S195P3 – The other side of faith: joyous suffering

Acts 14:19-22

Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city.  And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.  And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

A promotion always seemed like a good thing in her mind.  She was a go-getter who was attacking that rat race like all the other hot shots because she wanted to get ahead and be on top.  She saw the fruits of others’ labor as they climbed that ladder and enjoyed positions of favor and power.  She wanted to be there and have that, so she worked hard.  What she expected, however, was that the hard work would come only before the prestige.  She never thought that perhaps reaching that level of success meant that she would have to sacrifice more and endure more after getting there.  To advance meant that she would experience an increase not just in the reward but also in the labor. 

Paul and Barnabas do not mince words here.  Paul recently had been stoned and left for dead, so he knew what suffering was all about.  He also had caused Christians to suffer to the point of death at his own hand.  When he talks about suffering here, he speaks from experience.  It is the joyous suffering mentioned in the book of James.  It is the necessary process through which we must pass if we want to continue to advance along with God’s kingdom, and there is no other way to do this.  Paul could not become the great apostle he was destined to be without enduring the suffering that would mold him and shape him into that man of God.  It is not an option but a requirement for those who want to grow in the Lord. 

When you see a person of God who walks in favor, power, and obedience, consider what it takes to get to that place.  On the other side of Paul’s faith was a road into the future that would be glorious but painful.  Yet, even in that pain and suffering, he would experience glory.  That is the road we all must walk if we want to take up our crosses as Christ took up his.  Our roads will not be identical to one another, but we must suffer for the cause of Christ in order to enter the kingdom.  Let us consider whether we are prepared and willing to endure this necessary component of our faith.  Father, give us the grace, courage, and strength to endure our sufferings with joy, knowing that You are perfecting us in the process.