"However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city.
And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe."
I have never had a "near death" experience. My hope is that my first "near death" experience will take place when I am much older and actually "near death." Paul, however, tasted death in a way that many have not known. From other Scriptures many believe that it was during this time that he was given the revelations that he later writes about in one of his letters. Of course, the reason that he was being stoned to the point of death this time was because he was simply preaching the Gospel. The same crowd that at one moment wanted to lift up Paul as a god for performing a miracle now wanted to kill him for preaching the message of Christ. This would be called religious schizophrenia. People really do not know what they want or need; they are just looking for whatever makes them feel good.
While all of that is true, I could not help but focus on Paul's reaction after he was left for dead. Stoning was a cruel and awfully violent way to die. There was almost a science to it. These were no mere pebbles that were thrown at Paul. A person would be violently carried outside the city gates, thrown down, and large rocks with their jagged edges would be hurled at their head and their body. Of course it took several throws on average to exact out the punishment of death. Paul gave every indication that he was dead. As a matter of fact, his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ had already gathered around his body to mourn his death. Suddenly, Paul opened his eyes as best he could; surely they were bloodied and bruised. He stood to his blood stained and dusty feet and walked right back into town.
There is only one word that comes to my mind when I think of this: PERSEVERANCE. God had a purpose for Paul's life, and he was not giving up until it was accomplished. They could leave him for dead, but as long as there was the breath of God in his body he was not going to stay down. How many of us have that same resolve? Remember that God has a purpose for your life as well. Don't give up until it is accomplished. Others may give up on you. They may even set you aside and say that you will never amount to anything. Get up and walk right back into the battle for Christ. Only God knows when He is through with you, and it will be obvious when that day comes. Stand strong and straight. You will get your share of bruises in your lifetime. There will be others that stand around you wondering what could have been. However, don't stay on the ground. Get back up and walk right into the teeth of the enemy with this knowledge: If God is for you, who can be against you?
May you persevere for Christ's sake!