Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 40 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Acts 14 today and our focus is on human nature and trials and tribulations. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in    Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan!

Acts 14 is a great chapter that is absolutely chock full of interesting events and great teachings, even though it is quite short. In this chapter, you really get to see the difficulties in sharing the good news of Jesus all around Asia Minor. Paul and Barnabas are frequently confronted and persecuted by Jews hostile to the gospel, even as they see many Jews (and Gentiles) become followers of Jesus. A very interesting episode happens in Lystra. God is causing great signs and wonders to happen through Barnabas and Paul, which convinces the people of Lystra that they are the gods in human form. The priest of Zeus in the city even rushes out to prepare a sacrifice for Paul and Barnabas – who immediately tear their clothes and disabuse them of the notion that they are gods – proclaiming themselves to be mere humans. Fascinatingly, the people change their tune on Paul and Barnabas violently only a short time later, and drag Paul out of the city and stone him – seemingly to death. However, the disciples gather around Paul, and he gets up and goes back into the city. The Bible is remarkably ambiguous here – the Greek language could possibly be read to indicate that Paul was killed, and somehow raised from the dead by God OR it could simply mean that the Lystrans thought Paul was dead, and he was merely knocked out, or something like that.

More profoundly, we see a great picture of human nature here. One minute the people are proclaiming Paul and Barnabas to be gods and trying to sacrifice to them, and the next minute they are seeking to murder Paul – and genuinely try to end his life by stoning. Immature people are fickle, and so are crowds – they can turn on a dime. What is popular today could be absolutely reviled tomorrow, or vice versa. It is best to seek to be God-pleasers (who doesn’t change) rather than man-pleasers, as Paul notes in Galatians 1:10

am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

And now we arrive at our main focus, and our Bible verse of the day, verse 22:

22 strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

I’ve long found this passage fairly amazing, really. Consider – Paul has just been stoned – almost stoned to death. He probably still has bruises, scabs and wounds that are visible to those he is speaking to. I imagine that his appearance and recent tribulation served to underline his words at an incredible level. When a man who has just been stoned tells you that it is “necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” I suspect you will believe him without question – the evidence is right in front of you! Let’s read our passage and then close with some beautiful wisdom from Charles Spurgeon.

Changeful experience often leads the anxious believer to enquire “Why is it thus with me?” I looked for light, but lo, darkness came; for peace, but behold trouble. I said in my heart, my mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved. Lord, thou dost hide thy face, and I am troubled. It was but yesterday that I could read my title clear; to-day my evidences are bedimmed, and my hopes are clouded. Yesterday I could climb to Pisgah’s top, and view the landscape o’er, and rejoice with confidence in my future inheritance; to-day, my spirit has no hopes, but many fears; no joys, but much distress. Is this part of God’s plan with me? Can this be the way in which God would bring me to heaven? Yes, it is even so. The eclipse of your faith, the darkness of your mind, the fainting of your hope, all these things are but parts of God’s method of making you ripe for the great inheritance upon which you shall soon enter. These trials are for the testing and strengthening of your faith—they are waves that wash you further upon the rock—they are winds which waft your ship the more swiftly towards the desired haven. According to David’s words, so it might be said of you, “so he bringeth them to their desired haven.” By honour and dishonour, by evil report and by good report, by plenty and by poverty, by joy and by distress, by persecution and by peace, by all these things is the life of your souls maintained, and by each of these are you helped on your way. Oh, think not, believer, that your sorrows are out of God’s plan; they are necessary parts of it. “We must, through much tribulation, enter the kingdom.” Learn, then, even to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

TOMORROW OT.  End of the Show: Bible memory verse for FEBRUARY: Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

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