STRENGTHENING THE SOUL

Scripture Reading:  Acts 14:19-23)

“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)

Christian leaders have a responsibility to strengthen and to encourage fellow believers.  Being faithful Christians is not an easy task.  This was very true in Paul’s day as well.  He faced great opposition and even persecution for most of his ministry.  While in Lystra, he was stoned and dragged out of the city (v. 19).  But persecution and opposition did not stop him.  He continued preaching the gospel and many Gentiles came to Christ.

While Paul was very active evangelizing the lost, he did not stop ministering to believers.  He would return to the churches he planted in order to strengthen and to encourage believers.  Look carefully at Luke’s description of his discipleship ministry:  “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.’”

Believers need to have their souls strengthened.  This comes through faithful gospel centered teaching and preaching.  The gospel brings comfort and hope to us.  It keeps us centered on Jesus Christ and it strengthens our souls to know that we are unconditionally loved and accepted by God, solely on the basis of Jesus’ work in our behalf.  Reminding others of the truth of the gospel is necessary to strengthen their souls.

Believers also need to be encouraged to continue in the faith.  Disappointments, doubts, and even times of despair will come.  It is easy to lose perspective and to become discouraged in our Christian walk.  We must be reminded that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).  We must keep on course and remain steadfast.  We must run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1).

Finally, believers must be reminded “that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”  Jesus made it clear that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33).  Fiery trials will come.  We must prepare believers to face them by reminding them that Christians are not exempt from the consequences of living in a fallen world.  We will face suffering, pain and sorrows.  However, we have Jesus who is with us and who will keep us close to Him during such times and who ultimately will deliver us.

Lord Jesus Christ, enable me to strengthen the souls of fellow believers, to encourage them to continue in the faith and to prepare them for the trials they will face.  Please do these things for me today.  Let me be strengthened, encouraged and prepared for whatever I face this day.

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