Beaten, bruised but not buried – Tuesday, 5th Week in Easter – Acts 14:19-28

How would you define a successful mission in the Church today? Packed to the rafters is what most people look for. If not, a great music ministry and a wonderful riveting speaker. Throw in a couple of miracles and healings and you have the makings of a successful Church mission.

But what if a Church mission ended in division and chaos? What if the visiting minister was booed? What if a group of disgruntled Christians disrupted his service and then stoned him and left him for dead? Would you call that mission successful? If your answer is NO then you just called the first missionary journey of Paul a failure.

Paul has worked miracles and performed healings. He has given the most moving sermons and drawn crowds to his words. He has travelled land and sea to make Christ known and yet he was not always met with acceptance. His first mission almost left him dead.

The text of today will tell us that Paul having been left for dead will retrace his steps. He will visit the same cities he ministered to, but he does this not with his head hung low. If Paul has boasted it has been of the many stripes on his back, his jail sentences, shipwrecks and hardships.

What is amazing is his fortitude! The fourth gift of the holy spirit. But even more was his ability to “strengthen the hearts of the disciples” (verse 22). Here is a man who truly identifies with the people of God. Here is a man who suffers great hardships and persecutions. This is not a motivational speaker but rather a moving exhibition of the kingdom of God. He has walked the talk and hence with authority has the ability to tell us that the kingdom of God demands persecution. This is the badge of honour we must wear when we present ourselves before the Lord.

But Paul is also a practical man. He knows the Church must be strengthened in his absence. He leads the Churches into prayer and fasting so that they may be guided by the Holy Spirit. We know that after a period of discernment, they appointed elders in these Churches.

The first missionary journey may be seen as a failure in the eyes of the secular world and perhaps even for many Church leaders today. For God, this was the way the Church was to move forward, with stipes of humiliation on its back. We are told that they made “many disciples,” a claim the Church sadly cannot make today.

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