19 Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won the crowds over. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing he was dead. 20 When the disciples surrounded him, he got up and entered the city again. The following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
21 Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the good news to the people in Derbe and made many disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, where 22 they strengthened the disciples and urged them to remain firm in the faith. They told them, “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.” 23 They appointed elders for each church. With prayer and fasting, they committed these elders to the Lord, in whom they had placed their trust.
Given Jesus’ short life and ministry, perhaps we can easily see just how the early church was marked by dissension, disagreements and even violence. Many believers who saw or heard about Jesus from the disciples were baptized and came to be known as “Christians,” but that did not mean that there weren’t disagreements. Sadly, many differences between and within churches still exist today. Through the book of Acts, we learn about the early tumultuous days, yet we must also remember that during these times the New Testament was still to be written!
Fortunately in Acts 14, there is something on which all Christians can agree: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Perhaps this is the truest part of this passage. Surely it was true for Jesus’ first disciples, nearly all of whom died untimely deaths for living and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus never sugarcoated anything with his closest friends. He told them that a life based in faith would not be easy.
As for us today, no one said that life would be easy. We will all have our challenges, our own storms and rough seas. No one escapes life with a simple happy ending. In fact, sometimes I wonder if having a faith-based life may feel harder at times, because it is not easy to stay grounded in the life and teachings of Jesus. But being true to this belief is also what can sustain us. Surely maintaining one’s faith during adversity is challenging, but faith is also what keeps us hopeful. To know that the way through our adversity is based in faith also gives us peace of mind.
When I think of the disciples, I am always reminded of sailboats and water. By remembering that my truth is in Jesus Christ, I hone my attention, like the sailor trimming the sails. In my humanness, I may still feel the sting of my circumstances – the wind and waves – or know that I’ll have challenges ahead, but then I must let Jesus’ way be my rudder. With a life lived by prayer and thanksgiving, I find a greater peace that surpasses all understanding. This only happens when I let Jesus be my guide! Even when storms come and go, I know that a life lived through Jesus is my happy ending.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Today as you recognize your challenges, what thoughts and prayers keep you grounded? Who or what is your guide in difficult times? My metaphor for faith is the sailboat. What metaphor about God through Jesus Christ gives you presence or peace of mind?
Prayer: Oh, Jesus, you calmed the seas and harnessed the waves! You cast out demons and healed the sick. We know that you will be there for us, if we just ask for your help. Help us to let you be the guide as we approach any storm and all that life brings. Help us to search for truth by hearing your words within us, so that we too can know true peace. Amen.