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I met with a pastor a while back who is struggling. He is 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 is not taking care of his wife as he should. He told me that he has dishonored God.

A few years ago, my wife, Laurie, shared an insight in the Bible with me from the book of Acts. “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9–10).1

Laurie said, “Look what happened after Paul and Silas arrived.”

What do you think happened after they arrived?

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?

It went well—at first. A few days after they arrived, they went down to the river to pray, and met a woman named Lydia at the river who came to know the Savior and was baptized. A few days after that, a slave girl was delivered of a spirit of divination. Paul may have been thinking, “God indeed called us here! Great things are being done for the kingdom of God for His glory!” It turned out that the child who was set free was a good money maker for some local—opportunists would be a kind word. Evil slave owners would be a better description. So, all hell broke loose. An angry mob seized and beat them.

We often forget what the Bible says about suffering for Christians, including those who are ministering people, even people who are called by the Lord to do something specifically. After having been called, the believer would think all would be sunshine and roses. However, Paul said an interesting thing earlier in Acts after men had stoned him in Lystra. “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 14:21–22). He said it before he received the vision about Macedonia. So, my guess is that he wasn’t surprised about what happened there. And please note that even though he had been stoned in Lystra, he returned to that city. Paul, an apostle that did so much to bring the truth to the world, said this about his life:

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:24–27).

Christian leaders today often teach that Christ has chosen us for greatness and He has plans for us to do amazing things. Such men should add that there is a cost to being called by God. He has purposed that we enter His kingdom “through many tribulations.” By “enter His kingdom,” I don’t mean only “go to heaven.” I mean entering His kingdom which includes learning what it means to have a King and bowing the knee to Him in everything—including suffering and the giving up our own comfort and lives.

1All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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