“From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.” — Acts 14:26 NKJV

It’s not just good advice, it’s a message that should influence the way we live our life.

We start hearing it from our parents as toddlers. We don’t remember the first time, but there were other times as well, many other times. You would think that we would never forget it but so many times in life we just fast forward right past this valuable truth.

For the crawler who’s trying to learn to walk, it’s “I’ve got you. One step at a time. That’s it. One more step. Yay.”

As adolescents trying so hard to be a grown up it’s, “You have to crawl before you can walk.”

As young adults struggling for the first time with adult difficulties, it’s “Tomorrow is a new day” and “It’s always darkest right before the dawn.” And as my good friend Kelly has sung so many times, “The Sun’s Coming Up In the Morning.”

When we really think about the simple words spoken we can hear the philosophical wisdom in the silence that follows and that message of wisdom, when kept in focus, brings success.

One step at a time. Learn to crawl before you learn to walk. Let’s get through today first. Finish the task that’s in front if you. Finish ... finish well!

It’s easy to miss that message in this verse. I mean, when we read God’s word hurriedly as we often do we are usually looking for the gold nuggets that jump off the page and fall in our laps.

We are tuned in and listening for the trumpet blasts announcing “here it is!” But real success must include those treasures that are less visible, even obscure at times. You can’t hear them if you’re in a hurry.

While we race through, conquering yet another chapter, another book, I have to ask myself, “I wonder if I missed something important?”

Listen to the verse one more time: Paul and Barnabas “sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.” — Acts 14:26 NKJV

Paul and Barnabas were commended, commissioned and assigned a mission at Antioch. While on the mission, they saw many victories but also got knocked down repeatedly by the opposition and the mission at times was one that would make the best of us stop and consider resetting the GPS for home.

As recently as verse 19 we see a portion of their struggle.

“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.” — Acts 14:19 NKJV

Opposition from Antioch. These opposers had been on their heels for the entire trip. Yet Paul and Barnabas didn’t fast forward. They didn’t abandon the current assignment in search of an easier way. They didn’t seek a shortcut.

That would have circumvented God’s plan for reaching the people they had not yet ministered to.

They finished and when that mission was complete they returned to Antioch where it all began. Every Christ follower there then had the opportunity to celebrate with joy, a job well done.

This wisdom didn’t originate with the traveling preachers, nor did it begin with the church at Antioch. It goes back a little farther and their joy in celebrating went much deeper than this one missionary journey.

The primary mission foretold throughout the Old Testament was fulfilled in the New and we see it in the earthly life of Jesus. His mission is the one that makes all things possible. His assignment is the one that, if left unfinished, would have been the eternal ruin for all mankind.

His mission saw many victories as He demonstrated His power and authority over nature, over disease and even death. His mission was full of struggles and trials as well. His mission ended on a hill with Him being executed among criminals ... after being framed for crimes He did not commit ... after being tortured beyond recognition ... it was declared that the mission that God set into motion in Bethlehem, that supreme and transcendent plan that began in the heart and mind of our triune God, would now come to an end on man’s terms.

Calvary. The world thought that was what had happened. The world thought that Jesus fell short of accomplishing the goal. That was man’s analysis.

God’s conclusion was very different. In the Father’s eyes Jesus didn’t come up short. In the opinion of the Omniscient, Omnipotent One, the accurate summation came as a bloody and mangled Jesus completed the assignment in full victory and cried out for heaven, earth and hell to hear ... “It is finished!”

One step at a time. That’s how Jesus did it. That’s how Paul and Barnabas did it. That’s how you and I must do it.

Then, when our final task is completed, we can hear words from the same holy lips that cried out from the cross. This time they will say: “Well done my child!”

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Dr. Dennis Cagle is the founder of Xaltm LLC who has been a pastor for 36 years and currently works as a church consultant. He is a former resident of McMinn County and current resident of Tellico Plains. He can be contacted at xaltm@yahoo.com

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