Shake It Off
Acts of the Apostles 13:48-52 NLT
“When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region. Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium. And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
I love and I am thankful for this excerpt from the end of the 13th chapter of Acts.
This is one of Paul’s first missionary assignments, and although he is successful with proselytizing the Gentiles, he is rejected by his own people, the Jews. I couldn’t imagine the grief and confusion Paul must have had to work through in order to keep moving forward in his call. Paul, the once zealous and murderous Saul, is experiencing rejection by the very people that raised him. The Jewish people who once accepted him as family throughout his whole life. Paul is scorned by the very people who once commended him for persecuting the very people who he now identified with. This moment of rejection would be enough to derail anyone from confidently moving forward in their call. Thank God Paul did not allow the pain of rejection on his first ever Christian mission trip, to create ungodly expectations for the future of his ministry. Thank God, Paul moved on faithfully from what was most likely a devastating disappointment. Paul the faithfully stubborn and persistent, moves on from this rejection to continue ministering boldly in Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Finally, to make it back again to Antioch, to eventually plant and lead the infamous Church at Antioch. Praise God, for Paul’s ability to continue forward, despite being rejected by the very people he loved most.
I’ve come to realize in my own ministry that it’s vital not to take rejection from people as a sign of failure, in a call from God. In fact, I’ve discovered like Paul, sometimes God brings us to a place where we are rejected by people when we’re supposed to move on to a new assignment. Like Paul, we have to remember that our call in God is defined by obedience to Jesus alone. Oftentimes, Jesus will use a trusted community to confirm and affirm what He has called us to. Though Jesus' voice in our lives is never to be superseded by the voice of the people he has called us to minister to.
If Paul would’ve allowed this first rejection by the Jews, to determine his obedience to God, then the churches in Antioch, Philippi, and Ephesus may have never been planted. All of the canons of Scriptures that Paul wrote would also not exist. Thankfully, Paul’s moment of extreme rejection did not change His approach to what He was called to do. Despite rejection, Paul chose to be resolute in his ministry to Jesus. Jesus was able to use this moment of rejection to propel Paul into new opportunities and levels of glory in his call. This is an important lesson for us all to learn. If you are going to serve God and be obedient to the Holy Spirit, then you must learn to embrace rejection and scorn from religious people and unsaved people alike. No matter how painful and hard rejection may be at times, we must choose to find healing in Jesus and continue forward in the work He has called us to.
This is, after all, the ministry that Jesus modeled at the cross.
Jesus, crucified by the very people He came to save. No doubt, Jesus experienced extreme rejection from those He loved. Still He persevered forward in His call. The result of this is outlined in one verse in Mark 12:10; "Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone."
Jesus' ability to move through rejection, gave the Father permission to use the rejection He experienced to exalt Jesus in His call. The model is the same for Paul, you, and I. When we learn to overcome rejection, we learn to lean into the Father and galvanize ourselves in His ministry for us. Though this principle does not fully take the sting of rejection away, it certainly keeps us from getting stuck in something we can't control.
Rejection though painful, cannot dominate how we decide to continue forward in our call.
Jesus thought about this as He taught His first disciples. He knew as He sent out the first missionaries to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons that there would be a cost for them to be obedient. That they too would experience both intense rejection and glory among those they were called to minister to. In light of this, Jesus not only gave them direction on how to succeed, but also instructions on how to deal with rejection.
Luke 10:8-12 NLT
“If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’ I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day.”
I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus' instructions are two-part. First, it’s a prophetic sign and warning to the people who have rejected you. There is no grace in letting people reject you without telling them they’re in danger of dying in their sin. The second part is for our own sake, as the priesthood of believers. When we shake the dust off metaphorically speaking, we are also shaking off the effects of being rejected and are giving ourselves permission to move on with free hearts, into the call God has ordained for our lives.
I remember vividly the first people I told when I felt called to pastoral ministry. Needless to say, their reactions were not overly enthusiastic. Honestly, I could not blame them. At that point, I was anything but the picturesque model of a pastor. In fact, I probably looked more like the antithesis of what a pastor should be at that point in my life. Thankfully, despite all this, I have remained incredibly stubborn and held an unwavering yes in my heart for the promises of God for my life. Despite experiencing rejection and scorn from many of the people God has sent me to, it has not changed my approach in my desire and ability to be obedient to Him. I firmly believe that I am called and the Lord has remained eternally faithful in regards to His call for my life. Despite all the naysaying critiques and challenges, God has - and will - faithfully fulfill His purpose in my life. There is no doubt about it. My most important responsibility is to humbly but violently continue to say, “Yes”…
I wonder sometimes how many people quit on what they know they are clearly called to do, because of not being able to deal with rejection. I know from experience; rejection, especially from those we love, is a hard pill to swallow. Many God fearing people get stuck trying to avoid being rejected again. The truth is if you are going to do glorious things for God, you are going to also irritate unbelievers and religious people simultaneously. It’s to be expected and as Jesus taught, prepared for. The question is, will you continue to faithfully and joyfully move forward in your call? Will you embrace the divine exchange? The reproach of carrying the gospel in a dying world, for the Glory found in obedience to our Father in heaven.