2 Kings 3:1–4:17; Acts 14:8-28; Psalm 140:1-13; Proverbs 17:22
Through Much Tribulation…
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them. 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. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: and thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples. – Acts 14:14-28
In this passage, Paul has seen a miracle, and while he did his part to point them to Jesus and the Gospel, the people saw these men instead as gods themselves and wanted to make sacrifices to them. Paul and the men tore their clothes and cried out – Why are you doing these things? We are men like you, but we bring to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ that you might turn from idols and worship the One, true and living GOD. Jews came and won over these same crowds, and they ended up stoning Paul. They took him out of the city, assuming he was dead, but as the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went on their way, returning to cities they had been to before. There they preached the good news and made disciples. They encouraged the believers to remain firm in the faith, letting them know that it is through many tribulations and hardships that we must enter the Kingdom of God. They appointed elders, prayed over them and went on their way until they reached Antioch – the place where their missionary journey began. These were the ones that had sent Paul, so he spent time with them telling all that the Lord had done on the journey – the successes and the failures.
This story in our New Testament reading touched me today because I have been sent. I have faced opposition while in another place and came back having felt I failed in my mission. I am the one that returned and stood to tell all that happened during the journey – the successes and the failures. I am the one that has spent the last few years going nowhere and content with that for a season. I did my fair share of asking, “Why?” But, then, after several extended seasons of fasting and in the midst of a pandemic – I found in my heart the longing to go once again.
Today, the Holy Ghost has reminded me once again that we must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God.
Thou Hast Been Careful for Us
And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. – 2 Kings 4:8-17
I love how Elisha acknowledges all this woman has done for him, all the care she has given him. He asks her, now what can I do for you? He offers suggestions – can I speak to the king or other important people on your behalf? I love her answer even more. She says I live here among my own people in peace and security. I do not need any special favors. She did all she did not to gain anything but because she had a heart to care for the man of God. Now, she was blessed beyond measure for her care of him, but the posture of her heart was to serve God through serving the man of God and making his assigned tasks a little easier. There is a great lesson here.
The Upright Shall Dwell in Thy Presence
I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor. Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence. – Psalm 140:12
Good Like a Medicine
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. – Proverbs 17:22