I met with a pastor yesterday who is struggling. He’s what is called “bi-vocational,” which means he is trying to start a church and work at a “secular” job at the same time. He’s doing this in one of the poorest parts of our city. I admire him for this.

Regardless of this admiration, his bank account is suffering. He feels like he’s not taking care of his wife as he should. He told me that he has dishonored God.

A few years ago, Laurie shared an insight from the Bible with me. In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia who was saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul went. What do you think happened?

It went well—at first. They met a woman named Lydia at the river and led her to Jesus. Then they cast a demon out of a woman. After this, all hell broke loose. They were beaten with rods and thrown in prison.

Laurie pointed out what happens sometimes when we are called to minister. Keep in mind that Paul had a vision from God. This man was calling, asking for help. Can you imagine the expectations that Paul and Silas had as they headed toward Macedonia? And then as a woman came to Jesus and another was delivered of a bad spirit? God called us here! Great things are being done for the kingdom of God!

And then you get the holy heck beat out of you by an angry mob.

We often forget what the Bible says about suffering. I understand this. I’d rather not suffer myself, much less think about it. But Paul said an interesting thing to the believers in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. He told them that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” He said this after he had been stoned in Lystra. He said it before he received the vision about Macedonia. So my guess is that he wasn’t surprised about what happened there.

As my pastor friend and I had coffee together, I joked that I often say that I’d prefer to learn my Christian lessons while sitting under the shade of a tree, sipping lemonade and reading a book, thank you very much. However, this is not how God has purposed that we enter His kingdom. By “enter His kingdom,” I don’t mean “go to heaven.” What I mean is, entering His kingdom includes learning what it means to have a King and put Him first in everything—including giving up our own lives.