What Have I Got Myself Into?
Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:19-23 NKJV
Have you ever made a decision or committed to do something, and then later found out that this was not what you had in mind? It could have been marriage, a relationship with a friend, a job, doing someone a favor, joining a church, or getting saved; then later, you ask yourself: “what have I got myself into?”
Some new Jewish believers suffering persecution in Paul’s day, and undoubtedly Gentile believers influenced by Jewish thought, couldn’t understand it; because they thought that obedience to God and the Law of Moses was always rewarded by blessing and prosperity—not suffering. Some of these new believers probably thought within: “what have I got myself into?” But Paul, after being stone and left for dead and a miraculous recovery, taught them that their belief in Jesus would cost them much, because the Lord Himself had suffered much and told His disciples that they, too, would suffer (John 15:18-20).
To confirm the new believers’ faith, Paul taught them, in an effort to strengthen and encourage them, that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus had said that we enter the kingdom of God through birth (John 3:3, 5); and, with birth, there are birth pangs. A birth pang is like the pain of a woman in labor.
What are the birth pangs that would make a new believer ask himself: what have I got myself into? In the Sermon on the Mount in the Beatitudes, Jesus mentioned two birth pangs: in Matthew 5:3, He taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. To be poor in spirit means poverty, emptiness, humble. Jesus wasn’t talking about being poor in finances, but rather an attitude of need; a spirit that says, “I need Lord Jesus.” Much like a newborn baby when he cries in utter helplessly for the comfort, protection, and nourishment of the mother.
Jesus mentioned another birth pang in verse 10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is unlikely that most believers will be persecuted by a blood-thirsty mob as Paul was; however, because of your decision and commitment to Christ and His righteousness, you can suffer (1 Peter 4:15-16) by loneliness and isolation, misunderstandings of your loved ones, rejection by a person thought to be a friend, and humiliation for your faith (Acts 5:41); but, no need to ask: “what have I got myself into?” Take courage because you must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God. The good news is that God will deliver you out of them all! (2 Tim. 3:10-12).