Acts 14:22

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

We now come to the aspect of the kingdom of God that is related to preservation, progressive sanctification and rewards.  Acts 14:22 declare that it is by much tribulation that we enter into the kingdom of God.  This aspect of the kingdom is not salvation, but the result of salvation.

Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Salvation is an entrance into one aspect of the kingdom of God, but it is not the complete entrance.  Revelation 19:6-8 reveals a great multitude in heaven, who worship God because he reigns.  Verse 7 and 8 discloses the bride, who not only has made herself ready, but is “…granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white:’ for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”

On the first missionary journey of the apostle Paul, Acts 14:19 records that Paul and Barnabas was in the cities of Lycaonia and the surrounding region.  There was a great service, an impotent man being healed.  The people in the area were very excited at this sight, and proclaimed, “The gods are come down to us in the form of men.  12 and they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.”  The people were about to worship Paul and Barnabas, but were stopped from this vile deed by the speech of Paul.  Then: verse 19 records, “…there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.”  Isn’t this wild?  One minute, people that see a miracle of God are worshiping Paul and Barnabas, and the next minute, Paul is being stoned.  Quite a change of circumstances, isn’t it?  Paul did not die, even though he was drawn out of the city, the people supposing him to be dead.  Paul got up and went back into the city and the next day departed with Barnabas to Derbe.  After preaching at Derbe, verse 21 and 22 declare that Paul went back to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”  These people knew first hand what Paul had been through. He has been stoned and left for dead in their cities.  But he came back and encouraged them to be faithful, declaring to them that it was through much tribulation that they would enter into the kingdom of God.  Many of us believe we are persecuted when we are embarrassed to speak the name of Christ.  There is little persecution today because of the gospel message being declared. 

It is evident, is it not, that the entrance into the kingdom of God through tribulation is vastly different from entering the kingdom of God at salvation?  Jesus died, Jesus paid the price with his life, so we could obtain salvation and entrance into the spiritual aspect of the kingdom of God.  Yet we must die to self, to our desires, and to our ambitions, if we are to reveal the authority of God over us. 

Of course, it is not our works that reveal God’s power in us.  II Timothy 4:17-18 state, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  Paul did not count himself strong enough to preserve himself unto the heavenly kingdom of God.  Rather, he depended entirely on the power and grace of Almighty God.  Paul stated that his strength came from his weakness, not from his strength.  II Corinthians 12 records that Paul had a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him.  Paul asked Christ three times to remove the thorn, but it remained.  Christ informed Paul that his grace was sufficient.  Then Paul stated in verse 9-10, “…Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  Yes, it is God that delivers us from every evil work, and it is God that gives us strength to hold out faithful until the end.

I can hear someone saying, “But I am not like Paul. I don’t have his faith, or his determination.  I can never be faithful like Paul.  I just don’t have what it takes.”  Listen to James 2:5, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”  Do you see from this verse that God has given to the poor of this world, to those that are rich in faith?

Listen again to I Corinthians 1:26-29, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.”  Do you think Paul was not flesh and blood?  Do you think he was some superhuman?  Do you think Paul had something you do not have?  Paul had Jesus and Paul used what Jesus gave him.  This is the difference between Paul and the person who cannot endure tribulation.  Remember Acts 14:22, where Paul encouraged the believers in the area surrounding Lystra, “…that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”  It is good for us to be encouraged to endure much tribulation. 

Listen again to James 5:16-18, “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”  The Bible declares that Elijah was a man just like us.  He was no superhuman.  But Elijah prayed. He prayed earnestly, and the rain stopped!  It did not rain for 3½ years!  God stopped the rain because Elijah prayed.  God did not start the rain again until Elijah prayed again.  But listen, Elijah was just like us.  He was a man who trusted God and God blessed.  Our power is not in ourselves.  Our power is in God, and only in God.

Acts 4:29-30 reveals how we ought to pray for the power, and strength that we can only obtain from God.  “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”  Peter and John, through the power of God, had healed the man lying at the gate called Beautiful.  The Pharisees did not like this, and threatened Peter and John.  These men returned to their church and the entire church prayed that God would give them boldness to continue to preach and declare the word of God.  God blessed them as verse 31 records, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”  Would you like to be filled with boldness and declare the glory of God?  You must pray the way these faithful disciples prayed. You must understand we “…must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” 

Luke 22:44 reveal that Jesus prayed when he knew he was facing the suffering on the cross.  He asked his father to remove the cup, but only if it was his fathers will to remove the cup.  The angel from heaven appeared to Christ, strengthening him, and Christ prayed more earnestly.  He was in such an agony that his sweat was as it was great drops of blood.  I believe there was no blood, “but as it were”, great drops of blood.  Christ faced the cruel cross: alone – for the first time: alone when the Father turned his back on his only begotten son. 

Hebrews 12:2 state that Jesus is our example.  Jesus faced the cross, endured the shame of it all because he fixed his eyes on the joy that was after the cross.  Often, we spend so much time thinking of how things will affect this life, how we will not have this thing or that thing, and how we will have to suffer; instead of thinking about the glory that is to come.  Where our treasure is, there is our hearts also; Matthew 6:19-21 states, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego declared they would not worship the golden image Nebuchadnezzar set up.  They faced death and would have died, rather than give in to the cruel tyrants demands.  They were able.  And we are also able.  IF, we will see spiritual things as spiritual, and not be so concerned with the things of this present evil world.