Saturday, October 21
The Long Way Home
Scripture: Job 9-10, Acts 13-14
Acts 14:21-23 Paul and Barnabas preached the Good News in Derbe and won many disciples. Then they went back to Lystra, to Iconium, and on to Antioch in Pisidia. They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. In each church they appointed elders, and with prayers and fasting they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
Why did Paul take the long way home? Derbe is the final stop in his first missionary journey, and from there he could have continued over land back to Antioch, his starting point. It would have been much shorter—and safer—than retracing his steps. Why did he go the long way?
He wanted to visit the churches he had established, strengthen the believers and appoint elders. He wanted to make sure these new believers would continue on in the faith and thrive.
So he gave them a warning that they would pass through many troubles—to be forewarned is to be forearmed. As Peter wrote later, “Don’t be surprised when you go through fiery trials.” Expect opposition and trouble—don’t let it throw you off or derail you. No one said following Jesus would be easy
And he appointed elders (pastors, leaders) in every church. These new believers needed pastors, leaders who would care for them, convene them and encourage them. He didn’t leave them as an unorganized collection of individuals. Paul gathered them as a church with leaders; he organized them for continued growth and support. People say they are against organized religion—that is the only kind there is. Disorganized religion doesn’t last, can’t last. So Paul organized them and gave them leaders.
All of this also reveals Paul’s courage and love. His courage: he revisited all these cities that had tried to kill him, opposed him, and driven him out of town! He walked back into the fire! His love: he was willing to risk his life for these people he had led to Christ.
Sometimes the long way is the best way. Sometimes I need to sacrifice time and efficiency for love. Sometimes I need to not take the short way home, and go the long way—investing my life in people.
Prayer: Lord, make me more like Paul: willing to take the long way, the hard way for the good of the gospel and the good of others.