“. . . returned . . .” Acts 14:21
There is a difference between looking back and going back. Jesus explicitly warns His disciples that no one after putting their hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom. His forewarning is that it’s impossible to live moving forward in faithfulness while looking over our shoulder.
However, there are times we are called to go back, not to the past for it is over and settled, but to people and places, where there’s unfinished business and unsettled tasks. And woe to the soul who tries to head in any other direction but where the Lord is leading.
Paul’s idea was to pour out his life to the last drop for others. Instead of taking the speedy safe way, Paul went back, retracing 120 miles of ministry. The reasons for this backward journey is significant, it drives us to consider why he went back.
Progress in truth
Paul went back because there were many new believers living in antagonistic atmospheres of opposition. They needed to be taught how to overcome. He went back so that truth would triumph. Full knowledge makes faith mightier and causes hope to burn more brightly and love to be more profound. He went back because there was still truth that needed to be spoken.
Persevere in trials
Paul went back to encourage all the Christians living in cities of lust, luxury, and lostness to continue on in the faith. He exhorted them to not look on the things seen, but on things unseen. This today is a word for Christians all around the world. We go back because people need encouragement.
Paul, after seeing the effects of the gospel on others, became more convinced of its power and method. Only then was he able to say I’m not ashamed of the gospel because it’s the power of God. As we disciple others in the faith, we ourselves will be encouraged to continue on in the great work. We go back to bring others forward.
Who in your life needs to hear these three things?