At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.”
And he leaped up and began to walk. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them. But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. After 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, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
In just these few verses we find God doing a great miracle in healing a man who had never walked in his life. When the people saw God’s power working through Paul and Barnabas, the Bible says they were so excited they began to worship the apostles.
Paul could hardly restrain the people and the priests. But just a few verses later, the people’s mood was changed dramatically by those who opposed the message of Christ. The same crowd that was ready to worship Paul as a god now stoned him and dragged him out of the city leaving him to die. But Paul went back into the city and stayed the night before leaving for Derbe.
The Bible says at Derbe, they preached the gospel and made many disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, where verse 22 says they were “… strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.”
This is the part that struck me as humorous.
They were strengthening the souls of the disciples, and encouraging them to continue in the faith. That’s what we do as leaders and pastors. But the message they were preaching – “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” – would seem to miss the mark as far as strengthening the souls of the hearers or encouraging them to continue in the faith. That is certainly not a very popular message in our day. But as those of us who have walked with Jesus for some time now know, that message is the truth. This is not an easy road as we make our way toward Him.
As I think about Paul’s trials and tribulations on this his first missionary journey, and this message he shared as he revisited Lystra after what had occurred there, understanding this truth will indeed strengthen our souls and help us to continue in the faith. Jesus said we would have tribulation in this world. But He encouraged his disciples to be of good cheer because He has already overcome the world. There is nothing I can add to this message Paul preached.
It is through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God. But praise God! His promise is that He will lead us through every tribulation, even “the valley of the shadow of death.” Be encouraged today. God knows your trials and tribulations. He knows where you are. And Jesus has been preparing a place for you (John 14:2
) for 2,000 years. It’s going to be so worth it.