Reading from Acts 14 this morning, I noticed some things about the people of Lystra. This city, located today near Konya, Turkey, was along an important, ancient road traveled by Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. The multitude of people there are obviously believers in the mythological gods of their day, believing the traveling preachers to be incarnate forms of Hermes and Zeus. As the missionaries do their best to dispel this notion, managing their extreme adoration, Jews that had been dogging the steps of God’s men very quickly persuade the men to reject them. Maybe minutes after worshipping Paul, the folks of Lystra stone him and leave him for dead. They helped make disciples there (v. 23), but most of the citizens must have remained in spiritual darkness. Their fervor and conviction are unquestionable, but their lack of knowledge and understanding is unmistakable.
The unfortunate incident that prevented our visit to the Temple Mount of Jerusalem last week involved people shrouded in spiritual darkness. Their ardent devotion to their beliefs is incredible, but throughout the world has resulted in violence and killing. There are no signs that radical extremists of their ilk are backing away from such methods, as incident after incident continue to prove.
Yet, we can observe billions of people today who are misguided. They are not guided by God’s divine revelation. They are either self-guided and guided by the philosophies and worldviews of people who promote what conflicts with His Word. Our challenge is to try and reach their hearts, much as Barnabas and Paul did in the synagogues and streets of Asia Minor and Syria on their journey together. We encounter those whose minds are darkened by the godless lies of our western culture. We meet those influenced by the error of world religions or corrupted forms of Christianity. We also come across those who are on the hunt for truth, who are ripe for discipleship if we will take the time and have the courage to invest in them. The oppressing may be waiting, but so also are the searching. May we not let the former keep us from the latter. Take courage and, like those first-century faithfuls, guide them to Christ.