Christianity · encouragement · faith · life · religion

Sticking to the gospel through phony praise or persecution

When Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, preached at Lystra in Acts 14 it was done in his typical manner where his “speech and [] preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” 2 Corinthians 2:4. His preaching by the Spirit helped him perceive that a man crippled from birth had faith enough in God to be healed, so Paul by the Spirit in the name of Jesus healed the man.dogged-determination

But the reaction of the pagan crowd was not in keeping with Paul’s message. Instead of glorifying the true God, the majority of the crowd took the healing to mean their pagan ways were being justified, so they started to worship Paul and Barnabas as their Roman gods. Paul had to shut down their attempts to worship him and Barnabas by redirecting their attention back to the original intent of the gospel they preached–to glorify the living God by urging them to repent of their idolatry. He pointed out to them that God had left witness of himself for them in nature (Acts 14:17).

It took him and Barnabas several tries before they “scarce restrained” the people from offering pagan sacrifices to them. Immediately afterwards, the same people who wished to praise them as gods were easily persuaded by Jews who hated the gospel to stone Paul and drag him out of the city. But in spite of their attempt to kill him, God revived Paul in the midst of the believers gathered around him and he went back inside the city for a short while before leaving. He even returned to Lystra later to preach some more to encourage the disciples there.

This incident reveals many things about what can happen when we carry out ministry. Sometimes people caught up in paganism will misinterpret God’s work as confirmation of their ungodly ways and will want to praise us or be in our presence for the wrong reasons (e.g. if we befriend a gay person or a Muslim who mistakenly thinks our friendship okays their sin). When we insist that our ministry is just the opposite, that our intent is for them to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus, that praise can quickly turn to hateful resentment and bitterness against us for not cosigning their self-justifying beliefs.

Nevertheless, the word of God will not return void. Although many may not convert when we minister, there will be many who do convert just like Paul experienced at Lystra. That’s why we, like Paul and Barnabas, should remain focused on our Biblical message despite the distracting reactions of the unrepentant with determination to spread the uncompromising gospel even more when faced with opposition. Aside from the threatenings and resistance we may face, God will still get the glory, just like he did at Lystra.


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