Can I be honest? I cannot think of much that I have given up in my walk with Christ. Even though I have a lot of school debt I live a mostly comfortable life and can afford many of the things that I would like to have. My lifestyle and beliefs as a Christian are not directly challenged by others. I can worship freely without fear that someone would arrest me for preaching or leading a community in worship.
This is not the case in many parts of the world. In some places, the church experiences some form of direct persecution on a daily basis. I don’t think it should be a complete shock that in the places where the church faces direct persecution it is growing and strong.
Our passage from Acts 14 speaks to this. Paul is continuing his preaching mission to the Gentiles and faces some stiff opposition. In fact, he is stoned for his beliefs and preaching. He was left for dead.
We do not see Paul running from this persecution or even contemplating giving up his mission. He says something quite different. He says that his sufferings will bring him into the kingdom of God.
What does he mean by this? Paul is saying that his sufferings connected him to the suffering of Christ upon the cross. It allowed him to experience the rejection that Christ felt. Even more, it strengthened his own faith because it allowed him to stay focus upon God’s grace and love that saw him through these difficult moments.
Paul’s faith cost him something. It cost him his health. It cost him his friendships and prestige in his community. It cost him his freedom and independence. Paul never saw these and things to be disappointed about, but blessings in the mission of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others.
What does our faith cost us? What are we willing to lose in order to gain in Christ? Indeed, are we willing to suffer and give up things that we take for granted so that Christ may be made known throughout our communities and world?