But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14)
Paul preaches the gospel in Antioch, Iconium and then Lystra but runs into fierce opposition from some unbelieving Jews along the way. Their opposition was so intense that they end up catching Paul in Lystra and dragging him outside the city to crush his skull with stones. Paul is so beaten up and battered that his attackers assumed he was dead.
Now try to put yourself into Paul’s shoes and imagine what you would be thinking or feeling in that moment? If you were one of the Christians traveling around with Paul, what might be going on in your head after witnessing this and would you be questioning whether or not it makes sense to keep sharing the gospel in this region of the world?
I don’t think any of us would criticize Paul and his companions if they would have decided to leave that particular region and headed back home instead. That would have seemed like a very normal thing to do. And we could easily just assume that such harsh opposition was a sign that they should move on anyway. However, what Paul and his companions actually ended up doing was anything but normal.
Paul remarkably survives this pounding that he experienced and proceeded to go back into the city to probably encourage the new Christians who just witnessed all this. Then the very next day, he began a sixty-mile journey to go preach the gospel in the city of Derbe! Imagine what his body must have felt like on this journey and what kind of injuries he was probably having to deal with?
You see, total allegiance to Jesus can lead us to do things that are anything but normal.
A badly injured Paul travels sixty miles to preach the gospel in another city and then displays the mind-blowing courage to back-track and return to the very same cities from which he had been persecuted just to encourage the new disciples that had been made there.
Those who have had their lives transformed by the power of the gospel seem to live lives that are unordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Things may not always go as planned and sometimes things might be terribly painful, but lives that are loyal to Jesus should be anything but normal.