For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-2
Friction often accompanies the growth of the gospel in a life and in a community. It’s not practically plausible, nor biblically guaranteed, to think that growth of the gospel in my life or in my community is going to usher in an age of tranquility or ease. Things may turn out bad (at first).
Paul and Silas hit the road together in Acts 15, fully intent on travelling to see the growth of the gospel in the neighboring regions. Biblical historians refer to the trip as “Paul’s second missionary journey.” Early in the journey they picked up an enthusiastic young convert named Timothy. As your read the narrative (Acts 16:1ff) you get the idea that they were planning on heading deeper into Asia, but God was directing elsewhere. Eventually, the clear call to Macedonia came, and before we know it, they’re in Philippi. They are preaching the gospel, and in one instance Paul even delivers a young girl from a demonic spirit. Things are looking good!
Then it all breaks loose. Paul and his companions are dragged before the officials of the city, and they are thrown into prison without a trial. Paul would later refer to this entire event as “being shamefully treated at Philippi.” You would think these events would be enough to scare the gospel right out of Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Not exactly.
From Philippi they headed to Thessalonica (Acts 17), where they continued to preach the gospel of Jesus. Why did they continue? Paul said it: “our coming to you was not in vain.”
There is a great God-ordained purpose in gospel witness.
Circumstances aside, the proclamation of the gospel is a God-ordained mission. In reality, gospel witness may (and often will) be met with suffering, shameful treatment, and conflict. We will be misunderstood, misquoted, even shamed or persecuted for what we believe.
So how do you carry on?
We carry on in our God. Paul claimed “boldness (courage) in our God to declare the gospel of God.” The beautiful truth is that God gives courage to His children to declare his gospel in spite of resistance. If the mission of the gospel were a human mission, friction could easily derail it. We’re just not strong enough in ourselves. But the resolve to carry on in the midst of conflict is God-ordained and God-empowered. There is great hope in this.