Acts 13 represents a major transition in the book. In chapters 1-12, the story was primarily about Peter and the other Apostles centered in Jerusalem. From chapter 13 on, the story is about Paul and his journeys spreading the Gospel among the Gentiles.
Unless you are an expert in European and Middle Eastern geography, you might find it difficult to follow along with all of the locations that are mentioned during these missionary expeditions. I will be posting some pictures to help you visualize as we go.
At Antioch in Pisidia (not to be confused with Paul’s home base of Antioch) on his first journey, we see a pattern that will follow Paul across the Mediterranean. 1) He stops at the local synagogue and speaks and then reaches out to the Gentiles. 2) He meets with some success, but 3) faces opposition from powerful people in the city (in this case, the local Jewish population) and are 4) forced to leave.
We will see this outline repeated over and over again throughout the book of Acts. You can think of it like the melody in a piece of classical music. The composer introduces the melody early, and then varies it throughout the piece. The key thing, once you know the pattern, is to look for the differences each time.
That has been a lot of background, so let me end on a more devotional note. Paul is known for the churches he founded, the letters he wrote and the lasting mark his ministry left on the whole world. He is indisputably the most famous missionary in the history of Christianity. But he wasn’t always successful. This basic pattern I just described and which we will see throughout the book of Acts is one of disappointment and frustration - of Paul finally getting a foothold only to be run out of town.
And yet we don’t remember him as a disappointment or a failure. We remember him for what he did accomplish, and think of him more highly because he persevered even when it wasn’t easy. So often we get discouraged by our own failures, and forget that anyone who has ever achieved greatness did so, not by never making mistakes, but by refusing to give up in the face of them.
In ten years, no one will remember the ways you screwed up today. But they may well remember the positive difference you made in their lives. Don’t let fear of failure prevent you from striving to make that difference.