Read: Acts 14
Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (v. 22)
There’s a verse tucked away in the back of Galatians that never fails to move me. Just before he closes his letter to a church where people had been giving him a lot of grief, Paul says, “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). He’s referring to the scars left by the kind of violence we read about in Acts 14. As Paul revisited the cities where he had planted congregations on his first missionary journey, he experienced repeated physical abuse. Mistreated and stoned in Iconium (Acts 14:5), stoned and left for dead in Lystra (v. 19), Paul nevertheless dragged himself up and went on preaching.
It’s all just par for the course, the apostle told his converts: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” I wonder: why does the gospel arouse such hostility in people? What is it about the message of Jesus that makes some so angry they want to kill the messengers? Or even those who have believed the message? What would make a man walk into a church in Charleston, South Carolina, or Sutherland Springs, Texas, and just start shooting?
We don’t really know. All we can say is that evil is real, and that it has marked out Jesus and his followers as its great enemy. In the world we have tribulation. But not to worry—Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). —David Bast
Prayer: Lord, when I suffer for you, remind me how you suffered for me.