The word that was spoken by the Lord concerning Saul was ‘…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name…I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ (Acts 9:15-16) And the Lord is faithful to his word. Remember how God uses Paul and the suffering and persecution that He brings him through. Remember how in Lystra they stone him and drag him out of the city and leave him as dead. I love the words that follow this event. It says ‘…and on the next day he went on…’. Glory to God! He hasn’t finished the work…there is still Derbe to bring the gospel to…disciples to be made.
Now for the return trip to Antioch by way of the cities they had come through, the same cities that had caused all sorts of suffering for him. Paul returns to strengthen the souls of the disciples. He encourages them to continue in the faith, and tells them…reminds them that ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’ Is this part of the gospel?
The book of Isaiah tells us of a people who are being judged for their rebelliousness and the wrath of the LORD is carried out through a wicked arrogant nation, Assyria. In Isaiah 10:23 it says, ‘In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.’
So, what gospel do I embrace? Do I set my eyes on Jesus Christ, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross and suffered to bring me to God? Do I rejoice and embrace all that will bring me to lean only on the LORD in truth? Or do I shrink back and set my sights on the status quo and never know the joy of being brought to God?
Yes…it’s rhetorical…sort of; but I must ask myself these questions because they bring fresh reminders that my hope is in God and so is my encouragement to press on; especially on the tail of grieving over the hardness and apathy of the lost…sadly, the ‘religious lost’. …and even then there is always hope!