They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.
26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
Old friends from Plympton, England are sharing memories on Facebook at the moment of our times at Woodford Primary School. It seems like an age away, but I still remember my mother driving me to the school on her scooter and dropping me off. I remember sunny days on the field and icy days sliding across the playground. Although I have fond memories of the school, and of Woodford Methodist Church next door, I would find it hard to live in Plymouth. I would have to deal with a lot of memories that aren’t so pleasant. I would have to face, once more, the feelings of shame that developed as I went through secondary school and was punished for my lack of organisation and failed to live up to my potential.
Going back to Pakistan and Japan would be somewhat painful for me, too. Again, I did not live life focused on things that really matter. I was immature and foolish. However, all of my fears in going back are based in a focus on myself. Paul longed to go back to places that he had lived because he saw beyond himself to what God was doing. He had many regrets about how he had persecuted the church and been so proud. However, although he had regrets he did not feel shame. He was able to proclaim that in his folish and weakness God was shown to be all the greater.
Although some cities had driven Paul out, stoned him, or persecuted him, he did not fear how he would be received. He went back and built into the churches. He reported to the churches all that God was doing. He encouraged his friends.
My self-image has been so poor that I have believed people are best rid of me when circumstances draw us apart. God has been leading me to challenge that and make connections with the past. Admittedly it is painful to maintain ties with former students and old friends. On the one hand I think that I have nothing to offer them. On the other hand, God can use me in unexpected ways – especially in my weakness. I have found that challenging my assumptions and revisiting some of the places and people that I have left behind brings some peace. God used Paul to encourage those he had left behind – maybe God can use us to touch the lives of those who were once dear to us.
Let us go back to the people who once knew us. May they see a change in us that speaks of your loving care and grace. May we tell stories to those you place around us that speak of you. May the world know your name, even in places that we would have left behind.
- What towns did Paul visit in the above passage?
- Considering how Paul was treated in some of these towns, why go back?
- How do you think those who heard Paul’s stories from the mission field felt?
- Which missionaries do you support? Do you hear stories from them?
- How might you go back to a place which you once left and encourage people with yur story?