Our reading for today is Acts 13 and 14 that tells of Paul’s first missionary journey. The church in Antioch, Syria was led by the Holy Spirit in prayer to send Barnabas and Paul on a journey to share their story. They took young John Mark with them and headed to Cyprus and then around Turkey. Most of us probably don’t recognize the names of the places nor can we place them on a map. But we do see that these “chosen” and “set apart” men faced challenges. They started with the known, the Jewish synagogues where Jews gathered to worship. Paul, like Stephen, preaches and goes through Jewish history from the forming of the nation in Egypt, through King David, and up to Jesus. He is no longer jumping off his story but helping them develop a new perspective on their story and how God is working. King David died but Jesus resurrected and offers eternal life. When they are rejected Paul and Barnabas turns to the Gentiles. As long as the people wanted to engage with them, they shared.
Rejection was one reaction but another was to think they were the gods visiting when Paul healed a lame man. Both extremes rejection or idolizing were not healthy. At one point, Paul was stoned and left for dead. He then started back to Antioch, revisiting new believers and “strengthening” them or checking up on them and teaching them. Paul reports in and is clear that sharing our testimony can be met with resistance and hardship. But a network of believers is developing and growing.
I suspect we tend to think that if God is on our side, life will be good and our troubles will be left behind. But the truth is that the epic story is not about me and my happiness. it is about an epic struggle between God and Satan. Our hero, God, is determined to build a kingdom that will eventually be safe and totally under his dominion for his creations that choose to believe. It is easy to become discouraged when we meet trials and to fear that God has abandon us but it may well be in those dark hours that God is working out his design. As a parent I remember holding my child by the waist and balancing him and pointing him towards his father to get the child to walk. Yes sometimes he fell but that learning process and seeing the child develop confidence and not only walk but run was delightful for us parents and for the child. The kingdom grows by sharing and sometimes that is hard and not always understood. Paul spoke into the lives of those willing to listen, faced the flack, and reported to his support crew who held him in prayer and kept him accountable. And here we are today. May we be faithful in sharing our good news with others and doing our little bit to grow the kingdom. Blessings in your encounters today.