By Steve Akin
Please read Acts 14. It’s astounding all that God does through the faith of His children in this single chapter. What gets me is the number and kind of people who have a deep, unsettling case of mistaken identity.
Take the Jewish leaders in Iconium, for example. They followed Paul and Barnabas around and “worked up a whispering campaign against” them (MSG). Think of this as an ancient smear campaign without the Internet, tweets, texts, and snaps. Who did these unbelieving Jews think Paul and Barnabas were? What happened to the wisdom of the Jewish leaders who said, “Hey, if this is some uprising led by nobodies, it will come to nothing, but if it is of God, we had better not get in the way of it”? Apparently they thought Paul and Barnabas were going to do great damage to their grip on power. Many were coming to God and leaving the Jewish faith. At least that’s how they saw it. That’s why they were sent out to undermine this work of God’s children.
And what of the crowd in Lystra? At first Paul and Barnabas are considered gods that should be worshiped because they thought these two guys healed the lame man on their own. Paul and Barnabas had to become extremely demonstrative to convince them it is God who heals and to stop the crowd's misplaced worship. “We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.” Maybe it was how Paul and Barnabas called their gods “worthless” that caused what came next.
In come the same Jewish leaders from Iconium and Antioch who are still convinced that Paul and Barnabas will destroy the power they hold dear. They continue in their smear campaign. The same crowd who worshiped Paul and Barnabas just a few verses back are taken in by the lies of these unbelieving Jews. And their attitude toward Paul and Barnabas does a complete 180. The crowd stones Paul, drags his body outside the city, and leaves him for dead.
All these folks were wrong. Paul and Barnabas are merely two convicted believers who choose to put their Lord’s will ahead of their own. That’s it. To ascribe anything more or less than that is simply off the mark. They, and true believers like them, are not gods; they aren’t here to take your money or power; and they aren’t dead.
Here's the gist of of Acts 14. Paul, Barnabas, and their disciples knew exactly who they were in Christ. They knew their God and what He expected of them. And this is where it gets good: They knew these things with such conviction that they went back into that city after praying over Paul, and back through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, winning many disciples without fear of what may happen to them.
They were filled with encouragement because they were counted worthy to reveal God through their suffering.
I think God is still looking for His children to know, listen, and follow Him. That’s it. What'll it look like if we just do that? I’m not too sure, but I bet it’s never boring and always beautiful. Have a blessed day.