When Paul returned to places he had been before, there were no regrets. The end of Acts 14 chronicles the return trip Paul and Barnabas made back to home base, Antioch. En route, they visited many of the cities where they had earlier preached the Gospel. They returned to Lystra, where Paul had been stoned, then on to Iconium. They backtracked through Pisidia and Pamphylia, then down again to Perga and Attalia. Exhausted yet exuberant, they sailed across the deep-blue waters of the northeastern Mediterranean, destination Antioch—their first missionary enterprise now in the log books.
Retracing their steps, they stopped to encourage and strengthen the disciples they had made. They planted churches and appointed elders. There’s no mention of lengthy attempts to reconcile the wrongs they had suffered. There were no angry outbursts, no regrets. Their focus remained the same: pursuing an authentic ministry for the glory of God.
In all that Paul did, the glory went to God. Whatever else you may remember, don’t forget this. Luke writes, “And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (14:27, italics added). Is that great, or what? No big-time press conferences extolling a successful campaign. No self-serving interviews for some Christian radio station drawing attention to their hardships and successes. None of that. They reported everything that God had done through them. I love it.
Paul never forgot it was all about what God had done, not what he had accomplished. The work may be ours to do, but the glory belongs to God. The responsibility is ours to embrace, but the credit is the Lord’s alone. There’s to be no embezzling of glory. It all belongs to Him. That attitude never fails to put everything in proper perspective.
My challenge to you is to live a carefully examined life in an unexamining age. That will result in your maintaining a carefully examined ministry in a day when virtually anything goes. Whatever happens, keep your eyes on the goal. However difficult, don’t quit. Though the obstacles are extreme, the stakes are eternal.