When they had 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, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God. Acts 14:21-22
Tribulation. It's a word which has different meanings for different people.
For some people tribulation might be a 13-hour flight from San Francisco to Shanghai. But for the 262 people who were on a recent United flight which covered that route, 13 hours must seem like child's play.
Flight 857 started out routinely. But then the pilot had to make an unexpected stop in Anchorage, Alaska. Engine problems? Nope. Electronic difficulties? Wrong again. The reason for the delay was far more practical: it seems several of the plane's bathrooms weren't working.
After some considerable time on the ground the passengers were allowed to get off the plane. The passengers were given meal and hotel vouchers, but that took several hours. By then many of the restaurants were closed, and the hotels asked the passengers for a credit card, so they could be checked in. Some of the passengers from China didn't have credit cards.
On Monday, United brought in another plane. The passengers got on the plane and then they got off the plane, which also developed difficulties. It took another day and yet another plane before the group was finally able to continue its journey.
Tribulation. It was only after much tribulation those passengers made it to their final destination.
Of course, China isn't really anyone's final destination, is it? Our final destination isn't found on any man-made map. For Christians our final destination has always been heaven.
Because of Jesus' life, suffering, death and resurrection, our reservations there are safe and secure. Even so, that doesn't mean the path to get to that final destination is going to be easy.
Financial difficulties, health problems, betrayal by loved ones -- these are just some of the more common things that can cause that pathway to be cluttered with tribulation. Indeed, there are times when it seems the pathway is so littered all future progress is impossible.
It is precisely at such times we need to do as the apostles did. We need to encourage each other in the faith. We need to remind each other these tribulations are temporary and transient. We need to keep alive the Scriptural truth that says the Savior who has conquered sin, Satan and death can and will remove our more trivial tribulations as well.
As the apostles said, Christians "must enter the Kingdom of God."
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, keep me ever mindful that although many enemies may come against me and many tribulations may lie on my path, You shall take me safely to my final destination. This I ask in Your Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries