After the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the hearts of the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith, and by telling them, ‘It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way to the kingdom of God.’ When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Acts 14:19-23 (HCSB)
Theologians are unsure whether Paul was actually stoned to death and resurrected by the Lord or if he was only thought to be dead. In either case, it was a miracle that Paul got back up, not to mention that he walked back to town!
It was a testimony of great faith that Paul returned to the town where he had been stoned just moments before! Why would he do this instead of shaking the dust off his feet and moving on? Here’s why: Paul knew his calling.
I have made it clear on several occasions that I believe the Bible teaches “calling” and not just for “super-apostles.” God calls each of us. I believe God calls us specifically, to specific places, to minister in specific ways, delivering specific messages for specific seasons of time. If there is no calling, we have no incentive to endure hardship. In light of his calling, Paul was impelled (drawn from within) by God’s Spirit to go back to Lystra.
What was Paul communicating with his re-arrival? He was testifying that God was greater than the evil schemes of men. Also, Paul would not be intimidated. The next day, Paul left town, but on his own terms. This was undoubtedly a warning to those who sought to persecute the young Church, and it would have been a noticeable morale boost for the fledgling congregation there.
Paul was a master leader. In returning, he 1) strengthened the new disciples spiritually; 2) urged them to use their strength to hold fast to the faith; 3) gave fair warning as to what to expect: Troubles, as well as victory for the kingdom of God; and 4) he appointed elders (leaders) to run the new young congregations.
If Paul is an excellent example of a disciple, and I believe that he is, then by following his example, we can expect many troubles. But those troubles in no way compare to the joy that comes from following the Lord, watching Him accomplish His purposes through our submission to His leading, as we focus on our great reward of entering His kingdom, having run the race well!
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