Paul and Barnabas in Iconium
1Paul and Barnabas spoke in the synagogue in Iconium, just as they had done at Antioch, and many Jews and Gentiles put their faith in the Lord. 2But the Jews who did not have faith in him made the other Gentiles angry and turned them against the Lord's followers.
3Paul and Barnabas stayed there for a while, having faith in the Lord and bravely speaking his message. The Lord gave them the power to work miracles and wonders, and he showed that their message about his gift of undeserved grace was true.
4The people of Iconium did not know what to think. Some of them believed the Jewish group, and others believed the apostles. 5Finally, some Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, decided to make trouble for Paul and Barnabas and to stone them to death.
6-7But when the two apostles found out what was happening, they escaped to the region of Lycaonia. They preached the good news there in the towns of Lystra and Derbe and in the nearby countryside.
Paul and Barnabas travelled into the Roman province of Galatia. The church that they start in Iconium is likely among the churches Paul would later address in his letter to the Galatians. They speak so effectively here that significant numbers of people believe their message about Jesus. Before long, however, the population becomes divided between enthusiastic new Christians and hostile Jews. Those who would not accept the gospel take active steps to evict the missionaries from their city, and they do their best to prejudice the minds and hearts of government official and citizens against them. It is a striking reality to be noticed how often a sign of the Holy Spirit’s activity is opposition.
In spite of mounting opposition Paul and Barnabas continue to speak boldly for the Lord. Telling the facts about Jesus of Nazareth is the single ambition of these men and their one theme wherever they travel. Paul and Barnabas do not succumb to discouragement when people reject them. Somehow they cultivate a long memory concerning all things to do with the gospel of Jesus and a short memory concerning the rejections they encounter. They choose to thrive in the face of rejection.
If the gospel is going to be proclaimed effectively we must cultivate the same discipline. We are not naïve; not all who hear the good news of Jesus will believe. Some will reject it, and still others will be harsh in their rejection of the message and the messenger. While rejection stings it is not final, and it does not determine our attitude. Together we can choose to thrive.
God our encourager, You cause the message of Jesus to be effective and people to believe. We acknowledge that often a sign of your activity is opposition. Help us to cultivate a long memory of you and your gospel and a short memory of the rejections we may encounter along the way. Because of you, we choose to thrive. Through Jesus, who is the hope of our salvation, Amen.