By Mike Dawson
Interim Pastor, Santa Fe Baptist Church, Santa Fe
We call Matthew 28:19-20 “The Great Commission,” as well we should. There Jesus told the church to “go into all the world and make disciples of every nation.” I believe we could call Acts 1:8 “The Great Commissioning,” because there Jesus gave the specific strategy and locations for carrying out His commission: “You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Luke, in the book of Acts chapters 1-12, narrates the ‘Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria’ phase of witnessing. Beginning in chapter 13, Luke tells how the commissioned witnesses went beyond their Jewish neighbors to the Gentiles, and the ends of the earth. Today our focal passage, Acts 14:8-20, shows these ‘foreign missionaries’ facing incredible obstacles.
The question in today’s text might be “Did they quit?”
Verses 8-10: When infirmity came, did they quit? No, they simply worked miracles in the name of the Lord. Remember the missionary team of Paul and Barnabas had experienced persecution in Antioch of Pisidia; the Jews there had expelled them from the city after multitudes of Gentiles embraced the gospel. They had gone on to Iconium where they received similar treatment, only worse. Now in Lystra, they faced a different obstacle: infirmity. A lifelong cripple heard the gospel message and had faith that he could be healed. Seeing that faith, Paul shouted for him to stand up straight — which he DID! In facing the ailments of today’s society, we, too, can call on the miraculous power of God to heal.
Verses 11-18: When flattery came, did they quit? No, they simply put themselves down, and lifted Jesus up. When the people saw this great healing, they tried to make ‘gods’ out of Paul and Barnabas. But the missionary team refused this misguided worship; in fact, they shouted out their own human-ness — and proclaimed Jesus’ great GOD-NESS!
In my 60 years of ministry, two things really challenged me: criticism and flattery. I decided long ago to give them both to Jesus. I always tried to examine my heart about criticism, to see if there was truth in it; then I’d hand it over to the Lord. Likewise, when flattery came, I tried to immediately pass it up to Jesus, from whom all blessings flow. In facing flattery (or criticism), we, too, can ‘put ourselves in our place’ and put Jesus in His.
Verses 19-20: When eternity seemed imminent, did they quit? No, they simply overcame — and went on. As is so often the case, the very people who tried to make a god out of Paul now tried to make ‘mincemeat’ out of him. (Think of Jesus: the “Hosanna!” crowd quickly became the “Crucify!” crowd.) The unbelieving Jews, who had stirred up the multitudes against the missionaries, now managed to stir up the Lystrans; they stoned Paul and left him for dead. But he arose and kept going. In facing death, we, too, can overcome; “because He lives, all fear is gone!”