There is a verse in this section of scripture that tells us what to expect in our walk with Christ. It is in stark contrast to much of what people believe about the life of a Christian and it gives us pause when we realise both the importance and significance of the path we are taking.
It is also about the testing times we must go through as we walk the walk with Jesus Christ and it tells us what we can expect.
But the other side of this is that we are called to be resilient and to learn how to stand in the face of opposition and the trials of this life. If this walk is important to us we need to know what we are facing, what we can expect and be prepared for it.
The issue that Paul counsels the early Christians about here and which we too must recognise is the issue of…tribulations.
The scripture that warns us of these things is:
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 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.
Paul and Barnabas had already been through this region and as they returned they encouraged and exhorted the disciples to continue to hold strong in the faith. They were showing them we must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations.
This is a stark contrast to what many believe and even some preach. What we often hear is that everything will be joy, peace, comfort and love. And when we do come to Christ those things can be had if we walk according to the path He sets before us.
However the path is also full of obstacles that will test and try us. Our faith will be tested often as we walk with Jesus to prove us and bring us into maturity. Consider these few scriptures (and there are many others) that tell us of the tribulations we will come into.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
“The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone enters it violently.” (Luke 16:16)
All of these scriptures warn us that the path ahead will be one of persecution, suffer and tribulations. You could be forgiven for thinking why would anyone want to go down a path that promises difficulty, trial,and tribulation.
Risk versus Reward
There is a principle used in business circles that applies equally as well to all parts of our lives. It is especially relevant in our Christian walk. It is the principle of risk versus reward.
Basically it says that if the reward to be received from doing something exceeds the risks that need to be taken, then the thing is worth doing.
In our Christian walk the reward on offer is eternal life in peace with God. No pain, no death, no suffering, no tribulations and no other of the problems of humanity today for eternity. Furthermore, in this life there is the promise of God's protection and His help as we walk to carry us through. Yes there will be trials and tribulations, but He tells us that we will not be tested beyond our strength. Whatever comes against us will not destroy us, provided we look to Jesus and are led by the Holy Spirit. Consider this section of scripture in Romans 8:18-21.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
By any measure the rewards of being a Christian far outweighs the risks. There is no comparison between the tribulations of this life when stacked up against the promises of The Lord for following His son Jesus Christ and living in the grace of God.
Protection And Outcomes
We see also in the scripture in Acts 14 that The Lord through Paul and Barnabas has provided protections and assistance for the new Christians.
The processes He provides are seen first in the word and working of the New Covenant. Paul and Barnabas spent some time with the disciples teaching and preaching to help them understand the ways of The Lord and give them the teachings they would need to be able to stand in the face of tribulations.
The second thing they did to assist the new disciples was to appoint elders in each of the towns. Eldership is important to the church.
One of the key weapons the devil uses against the church is to take it over by putting in place a single person at the head of the church. One person at the head of the church is not in line with the structure that Jesus set up. Recall that He established the original church setting up the twelve disciples to carry the word to the world. Each of the twelve were co-equals and there was not one who was the head of the church for only Jesus Christ holds that position.
In fact when a single man takes the role at the head of the church he displaces Christ and sets himself up as an antichrist. This is the trap of the devil and he places the spirit of antichrist into the church by setting up one man at its head.
That is why the eldership structures were so important in each of the churches and why we see Paul in all of his travels ensure that elders were appointed to the churches.
The role of the elders was to protect the flock and to ensure the teachings of the church were in accordance with the truth and by so doing, to reject the incursion of any falsehood that might come into the church.
At the individual level we have the power of prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit with the walking in the spirit ministry as protection.
We see also in Ephesians 6:10-20 the various pieces of the spiritual armour we are provided with to help us to overcome the many trials and tribulations we must face.
So we see that while tribulations are inevitable for the Christian, we have not been left without recourse. We have the promises of God to stand on and the weapons of our spiritual warfare to wage war against the passions of the flesh and the attacks of the evil one.
And apart from all of that, the rewards on offer so far outweigh the tribulations we may suffer here that the tribulations pales into insignificances. Even death in this life does not matter when the promise of eternity is considered. So prepare yourself for the tribulations that will come and know that with God on your side, nothing can take you out of His hand or separate you from the love of God. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:35-39,
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing will separate us from the love of God, including tribulation. And finally we should also remember that those who do not come to Christ will also suffer tribulation, but without the help, support and protection of The Lord to assist them through…and no promise of life to follow. As Paul wrote in Romans 2:6-11,
6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
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