Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.
Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’
…”We all have to experience many hardships,” they said, “before we enter the kingdom of God.”
As I’m writing this, “Victor’s Crown”, a praise and worship song, is playing on Youtube and this particular verse seems so relevant to today’s first reading.
“You will wear the victor’s crown. You will overcome.”
To follow Jesus is to abandon what the world wants and to do what God desires. Jesus did tell us to pick up our cross and follow Him. To do so, is to go through a lot of challenges. Practically everything that God wants seems to be against what the world tells us we should ACTUALLY want.
Brothers and sisters, facing trials and tribulations are necessary to shape us. We cannot grow if we do not leave our comfort zones. No one became successful without having to jump over at least one obstacle. More often than not, there were a lot more than just ONE obstacle to overcome. Scientists failed many experiments before discovering an effective drug. Inventors created plenty of junk before designing the perfect product. Even a butterfly has to break open its cocoon to be able to fly and reveal its beauty.
However, just because things can get tough for us at times, it doesn’t mean God has left us to fend for ourselves. He never asks us to take on more than we can shoulder. Instead, He presents us with difficulties so that we may develop or sharpen a “skill” that would help us in our mission. For example, He makes us humble through taking away a source of income (something we considered very important) so that we can be compassionate towards those who don’t have it.
It may be hard to see or believe but when all hope seems lost, God is still present. He gives us His grace so that we can get through the rough patch in our lives. He wants us to turn to Him. Depend on Him. Know that He is God. The secret is in prayer.
He does this so that we can receive and enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven. This is, without a doubt, the greatest reward of all. It is our “Victor’s Crown”.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)
Prayer – Lord, we pray for the strength to overcome the challenges You present to us so that we may grow in faith and love for both You and humankind.
Thanksgiving – We give thanks for Your unending grace that help us face the obstacles in this life. We also thank you for the comfort in the knowledge to know that You never abandon us in our times of need.