Jesus Is Changing My Life



November 29, 2021

Acts 14:21-22 (NIV)

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.


“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

I think I missed that sentence in my first dozen or so readings through the Acts of the Apostles. And still I hardly grasp it. 

So who said this? Paul and Barnabas, also known as—the son of encouragement. How could we finish an entire series on encouragement and not meet up with Barnie? We see him first in Acts 4.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

We might also call him a “son of generosity,” right? Later we see Barnabas sent to Antioch and we get this bit: 

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 

News of what reached the church in Jerusalem? News of the hardships of the followers of Jesus. Whenever the gospel is about to spread, it is met with opposition of all sorts. The opposition comes in the form of “trials of many kinds,” to borrow a phrase from James. And these “trials of many kinds” being experienced by many people all around us all the time create the conditions for the kind of encouragement we have discovered over these past sixty days. It brings us to this word from Barnabas:

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” 

Anyone out there seen this one on a bumper sticker lately? It seems to be the opposite of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” doesn’t it? While this may not be “suitable for framing” or cross-stitched pillow covers, it does offer the perfect and perfecting framework for real faith. No-one ever taught me this. Say it aloud:

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” 

Why is this? Why must we go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God? Because this is where the kingdom of God breaks in—places of loss, suffering, hardship, brokenness, and pain. For the followers of Jesus, when you are being broken down, it is a sign that the kingdom of God is breaking in. Hardships are a sign Jesus is about to promote you to the next level of entrustment in the kingdom of God. This is why the ministry of encouragement figures so prominently in the spread of the gospel of the Kingdom. 

In the kingdom of Jesus, we don’t have merit badges, we have grace scars. Imagine those early Christians still telling their stories and showing off their scars around the campfires of Heaven. Remember that time Peter was in prison. . . or when Paul was murdered and left for dead. . . or when Mary the Virgin got the “good” news of the miracle baby. . . or when Lazarus died. . . or when Dad got cancer. . . or when our house burned. . . or when alcohol consumed a decade of your life. . . or the car crash left you paralyzed. . . or . . . 

It brings to mind the lyrics of the great hymn of the Church:

Crown him the Lord of love,
behold his hands and side,
rich wounds yet visible above,
in beauty glorified. 

You know what a “rich wound” is? It is a grace scar, gleaming with the glory of God. You know the difference between an unhealed wound and a scar of grace? Encouragement. It’s why the encouragers are always the forerunners of awakening. 

I still can’t get over the first line of that email from yesterday. 

“Jesus is changing my life.”

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)


Father, thank you that hardships are the doorway into the your kingdom. Thank you for the glorious, gleaming scars of Jesus, who is the suffering one and the risen one, the broken one and the healed one, the High King of Heaven and the joy of every longing heart. Thank you that Jesus is changing my life. Thank you for the hardships and trials because we know in your hands they become the holy transformations we never wanted but would never trade. Holy Spirit, you are the great encourager. Fill our hearts with courage and make us to be true encouragers—the forerunners of awakening. For your namesake, Jesus. Amen. 


How about your scars? Are they gleaming yet? What about those unhealed wounds? Are you encouraged to get up and get back in the game? Come on! 

P.S. Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday and Have We Got a Gift For You!

O.K., so tomorrow I want to give you a gift. And I want to ask you to consider giving Seedbed a gift. This is Seedbed’s first year to be “on our own.” Yep, we have left the nest. It means many things, but among them is my responsibility as “Sower-in-Chief” to raise $1m to fund our extravagant sowing for a great awakening initiatives (The Daily Text among them). As you might imagine, I’m a little bit nervous about that one—yet full of faith. SOW, I WANT TO GIVE YOU A BOOK FROM THIS SERIES ON ENCOURAGEMENT. And I want to ask you to give a gift to Seedbed on giving Tuesday. And if you’re feeling it now and want to make a giving Tuesday gift on Monday, I won’t tell if you don’t. You can do that here. ;0)

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.