June 15, 2019

The Church of Hardship

Acts 14

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

—  Acts 14:22

Why does the gospel (“good news”) threaten some people to the point where they break out in violence? This is a common response in the book of Acts. In our Bible reading for today, we see that some people believe in Jesus, but others pick up stones to try to kill Paul and Barnabas and their companions.

Violence does not have the last word. The stoning of Paul leads to his getting up and going back into the city. The violence of the cross did not have the last word either. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven assure us of his victory over all our sin.

The good news of Jesus presents a threat to our usual way of living. When people hear the message of Jesus, they often sense that their systems are being threatened. And when people feel threatened, they often turn to violence. I have been in churches where people left and slammed the door behind them. I have been in churches where verbal assaults decimated the unity of the body. Although these examples do not show the same level of violence that we see in Acts 14, they reveal a lot of conflict and tension. How do situations like that affect you? Waiting and working for the kingdom of God takes patience. We may experience hardships, but they are not the end of the story. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

God of good news, forgive us for any violence we have shown to others. Forgive our anger, selfishness, and pride. May we experience the fruit of the Spirit—day by day. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Julius T. Medenblik

Rev. Jul Medenblik is a former attorney who was called to pastoral ministry and became the founding pastor of a church in New Lenox, Illinois. He is currently serving as president of Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jul and his wife, Jackie, are blessed with a son, Joshua, and a daughter, Julianne.

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