“Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, “We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God’s kingdom.”
Acts 14:21-22, CEV
Paul and Barnabas, together are perhaps the most gifted men ever to minister the Gospel. They have an amazing love for the Church. They operate out of great difficulty, but the deep work they do, proceeds out of encouragement. I looked at a dozen or so translations of the Bible–all of them translate this, “encouraged.” Every single one!
Earlier in chapter 14, we can read about the brutality and ugliness they had to walk through. It was very bad, beyond belief. But these two never ever lose their love for the Lord, and for His people. Their ministry continued to be full of optimism and comfort. They simply can’t be poisoned by the nastiness and bitterness just days before.
They understand something. What they have to say (as they minister that comfort) kind of boggles everyone’s thinking.
They said, “We must suffer many things to enter God’s kingdom.”
Comforting and strengthening, isn’t it? Sometimes when I read this passage I can’t believe what they are saying! It doesn’t make any sense at all. I believe there are three things we must process to fully understand these verses.
1) What comforts us is not always comfortable.
I’m slowly coming to the place of accepting pain and sickness as my personal doorway into the Lord’s kingdom. I know my mental illness has opened an entrance into something wonderful. My months of being institutionalized in different hospitals has seemed to have filled me with grace, gentleness and love–in other words, the kingdom. At least that is what I think.
2) What we think is the best way often is not.
No one chooses one’s particular path. If we could we would all be driving a BMW and our homes would be palaces, we would win the lottery on a regular basis. Our children would be little angels. We would never be sick, or have a chronic illness. But–we can’t enter His kingdom, unless there are trials. They have to be there, they must. Somewhere it says, if we suffer, we will reign.
3) What we need from our elders and pastors is the truth.
Often the leadership of the Church keeps this one in the closet. They communicate very well other subjects that are enjoyable. And we pressure them to do this, gently and subliminally of course. And everyone wonders why we don’t mature in our faith. Paul and Barnabas are tremendous leaders, but they don’t roll things in sugar, and their ministry carries on the sufferings of Jesus.
Often it seems, when God chooses to bless a man or a woman greatly, He will send a trial to prepare them deeply.