Acts 14:19-28 (ESV)
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.
Paul’s sudden recovery looks miraculous, but what happens next is even more surprising. He walks right back into the city where he was stoned. Then he returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. Something has changed.
Paul’s route back to Antioch retraces his steps, returning him to all the dangers he had escaped from. And this is out of his way; a direct route would seem to make more sense.
Two things have changed. Paul is now fearless, and he feels compelled to revisit each of the churches he planted. Why would being stoned nearly to death (along with his amazing recovery) produce these changes?
The answer is in what he was doing when he returned to these churches. He was strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
The magnitude of the many tribulations that Christians were going to face hits Paul, and he sees the need to prepare his church plants for it. So, he rushes back to warn them and to install elders.
We sometimes forget just how important elders are. Here we see that Paul considered them the key to coping with tribulation. Lift them up today. They deal with many tough issues that we don’t even hear about. They face the church’s challenges so that we can concentrate on the tasks the Lord has given to us.
Ask God to give them wisdom. Ask the Spirit to guide their decisions and to give them unity.
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