Faith without falter- Tuesday, 5th Week of Easter- Acts 14:19-28

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains

Faith without falter- Tuesday, 5th Week of Easter- Acts 14:19-28

I have woefully declared many times that people are more enchanted with cult, than faith from which it flows. Since cult is more tangible, we unwittingly give it more importance than the truth of faith, which is the reason for cult. The people of Lystra were so enamoured by a single miracle worked by Paul and Barnabas, that they saw them as ‘gods’ and wanted to sacrifice oxen that would be garlanded before the slaughter.

Paul wants to have none of this and prefers to profess the truth; ironically there seems to be no one enamoured now. For no sooner do the Jewish detractors of Paul arrive from Antioch and Iconium with their perverse thoughts, than the people of Lystra no longer see the truth of Paul’s words and choose to stone the very man they hailed as ‘god’ a few hours ago. Paul, as we know, does not die and instead heads for Derbe, a border town in the south-eastern part of the Lycaonian region of Galatia.

One would think that Paul wants to beg for trouble; for he traces his footsteps back to the very towns he was stoned and chased out from. He goes from Derbe to Lystra to Iconium and to Antioch. As they go, they make disciples, and through words of encouragement, “strengthened the spirits of the disciples” who must have had to face much ridicule and suffering when Paul left them often at risk to his own life.  Paul is drawing to a close to what is called the ‘first missionary journey’.

One must admire these early Christians who never gave up the faith even in the face of tremendous hardships which Paul acknowledged when he said, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”. Paul’s faith does not merely float in some unrealistic world for he knows that it must also be rooted in earthly structures. With this in mind he recognizes the need for continuity and appoints “presbyters”, a word best translated as ‘elders’.

Interestingly the choice of elders was not some popularity contest determined by the counting of votes, for we know the elders were ‘chosen’ after prayer and fasting. Thought must be given to the process of prayer even today when councils are “elected” rather than “selected”. While today we are more inclined to electing bodies in the Church in a spirit of fairness and freedom of choice (not all though are elected), we must also learn to be submissive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in such a choice.

Paul and Barnabas headed back to Antioch from where this journey began. They travelled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga, they went down to the port city of Attalia from where they sailed to Antioch. It is to this Church that a “report” of the missionary journey is now presented. The reporting was not about what they did and achieved, but “what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles”.

The focus of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas had always been on the Lord and never about themselves. They had to often resist the demands of the people who would have crowned them gods. Paul and Barnabas were clear; it is not the messenger but the message that must take centre stage. They gave the Lord all the glory, yet they willingly took the shame; for the first missionary journey saw disagreements with John Mark, they were chased out of synagogues and cities, stoned in Lystra and had to deal with an arduous journey on foot and by ship over several nations.

Such was a faith without falter!

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