21Paul and Barnabas preached the good news in Derbe and won some people to the Lord. Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia.22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, “We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God’s kingdom.”23Paul and Barnabas chose some leaders for each of the churches. Then they went without eating and prayed that the Lord would take good care of these leaders.
24Paul and Barnabas went on through Pisidia to Pamphylia,25where they preached in the town of Perga. Then they went down to Attalia26and sailed to Antioch in Syria. It was there that they had been placed in God’s care for the work they had now completed.
27After arriving in Antioch, they called the church together. They told the people what God had helped them do and how he had made it possible for the Gentiles to believe.28Then they stayed there with the followers for a long time.
By the time Paul and his companions reach Derbe, they are remarkably close to his home town of Tarsus. Perhaps he could have stopped in to visit family and then taken a relatively speedy route back to their home base. But their concern for the fledgling churches that had recently started under their leadership compels them to retrace their steps and return to the cities of Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. Why go back to the very centers where antagonistic fanatics harboured murderous hatred for them and their message? After an absence which could have been as long as a year or more, they want to strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith (v 22). The courage of Paul and his meager company is striking as they instruct young Christians with an infectious passion for truth, and enjoy prayer, fasting and fellowship with each church.
Resist the temptation to take short cuts. Resist the urge to abbreviate the course God has you on and determine to press deeper into his call on your life. The world needs courageous leaders. God does not intend for our lives to be easy, without risk, or comfortable and convenient. The life lived by faith stretches us like no other. The life lived by faith will empty us of absolutely every ounce of self-reliance. The life of faith is not for cowards; it is not for those who faint in the heat of battle. It is not for those who relish security, and who would risk nothing. The life of faith is for those who long to see God do something in their day that will exceed all that they could dream or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21).
God our helper, Before we plan a single day you already have a path in mind for us. We will not indulge our urge to take short cuts and miss your best for us. Your plans are for your glory and our good. Grant us your grace in this journey. In Jesus’ bold name, Amen.