"And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." Acts 14:21-22
Paul was stoned nearly to death in Lystra for healing a crippled man. This particular miracle aroused the multitudes so much that they wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas, much to Paul's disdain. But it was the "unbelieving Jews" who stirred up the multitude and quickly turned their hearts against Paul to stone him and literally drag him out of the city, "supposing him to be dead." It certainly wasn't the first time the Scriptures speak about a faith-fickle crowd.
What is important to notice is the leadership quality that Paul displays in the face of tremendous strain, stress, and tribulation. One must be careful not to overlook the significance of what Paul did here. He was stoned nearly to death and dragged out of the city. Then the bible says that when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. The passage ends with Paul going BACK to Lystra "strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith."
This passage does not detail how many souls were saved that day. It doesn't explain how Paul's actions changed the hearts of the bad guys. Paul's decision modeled strong leadership as he did something life-changing for those same disciples who witnessed his stoning. In spite of the danger and threat of personal harm, Paul's return to the town where they just attempted to murder his, was critical to growing the faith of the followers of Christ who were watching.
Such an act of boldness would instill fear in me. But it was necessary for Paul to do something that went beyond his level of comfort. He had to do what didn't come naturally (like self-preservation!) for one purpose: to be an example for those who were watching his leadership. He had to do this not for the salvation of souls, but for the strengthening of souls.
Leaders must constantly be thinking about how to best lead those under their care. Many times the hard decision is the right one despite the leader's desire for self-preservation or popularity. In a place like America, we may never have to take on the stripes of a flogging. However, you may have to confront a person, in love, who might be engaged in behavior that does not present a Christian witness. You may sacrifice something of yourself in order for the ministry to thrive.
Unfortunately for you and me, Paul tells his disciples that they "must go through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." Many of them died for their commitment to their ministry. More than likely, we will never be asked to die for ours. But what if you were?