Joy in the Midst of Defeat
Acts 13:44 ¶ The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
Acts 13:45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul.
Acts 13:46 Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles.
Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles,
so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
Acts 13:48 ¶ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.
Acts 13:49 Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region.
Acts 13:50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region.
Acts 13:51 So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium.
Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Paul and Barnabas were out preaching and doing all that God had asked them to do. As they entered a new city they would preach in the synagogue, bringing the good news of the Messiah to the Jews. Unfortunately they were often rejected but, as a result they preached to the Gentiles. They boldly declared that the Gentiles were also recipients of the grace of God. The Gentiles were overwhelmed and many became believers and helped to spread the word about Jesus throughout the entire region. There were, however, very rich and influential Jews within the community who decided to make trouble. They gathered together their friends and began to persecute Paul and Barnabas, making life and ministry extremely difficult for them and eventually driving them out of the region.
Paul and Barnabas could have left in frustration but instead of sulking, they simply chose to move on and used this as a sign from God to go on to the next place of ministry. There was joy in the midst of what some would call defeat. These men were filled with the Holy Spirit and so they rejoiced, trusting God for all that was happening in their lives.
Paul and Barnabas teach us how to react in difficult situations. Underlying all that happens is the fact that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the driving force in their lives and therefore the things of the world just don’t get them down. They have one difficulty after another, but they always continue to trust that God is in the circumstances. A closed door means that another door is open. No whining or pouting — just a journey with the Lord, moving through the open doors.
This is why they can have joy in the midst of what many might see as defeat because for them, there was no defeat. No matter how difficult the circumstances, God was always victorious. Many people had come to know the Lord in Antioch of Pisidia. Even though the influential people of the city were against them, this was only the case because enough people had become believers to disturb the wealthy leaders. For this Paul and Barnabas would praise the Lord!
Paul and Barnabas didn’t spend time complaining that things didn’t turn out exactly as they had wanted, but shook the dust from their feet and moved on. In other words, they recognized what was going on, they registered a protest and then just moved on. If they would never have experienced difficulties in Antioch — would the Gospel have spread any further? Who knows, but they did not wallow in discouragement and neither should we. When a door closes, then just move on. God through the Holy Spirit may be leading us to the place where he wants us, and who knows what may be in store for us there. May we find his joy in the midst of what the world would see as defeat.
Lord, thank you for your wisdom and direction. Please, help me to trust in you and may your Holy Spirit fill me with your joy. Amen.