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Trouble is Good, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #10)

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TEXT: Acts 14:19-22

19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and I-co-ni-um, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,

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.

Trouble is Good, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #10)

For first century Christians, following Jesus Christ was not easy, and no one then expected it to be. Jesus Christ Himself had warned His disciples that they would suffer as He had suffered and that they would face tribulation. Christians today sometimes forget that the history of Christ-followers has been a long, bloody, difficult road. Many millions have gone before us sacrificing their comfort, sometimes to the point of giving their lives, in order to remain true to their Christian faith. But, I believe we are being reawakened to the trouble inherent in Christianity today. In America, we see increased assault on the expression of our faith in public. Abroad, we see Christians being driven out of their homes, beaten, jailed, and killed because they identify with Jesus Christ. Perhaps, God is calling the church to embrace difficulty, pain, and suffering as a part of our Christian experience — not to run from it, but to accept it, persevere through it, and even to think of it as something good.

In this series, as we travel through Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, we saw that Christian was met with trouble when he came to the Hill called Difficulty. His two companions, Formalist and Hypocrisy, quickly abandoned him and took what appeared to be easier routes around the Hill. As we look at the issue of trouble in the Christian life, we find three reasons why trouble is good from the Word of God in the life of the Apostle Paul.

1. Trouble is good because it can solidify our commitment to Christ. Paul was a missionary and minister of the Gospel who faced much persecution and hatred, not only from nonbelievers but even from some who claimed to be Christians. Yet, he remained faithful to Jesus Christ. In our passage, he and Barnabas are preaching the Gospel in Lystra, when the crowd turns on him, stones him, and drags him out thinking he was dead. The trouble Paul faced did not cause him to run away from the faith. Rather, it caused him to draw closer to Jesus Christ as His source of strength during difficult times. If you persevere through trouble, that is one way you (and others) can know for sure that you are committed to Jesus Christ.

2. Trouble is good because it lets us know who our real friends are. Look at verse 20 of our passage: “Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about [Paul], he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

Remember, Paul was stoned by the people of Lystra. He was beaten so bad that they dragged him out of the city and left him to die. He was likely unconscious and at death’s door. But, Paul wasn’t alone. In verse 20, we see that he was surrounded by “the disciples.” Perhaps they were trying to make sure his body wasn’t abused anymore. Perhaps they were about to prepare him for burial. Perhaps they were praying for a miracle and for Paul to survive. But the important thing is that they were with him during his difficulty. They did not abandon him when he faced trouble. They were prepared to stand by him until the end.

If you have ever wondered how loyal your friends are, just wait until difficulty comes your way, and you will be sure to find out. Just wait until your name is dragged through the mud, and see who wants to be associated with you. Just wait until you lose your house, your job, and your finances, and you will find out if your friends were just with you because of your money or because of you. Your true friends are people who will stick with you during rough times. False friends are those who will scatter at the first sign of trouble.

It is a shame, but there are people in the church like this. They want to be around you and be seen with you as long as you are being praised and applauded. But, as soon as some trouble comes, even if it is no fault of yours, they are quick to abandon you and act as if they don’t know you in order to protect their own “good name.” When this happens, don’t get down in the dumps about it. Perhaps, one of the things God wants to accomplish through the difficulty you are facing is to cut you off from people who are truly not on your side.

When Christian came to the Hill of Difficulty in Pilgrim’s Progress, his two companions, Formalist and Hypocrisy, immediately took off on other easy-going paths. Christian had to go on alone, but the truth of the matter is, no Christian who is serious about their walk with Christ ought to be traveling with Formalist and Hypocrisy anyway. That difficulty was the means of separating Christian from two people who could have a negative effect on his spiritual growth.

So, difficulty is good. It is good because it can solidify your commitment to Christ. And it is good because it can show you who your true friends are and separate you from people who you should not be associated with in the first place.

3. Trouble is good because it puts us in a position to encourage others. Look now at verses 21-22: “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lys-tra, and to I-co-ni-um, 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.”

God raised Paul up after he was nearly stoned to death. What did Paul do? He kept right on preaching. He went back to the same cities he had preached in before — the same cities where the Jews and some of the Gentiles protested the Gospel message. But, this time, he went to confirm and strengthen those who had turned to Christ because of his preaching. Perhaps these new believers had seen how Paul had been treated, and this was causing them to falter in their faith. Or, perhaps, they were now subject to some of the same persecution that Paul had experienced. What an encouragement it must have been when Paul and Barnabas came back through town still fearlessly preaching the Gospel.

Because of his experience, Paul was able to say to these new believers, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Paul did not make the mistake that some church leaders make today. He did not allow these new believers to think that because they were now following Jesus Christ, their lives would be free from hardship and difficulty. No, Paul said, that we must through MUCH tribulation enter the kingdom of God. Paul knew this because he had experienced that tribulation all throughout his first missionary journey.

How about you, dear friend? Are you going through a difficult time right now? One way to encourage yourself is to think of how you will be able to encourage others when you come out of your difficulty and even as you are going through your difficulty. Don’t constantly look for someone to encourage you. Look for ways you can encourage others. Look for others who are going through some of the same trials and struggles that you went through, and make it your business to encourage them, exhort them, and strengthen them in the Lord.

That is why trouble is good: Not only does it solidify’s your own faith and commitment to Christ. Not only does it allow you to see who your true friends are. But it also puts you in a position to be an encouragement to others. Trouble is good, because as the Bible says, “All things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

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If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.

First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and I want to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I want to trust Jesus as my Savior and follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! I want to congratulate you on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.