Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Perseverance Pays Off

“We must all go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
– Acts 14:22

I’m not a big Survivor fan, but I have been watching and enjoying the latest season. And I’ve been enjoying it for one main reason: one of this year’s contestants, Jonathan Young, a 29-year-old bodyguard from Gadsden, Alabama. When he was just 3 years old, his dad taught him how to do pull-ups, and he’s been building his muscles ever since. He holds the Guinness world record for doing the most chin-ups in one minute …with 100 pounds strapped to his back. This guy is something else!

As you might know, in every episode of Survivor, there are immunity challenges that protect you from getting voted out of the game. In one of this season’s team immunity challenges, three teams had to retrieve a heavy ladder that was strapped to the ocean floor in choppy seas. Two of the teams had to give up after almost drowning. But not Jonathan’s team! He put that ladder on his shoulder—while he dragged his struggling teammates through the waves to safety.

On Survivor, Jonathan Young demonstrates strength, determination and perseverance. And it consistently pays off. The same could be said about the Apostle Paul. He demonstrated incredible strength, determination and perseverance. And it consistently paid off, as we’ll see in Acts 13 and 14.

When Paul traveled on from the mainland of modern-day Turkey, his missionary team was down to just two people—Paul and Barnabas. And Paul was dealing with some kind of life-threatening illness, likely malaria. But even though he was physically sick and emotionally spent, he persevered. He and Barnabas hiked over 100 miles, climbing 3,600-foot mountain peaks, to reach the city of Pisidian Antioch.

Paul’s first stop was the Jewish synagogue, where he was called on to speak. Given that opportunity, Paul didn’t beg off because he was worn out from a long journey and recovering from an illness. Instead, he delivered an inspiring, God-centered sermon, letting them know that “God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as He promised” (Acts 13:23). As a result, many people were drawn to the Lord. And everyone loved it, right? Not exactly. Instead, jealous leaders from the synagogue “stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas” and kicked them out of town (v. 50).

Undaunted, Paul and Barnabas traveled on to the city of Iconium. There, once again, they “went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed” (Acts 14:1). And there, once again, they met resistance from the local leaders, who cooked up a plan to stone them to death. But Paul and Barnabas got word about the plot and fled.

They reached the town of Lystra. Once again, they preached the gospel. Once again, people listened and were beginning to believe, when guess what? Some of Paul and Barnabas’ opposers from Antioch and Iconium showed up and “won the crowd over” (v. 19). They stoned Paul, dragged him outside the city and left him for dead. After suffering a major concussion and lapsing into unconsciousness, Paul was finally ready to throw in the towel, wasn’t he?

Fat chance. Look at verse 20: “But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.” Notice that little word, “disciples.” Evidently, there were people in Lystra who had become disciples of Jesus Christ. Paul wasn’t about to leave them without a proper goodbye. So, once he regained consciousness, he stood up, turned around and staggered right back into town. And the next day, Paul and Barnabas moved on to the city of Derbe, where they “preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples” (v. 21). Then, incredibly, they went BACK to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, to encourage the new disciples they’d made while they were there.

Paul is a marvelous example of a Christian who persevered through pain, hardship and difficulties. I’d like to highlight three of those difficulties that God has called you and me to persevere through as well.

#1: Persevere through surprises and unexpected curveballs. It seems clear that in Pisidian Antioch, Paul didn’t know he was going to be given the opportunity to preach on that Sabbath Day. He was not feeling 100 percent, and he was tired from his 100-mile hike over the mountain range. But when called upon, he spoke a clear, powerful message about Jesus.

#2: Persevere through compliments and criticism. You’ve probably heard the old saying: “Don’t believe your own press releases.” I’ve discovered over the years that the truth about Dane is rarely found on the lips of my biggest fans. Neither is the truth about Dane found on the lips of my biggest critics. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle. I’m definitely not Jesus. But I’m not Satan either. The same is true of you. So, don’t let either compliments or criticism sidetrack you from your God-given mission. Persevere through compliments AND through criticism.

#3: Persevere through pain and persecution. I doubt that any of us will ever be knocked unconscious by rocks being thrown at our heads by a mob. But in one way or another, all of us will experience pain for Jesus. All of us will suffer persecution for Jesus. Jesus promised it. He tells us in John 15:20, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” But every bit of pain and persecution we endure for Jesus Christ is fruitful.

Paul said in Acts 14:22, “We must all go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” If you were to ask Paul whether it was worth it, he would respond—with scrapes and bruises all over him and a splitting headache to boot—“Absolutely! When we persevere for Jesus Christ, it ALWAYS pays off in the end.”

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit 

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