It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God
St. Paul must have made quite an impact when he spoke these words. He had just returned from traveling to Derbe, Lystra, and Pisidian Antioch, preaching the gospel as he went. But the Paul who came back to them probably looked noticeably worse than the Paul who had first visited them a few months earlier. Not only had he been subjected to “violent abuse” by some of his detractors, but he had also been stoned and left for dead (Acts 13:45; 14:19)!
So there he was, a living illustration of what it meant to “undergo many hardships” for the sake of Christ (Acts 14:22). Let’s imagine what he might have said to them:
Brothers and sisters, look at me. Do you see the bruises on my face and how I still limp? Look, but don’t let the memory of the anger and violence of the crowd overtake you. Instead, think about Jesus and his power to heal and to save. If one person comes to faith in him, I will consider all these scars and bruises to have been worth it.
I stand before you today as a living reminder that believing in Jesus doesn’t shield you from hardship. Sometimes your faith will invite it! But try to follow my lead. After some people from Antioch and Iconium and Lystra tried to kill me, I didn’t give up. Instead, I returned to them later. It wasn’t easy, but I found the grace to forgive them, to overcome my fears, and to persevere.
My dear friends, I know that you also are undergoing hardships. You may be disturbed by the sexual immorality around you. You may be suffering from a family member’s mockery of your faith. You may be bearing unseen wounds in your heart. Persevere through all of these challenges! Never let go of your faith!
Remember that Jesus is indeed alive in you: in your hope, your joy, and your generosity to one another. He promised that your love would win people over. So hold fast to him, and let him sustain you.
Word Among Us