Acts 14:22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Paul and Barnabas didn’t mince words with the new believers. There was none of this “Your best life now” business. The way to “strengthen their hearts and encourage them to abide in the faith” was to tell them they were going to suffer! We do people a disservice when we fail to tell them that in this life, being a Christian may not be easy at all, but that it’s certainly worth it. People today don’t like to suffer for anything; they don’t even like to wait for it! The thing is, God knows that zero suffering brings zero growth, and He’s more interested in our maturity than in our comfort. That is certainly not to say that He picks on us or is mean in any way, but all too often we fail to see needed discipline as love. Much of that goes back to the big shift in parenting that started back in the ’50s, when the Biblical admonitions on parenting were thrown out the window. Someone who has never known loving discipline from their parents isn’t going to understand loving discipline from God. He never allows us to go through anything that can’t be for our good, but we have a lot of trouble believing and trusting that. In any case, we need to have a clear enough understanding of the difference between our two possible destinations to know that any amount of suffering on this earth can’t begin to compare to the glorious blessings that await us in heaven. (1 Peter 4:12-13 and many more)
I don’t feel I have had that hard a time of it as a Christian, but I still get frustrated with believers who want everything to be easy. I am to be patient with them, but always speak the truth in love, even as Paul and Barnabas did. I’m not to be afraid of scaring people away with honesty, because any sort of deception will come back and bite me. I am to make it clear that the rewards of faith are more than worth anything on this earth, but not give people the impression that faith is just a “get out of jail free” card. That last can be difficult, because we are saved by grace through faith and indeed escape judgment, because Jesus has paid it all for us. At the same time, genuine faith brings a level of commitment that perseveres in serving God regardless of the difficulties. That, I think, is what Paul and Barnabas were teaching, and I need to do no less.
Father, I don’t have the wisdom necessary to communicate Your Gospel accurately and effectively, so I ask Your Holy Spirit to do it through me. Help me be faithful in my availability and obedience. Thank You for the opportunity yesterday to share the reality of Jesus’ suffering for us with some new believers. They already believed, but hadn’t understood the extent of what Jesus went through. That’s something that can strengthen them to endure their own suffering. Help me communicate Your whole truth to all who have ears to hear, so that I may raise up not just converts but true disciples, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!