“[…] They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them outside their boundaries. […] And the disciples continued to be filled with joy and holy spirit.”
Jesus had foretold the type of joy his disciples would reap on account of persecution:
“Happy are you whenever men hate you, […] and denounce your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for look! your reward is great in heaven […].” (Luke 6:22,23)
Paul and Barnabas were physically thrown out of Antioch of Pisidia by “God-fearing” women and prominent men after only about one week of preaching there.
But the many Greek-speaking new disciples were happy despite the opposition because they knew they had God’s spirit. (1 Pet. 4:14)
While some modern day Christians enjoy more freedom of worship than others, all of us undergo various trials to our faith.
Whatever we are experiencing, if we endure with a positive attitude, we will also be blessed with a feeling of joy. (Jas. 1:2,3)
“[…] But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
Jesus knew his closest friends were about to run away as he would be taken into custody, but he relied on his relationship with Jehovah to get him through that dark period of his life. (Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31)
He had warned his disciples that one day they would face similar trials, but like him, they too could prevail. (John 16:2, 33)
No matter what this crazy world throws at us, when we take comfort in the peace that Jehovah gives us, nothing can ruin our faith. (Rom. 8:35-39; Php. 4:6,7)
“I must go on today, tomorrow, and the following day, because it cannot be that a prophet should be put to death outside of Jerusalem.”
Jesus says this while traveling east from Perea back towards Jerusalem, where he knows he will be killed.
Despite Herod’s threats, he still has work to be done. He knows he has nothing to fear while he carries out his commission to the end.(Luke 13:31,32)
Today, we never know what we will encounter when we go out into the community to fulfill our ministry.
Regardless of what obstacles we face, we know God is on our side and we do not let man intimidate us into inactivity. (Prov. 29:25)
To that effect, it helps to meditate on people such as the prophet Elijah and the apostle Peter, who learned to be brave in their ministry. (1 Ki. 19:2-18; Mark 14:66-71; Gal. 2:11,12; 2 Pet. 3:14,15)
“‘You would not listen to me,’ declares Jehovah. ‘Instead you offended me with the work of your hands, to your own calamity.’”
When someone decides to take it upon him or herself to oppose God’s written will, they are doing so to their own detriment.
The day comes when God ‘makes his voice heard,’ and he will personally pass judgment on everyone of us. (Jer. 25:30,31)
But God does not come like a merciless executioner.
Jehovah is now teaching us and guiding us through his written word for our own benefit. (Isa. 48:17,18)
Like Jeremiah, our resolve to obey God may subject us to temporary persecution and suffering, but we faithfully continue to share God’s message knowing he gives even the evildoer a chance to repent. (Jer. 26:3,13,15)
Nevertheless, the day will come when God will realize his vision of justice. (Hab. 2:3,4)
It is not as one religious leader proclaimed- that God’s mercy “never runs out.”
Jehovah is a judge of justice and action; not an indulging authority figure who is only bluffing.
“Jehovah said: ‘I will surely minister to you for good;
I will surely intercede for you in the time of calamity,
In the time of distress against the enemy.'”
Have you ever had the experience of setting forth to do good and not finding any support from those around you?
The prophet Jeremiah should have been supported by the people of Judah because they were God’s chosen People, but they violently opposed his work.
He began to fear for his life.
He confided his feelings to God in prayer. (Jer. 15:15)
He sought comfort in God’s Word and was able to experience joy in his ministry once more. (Jer. 15:16)
When we put our faith in Jehovah God that he is in fact collaborating with us in our ministry, we can endure apathy and even violent persecution with a joyful heart, knowing that God has our back. (Jer. 15:19-21; 1 Cor. 3:9)
“So they set the altar up on its former site, despite their fear of the peoples of the surrounding lands, and they began offering up burnt sacrifices to Jehovah on it […]”
When remnants of the tribe of Judah were sent back to their motherland to rebuild Jerusalem, it was not without opposition.
Their neighbors in Samaria, to the north, were particularly aggressive in their effort to stop the reconstruction (Ezra 4:1-6).
However, the Jews were ready to embrace their religious customs despite their fear.
We may have the legal right to practice our beliefs, but often we must do so in divided households or among neighbors who openly criticize us.
In other places, our brothers’ practices are openly being shut down by government entities.
God’s people have successfully faced religious oppression time after time, so it is possible to stand up to one’s fear of man and do what is right.