They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. Acts 14:21-23
The gospel message is compelling and ‘wins’ people over to Christ. It provides hope and spiritual vitality through the forgiveness of sins and adoption into God’s family. We are eternal beings so eternity with God resonates strongly with us.
The gospel does not solve all of life’s problems, however. The Christian now has a relationship with God through Jesus, but this relationship does not end all struggle. The Christ-follower is given hope and is resourced with God’s very Presence for the struggle, but the struggle is on-going. The Holy Spirit will empower and guide the Christian, but He will not make life perfect.
That perfection is coming. It’s a place called Heaven.
In encouraging the disciples in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, Paul and Barnabas say to them, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” This doesn’t seem very encouraging, maybe, but it is.
The Christian faith deals in reality. The Scripture is honest about our sin and how it corrupts and separates us from our Holy God. It’s honest about the price that was required to pay for that sin… a price that God, who is loving and merciful, was willing to pay! The Scripture is honest in saying that life with Christ is filled with conflict and trouble in this world.
When hardship and trouble come hopefully these honest and encouraging words from Scripture will come to me and I’ll understand it all as normal. I’ll turn these things over more quickly to the Lord in prayer and continue on in the victory He has provided for me.
If we listen, hardships in life can remind us that we’re not Home yet. But we’re well on the way!
I’m grateful Lord that You understand hardship and trouble. While here You endured more struggle than I ever will… and You did it intentionally to fulfill the Father’s will in providing a way of salvation. Thank You. I live for You today.