Admittedly, there are times in my personal Bible reading that I leave discouraged. You may have gasped at that statement, but bear with me. Acts 14 is one of those instances because you see how Paul and Barnabas are shining examples of Disciple-making Leaders - and I am not.
Let me set the stage from chapter 13 first. These missionaries were preaching in the synagogues of cities they visited. They ran into significant opposition in Pisidian Antioch from the Jews who incited a riot. In moving to another city - Iconium - to preach, they ran into even worse opposition where they needed to flee for their lives. What did they do? They kept preaching at Lystra and Derbe but, once again, opponents showed up and stoned Paul to the point that everyone believed he was dead.
With that historical understanding, Acts 14:21-22 is convicting. I am adding some emphasis here for critical language: "After they 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."
We often think of Paul and Barnabas as evangelists - and they clearly shared the Gospel - but they were not just focused on conversions. They sought a lifelong commitment to God from these new believers. We see that they made disciples and strengthened them and offered encouragement for their faith.
Please do not overlook the two words - they returned - in this section. Riots ran them off and, in one instance, people tried to kill Paul. Yet, they returned in the confidence of God. It's that passage that discouraged me because these men were strong in the Lord and my weakness is on display every day. It's hard to look in the mirror and not like what you see.
How do you stand strong as a disciple-making leader? I think Luke gives us the answer at the end of Acts 14:22 when he quotes Paul and Barnabas in their encouragement to these new disciples - "Through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God." Their answer is the right perspective.
The Christian life is not easy, but it can be lived. We are to keep our faith and trust in the Lord not only for eternal salvation but for everyday sustenance. If God is powerful enough to save our souls, then He is more than qualified to take care of us in our daily lives. We, in discipling others, cannot lose sight of that fact. Expect animosity but then embrace the Almighty.
Simply put, do not let discouragement distract you from doing the duty God has created you to fulfill.