21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders[a] for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
Paul and Barnabas spent much time in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch preaching the gospel and making disciples. They also made it clear to the believers that following Christ would not be easy hence the need for ongoing encouragement and discipleship. Paul and Barnabas also committed themselves to praying and fasting for suitable leaders for the churches. This shows the importance of Godly leadership.
What strikes me in this passage is the importance of discipleship. Paul and Barnabas invested a lot of time into the believers and establishing leaders. On this occasion, interestingly, Paul and Barnabas started in Antioch and finished in Antioch. In a way this reflects the cyclical nature of discipleship. As disciples we receive guidance and encouragement in doing God’s will. We then implement what we have been taught and then provide feedback to leaders who in turn encourage and help us again and so it goes. What a blessing it is to be a disciple and also to have the opportunity to disciple someone else!
Lord we thank you for the wonderful process of discipleship. May you continue to disciple people across your church. Amen.
Written by Ainslie Woods