Acts 14:11-12 – “And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, ‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.”
If only we could realize the battle and attack and unseen conflict that exists in the spiritual world. If we could understand it more, I think we would go about our day much differently. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis are Lewis’ descriptions of the demonic world. Lewis says this: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Their effective strategy for many is to disbelieve their existence.
If you are a Christ-follower, the difficulties you have endured at different points in your life have shown you that we do have an enemy. He is an enemy that is dead set against us. Maybe you’ve simply experienced temptations that have been overwhelming. Maybe you’ve had a thorn in your flesh that you can’t seem to conquer. Maybe there is a constant struggle that you’ve had little victory over. Let me encourage you today; God is stronger. In him alone is your strength.
Through Paul’s life and ministry following his conversion, we see a constant stream of difficulty. Many times, the carriers of this difficulty are the Jews. Consider this storyline: In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are at Antioch in Pisidia. After preaching faithfully to the people there, many believed. It says in Acts 13:49 that “the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” The next word found in v. 40 is where the Jews show up. “But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.”
From Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas moved on to Iconium. Boldly, Paul and Barnabas went right in to the Jewish synagogue to speak of Christ. Immediately, “a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed” (Acts 14:1). Unfortunately, the unbelieving Jews rose up and drove Paul and Barnabas out of town.
From Iconium, Paul and Barnabas made their way to Lystra. In Lystra, through God’s power, Paul healed a man who had been unable to use his feet. It says he was “crippled from birth and had never walked” (Acts 14:8). This time, the people were so amazed that they believed Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes! Paul took this opportunity to preach the truth of who they were, but mostly about who Jesus was. Of course, immediately after, in Acts 14:9, the Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and persuaded the people to not just disbelieve Paul and Barnabas, but to drag them off and stone them. This back and forth was just how things went for Paul and Barnabas in Acts.
Though their life and ministry was regularly confronted with opposition, Paul and Barnabas stayed resolute. They continued preaching the gospel. Why? Because they knew God was with them. And they knew that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).