21 After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
23 When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 After they spoke the message in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed back to Antioch where they had been entrusted to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they spent a considerable time with the disciples.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
…They returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
Movement. Growth. Perpetual. Building. Powerful.
These are words that describe the ministry of the early church, as evidenced in these few short verses. It blows my mind when I break down these verses and look at all the things these people were doing, what they were accomplishing.
They were revolutionaries, developers, pioneers, and guardians. They were Christians, left with the task of sharing a new gospel message with an entire world—and there was a lot of work to be done. Let’s take a closer look at what these people were up to.
The first thing that jumped out at me from these verses is that there was a lot of movement and a lot of traveling going on. And we’re talking about traveling on foot, or donkeys, or camels—motors hadn’t been invented yet.
In today’s text, there are at least seven geographical locations through which the disciples passed and shared the gospel with the people living there (verse 25). And these are merely a few verses of many throughout the New Testament.
There was an evident willingness to go and spread the message of Christ. Their lives proved it. But there was also an incredible emphasis placed on the development and training of new believers, once they had heard the gospel and accepted it in their hearts.
That’s the part that blows my mind. Their work never stopped.
Merely telling others about the truth they had come to believe wasn’t enough. They sought to help others understand it. They sought to train others to implement it and make it applicable to daily life—for every single person on the entire planet.
And they weren’t going to stop until the work was done.
Thousands of years later, sitting in a church in Brentwood, Tennessee in America, I’m humbled. I’m aware how often I fail to exhibit that same passion, not only for spreading the gospel to the world around me, but also for taking the time to develop the seed of truth once it’s planted somewhere.
I get lazy. I get insecure about how to disciple others. I get busy. The work stops.
That isn’t how God intended things to go—and the people in the early church understood that. Once the seed of truth was planted, they knew it would need to be nurtured in order to grow well and strong (verse 22).
They knew that the soil would need to be enriched every once in a while, and that people’s hearts would need to be encouraged. They knew that sometimes storms would come and threaten the natural balance of things (verse 22).
They understood that the process of growing roots takes time (verse 28). And everybody had something to contribute, something to do, no matter what they were gifted in.
These verses allude to several different ways the early church built the kingdom of God in the hearts of His followers:
- Preaching/Speaking (verses 21, 27)
- Traveling/Travel preparation (verses 21, 24-25)
- Encouraging (verse 22)
- Affirming through prophecy (verse 22)
- Establishing leaders/leadership structure (verse 23)
- Planting churches (verses 21-23)
- Praying and fasting (verse 23)
- Coordinating events (verse 27)
- Sharing their testimonies (verses 27-28)
- Making friends (verse 28)
The list is boundless, as are the ways to accomplish each endeavor. Everyone has something to contribute when it comes to building the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Some scatter the seeds and others come along to water the plant as it grows. Every task is vital for the growth of the plant.
Some people have more time than money, and some people have more money than time. Every resource is needed for the accomplishment of the goal.
Some know how to lay a solid foundation, while others know the right pattern in which to place the bricks. Both skills are needed in order to build a good structure.
It’s all part of the gospel of Christ—sharing it, growing it, and implementing it. No matter what form the work takes, the important thing is that it never stops.
- Is there an area of ministry in your past that you’ve left unfinished? When you look at your efforts at building the kingdom, where have you let the work stop?
- What are the ways you are contributing to the kingdom currently? How has God specifically gifted you?
- As the church works together, we minister to one another and build each other up. What ways have you been encouraged in the past? Have you been encouraged by someone? Were you taught or discipled by someone? How has that experience impacted your life?