About the Journey 14 - from Kerry

About the Journey - Acts 14:1-28 - from Kerry Flemington

The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.
Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area. And there they preached the Good News.
While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting  and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.
Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. Then they traveled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia. They preached the word in Perga, then went down to Attalia.
Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. The believers there had entrusted them to the grace of God to do the work they had now completed. Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.
Acts 14:1-28
How do we know that we’re doing the will of God?
What did Paul and Barnabas think when they divided the people in the synagogue with their teaching?  What did they think when they were met with praise and adoration at the Greek temple?  What did they think when Paul was stoned and left for dead on the outskirts of town?
We’re an acceptance addicted society.  We don’t want to be left out on the playground, we don’t want our kids to be picked last for the basketball game, we live for the affirmation of social media “Likes” and we can spew venom with the best of them from the anonymity of our computer, far too afraid to ever dialogue  with love and restraint face to face.  We take our cues about success from our bank balance and our positions, the square footage of our homes and our social calendars.  And it’s an easy trap to fall into; we look for belonging and acceptance.  In fact, we’re wired for it; God created us for community, both with him and with those around us.
So back to the question at hand.  I don’t have a specific answer, except to say this: you will be both loved and hated whenever you step out in faith.  Do not let that be the metric you use to know if you are doing the will of God.  Imagine if Paul had accepted the sacrifices the Greeks wanted to make to him as a sign that he was on the right track?  And then later that same day, imagine if he’d taken his stoning as a sign that he was on the wrong track?  He would have lost his mind, just as we do when we allow ourselves to be buffeted by the opinions of other people.  God’s purpose for you and me is singular.  It does not look the same for you as it does for me.  And very often, people will think we are just plain nuts, as they did so many of God’s people throughout the Bible.  
Take heart and be singular in your response to God’s calling: fix your eyes only on him.  He is the only metric that matters.  And where he is, working in you and through you, for his glory and your good, there too will be the fruit of the spirit.
No fruit?  No love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?  None of these in your daily interactions with friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, strangers (including on the internet)?  Change course.  God won’t be mocked by our good intentions.  When we think we’re doing his will, but we’re angry, anxious, bitter, driven by fear, and causing division as a result of that, I can say decisively that isn’t God’s will, that’s your will.  Paul and Barnabas were not compelled by any of those things and therefore the division and adoration that came as a result mattered not to them or to God.  They were compelled to tell the truth of God’s incredible love for humanity through Christ’s death and resurrection.  They had no personal agenda or they would have gone off course.  Was the truth-telling messy?  You bet.  But the lasting result of those who heard God’s truth and accepted it, and really for Paul and Barnabas throughout their ministry, was the fruit of the spirit.  That’s how we know God’s will at work in our lives.

you can connect directly with Kerry at kerry@arnuthill.com

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