Discipleship Despite Difficulties

Salvation is free, ... but discipleship will cost you your life. — (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Discipleship

The riot covered in the previous chapter put an end to any further usefulness for Paul in Ephesus. In verse one Paul arrived in Macedonia, in a state of spiritual depression. It seems that at this time he had evangelized the province of Illyricum, on the Adriatic Sea across from Italy (Romans 15:19).  However depression didn’t keep Paul from his task of winning people to the Lord Jesus. So often depression is Satan’s tool to keep our minds on ourselves and off the need of a perishing world.

From Macedonia Paul went to Greece, and especially to Corinth. There he wrote his master piece, the epistle to the Romans. Every year a pilgrim ship went from the city of Cendrea to Palestine to take Jewish people to the annual festivals.  Paul had planned to sail on one of these ships, but word leaked out about this, and the Jews decided this would be a golden opportunity to get rid of him.  However Paul uncovered their plot, changed his plans, and headed back north to Macedonia (v. 3). In all their plots and attempts on Paul’s life we see the protecting hand of God. Over the centuries of the Christian church, the lives of God’s servants often have been in danger. Many have been martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. Others have suffered intensely. In fact, the church has always been at its purest when it has had to face suffering and martyrdom for Christ.

There was a group of men from the various regions Paul had evangelized, surrounding him (v. 4). He must have been very excited as he discipled these men and saw them begin to grow in the things of the Lord and start to move out for Him. He was reaping what he had sowed. The chief reason for Paul’s traveling with such an escort was the collection of money that he had been accumulating from his various Gentile churches for the poor in the Jerusalem church. These men undoubtedly came from the various churches that had contributed to this project. Here we see one of those missionary principles that so characterized the book of Acts. Paul was always careful to be above reproach and suspicion when it came to matters of money. He surrounded himself with safeguards to ensure that he could never be accused of misappropriation of funds.

Application

If people try to hinder my witness for Christ, I do not need to be fearful of them. God can take care of me and protect me as He did Paul. Just like Paul, I will reap what I sow, so I need to sow bountifully in order to reap bountifully. A part of this involves discipleship.

Acts 20:1-6 (English Standard Version)

After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

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