The preacher who kept getting up

Posted Aug 5, 2020

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Daily Scripture

Acts 14:11-22

11 Seeing what Paul had done, the crowd shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have taken human form and come down to visit us!” 12 They referred to Barnabas as Zeus and to Paul as Hermes, since Paul was the main speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was located just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates. Along with the crowds, he wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

14 When the Lord’s messengers Barnabas and Paul found out about this, they tore their clothes in protest and rushed out into the crowd. They shouted, 15 “People, what are you doing? We are humans too, just like you! We are proclaiming the good news to you: turn to the living God and away from such worthless things. ‘He made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them’ [Psalm 146:6]. 16 In the past, he permitted every nation to go its own way. 17 Nevertheless, he hasn’t left himself without a witness. He has blessed you by giving you rain from above as well as seasonal harvests, and satisfying you with food and happiness.” 18 Even with these words, they barely kept the crowds from sacrificing to them.

19 Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won the crowds over. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing he was dead. 20 When the disciples surrounded him, he got up and entered the city again. The following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

21 Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the good news to the people in Derbe and made many disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, where 22 they strengthened the disciples and urged them to remain firm in the faith. They told them, “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.”

Reflection Questions

When the apostle Paul preached about Jesus in a city called Lystra, his enemies took extreme action. “They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing he was dead.” Luke didn’t explain how it happened, but wrote, “When the disciples surrounded him, he got up and entered the city again.” He didn’t pack up and go home but went on to the city of Derbe to preach. Then, going home, he amazingly went back to Lystra as well as other cities, encouraging the Christian converts in each city.

  • Paul and his friend Barnabas didn’t tell their converts (even in Lystra, where things had gotten especially violent), “Lay low, keep quiet about your faith and stay out of trouble.” Luke wrote that their message was, “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.” And they were echoing Jesus' message to his followers (cf. John 16:1-4, 31-33). How can it increase your resilience to know that difficulties are not unexpected, but part of the journey of faith?
  • At first the people of Lystra were ready to worship Paul and Barnabas as Greek gods come to earth. The apostles’ reaction was, “People, what are you doing? We are humans too, just like you! We are proclaiming the good news to you: turn to the living God.” Sometimes we talk about facing a temptation to “play God.” How can remembering that we are humans telling people about the living God make us more resilient than if we try to fill a role we aren’t capable of filling?

Reflection Questions

Lord God, keep me humble about my own standing, yet full of courage to bear witness to your grace and glory. Amen.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

I’ve been pondering resilience a lot lately. I’m in one of the most difficult seasons of my life, moving my husband into memory care facility due to his decline with dementia. After years of grief and the always-changing landscape of dementia, I thought I was prepared for this next transition. Instead, I’ve found my well of resilience has gone dry and my own state of fatigue often insurmountable. Where has my resilience gone?

In this difficult time, I’ve again learned that we can’t go it alone. Resilience does not grow in a vacuum. It’s part of an ecosystem of life that includes friends, family, co-workers, health care providers, even unknown strangers who extend kindness. It’s clear to me that my husband and I have been carried by the love and prayers that surround our lives. I’m so grateful.

Paul did not go it alone. Paul had a partner in ministry, Barnabas. Plus the text says the “disciples surrounded him” in his distress, as he lay beaten and left for dead. I can only imagine what it was like for him to be lie there, on the ground, dazed, probably in pain, and look up to see his closest friends surrounding him. Only then did he get up and return to his ministry (v. 20). Paul was not resilient all on his own. He had brothers and sisters in Christ, his ecosystem of life that helped to restore him.

None of us is resilient on our own. When we feel lost in our own lives, those who know us well can return us to ourselves. When we are discouraged, those who know our life story remind us that we can make it through this struggle, too. When we are frightened, those who have trod this path before can shine a light to help us take the next step. We can look to the body of Christ to surround us so that we, too, can get back up and return to our path.

Resilience grows in community. Thanks be to God.

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