As Paul and Barnabas traveled the known world, they preached the message of Jesus Christ to Jews and Gentiles. While some believed their message, others sought to persecute the missionaries. In Antioch in Pisidia, the Jews drove Paul and Barnabas out of the city. In Iconium, they were almost stoned. In Lystra, the people saw their power (from the Holy Spirit) and refused to believe they were mere mortal men and wanted to worship them rather than the true God-man, Jesus Christ. Finally, in Lystra, Paul was stoned and presumed dead, yet he survived s0 he and Barnabas went to preach in Derbe. One would think that such events would lead to a failed mission. However, consider Acts 14:21-23:
When 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 that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (ESV, emphasis mine)
Regardless of the persecution, churches were planted and even grew. This is a result of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (ESV, emphasis mine)
May we remember this truth: Christ will build His church, even when it seems hopeless. Therefore, let us speak “boldly for the Lord” and see the church built up in our communities.