March 30th, 2014
This week we had a special guest join in with harpist Simon Funk and sing In The garden and How Great Thou Art.
Watch it here:
Pastor Blake’s message was on Acts 14:19-28
Read it below or watch it here:
Last week we left off with Paul showing the signs of a true Apostle of Christ. Through the authority given to him by Christ he called healing into a man who was lame. That man had never walked before in his life! Can you imagine that? He had no memory to help guide him on how to put one foot in front of another. I can’t imagine that.
We are waiting for the day when we hear that our grandson has taken his first step. At this stage he hasn’t even begun crawling yet. So we have a bit of a wait. But we are already seeing progress towards that goal. Hudson now sits up on his own. He hasn’t rolled over yet but that’s bound to come soon. Now that he is sitting it won’t be long before K&Z have him in a jolly jumper and that will begin to strengthen his wee little legs. Then in time he will begin to crawl. And if all goes as it should he’ll start hoisting himself up onto his legs and stand with the aid of a table or chair. But he won’t have walked yet.
His parents will no doubt try to help him along in that by holding his hands, providing him balance, and as his legs increase in strength…and in perhaps six months to a year from now we may get the news that he has taken that first step on his own.
And this man was lame from birth, hadn’t ever taken that first step! Clearly the crowd was amazed at the power of God and what He did to the lame man. Who wouldn’t be? They wanted to treat Paul and Barnabas as gods! Paul would have nothing to do with that and even after he told them that they followed worthless things, they still wanted to sacrifice to him. Until Satan’s helpers showed up that is. Let’s pick up our narrative in verse 19 and see how this plays out. So if you have your Bible along turn with me to Acts 14:19-28.
One minute they are cheering them on as gods and the next they have stones in their hands and they are playing god. People are so fickle!
This was the second time someone tried to rid the earth of Paul. It would happen 3 more times after this. A real pattern was shaping up. The first time was back in chapter 13. The gospel was shared, people got saved and persecution ensued. That time it was prominent women and the leaders in Iconium who decided this new teaching was too radical. They forced Paul and Barnabas to run away from that city. And the apostles brushed the dust from their feet in protest. But that time they did go on their way.
Now Luke tells us that “19 some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.” Acts 14:19 (NIV). That’s odd isn’t it? Why did the Jews from Antioch and Iconium follow Paul and Barnabas? If they didn’t like the message why follow the messengers? Why not just leave them alone? That’s what we Canadians do isn’t it?
Remember this verse. Eph. 6:12. We wrestle not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers, things that are in a spiritual realm. But those powers seem to find willing flesh and blood hosts to carry out their dastardly deeds. And this time they used rocks to make their point.
They thought that they had killed Paul and dragged his body out to where nature could finish him off. Clearly as they dragged him there he was unconscious.
Paul would later write, “25 Three different times I was beaten with rods. One time I was almost stoned to death” (2 Corinthians 11:25 (NCV). It was that close a call. He almost died! They presumed him dead.
And yet, his recovery was almost miraculous. “20 …after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe” (Acts 14:20 (NIV).
The disciples? What disciples would that be? And where were they when the rocks were flying? From the context it is pretty clear that it was those who at the beginning of chapter 14 had been won over to Christ. Where they were when stones started flying we do not know. Perhaps they stood back and watched? But what’s more likely is that they slipped away from the hostile scene and followed at a safe distance. And after Paul’s lifeless body laid outside of the city, covered in stones, these disciples went to mourn the death of their new teacher. But to their surprise, I’m sure they weren’t expecting it, God had other plans. Paul got up and off they went back into the city.
Notice that we are not told that a further fight erupted as Paul returned to the scene of the crime. That’s because it didn’t. He had the common sense to lay low overnight and left immediately the next morning without incidence. Let that be a lesson to you. Don’t go looking for trouble. Let it come looking for you. And certainly don’t going looking for more trouble if you survive the first beating. God gave you a brain and faith to be His messenger…use both.
Having survived a near death experience Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe to try try again. And this time they saw a great number of believers come to faith in Christ.
Imagine for a moment looking at the messenger for the next few days after he had been stoned. I suspect he was quite the sight to behold. And yet he preached boldly winning many to Christ. You and I may have gone home, licking our wounds, determined not to go through that again. But Paul and Barnabas actually did as Jesus had taught his disciples to do according to Mark 6:11.
“… if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” Mark 6:11 (NLT) Leave and go somewhere else and keep preaching the good news until someone listens. Plenty listened and became disciples in Derbe.
Then the day came when it was time to go back to Antioch. Now personally if I was Paul I would have found another route to go on rather than the places where I was assaulted and forcibly ejected. But it likely wasn’t that simple in those days. No GPS to find an alternate route. So they returned the way they came. And Paul even stopped in and spoke again to the growing disciples.
Do you ever wonder why bad things happen to good people? It’s a question that we all face eventually as Christians. And it’s one that I’m often asked by non-Christians and new believers about Christians. Sometimes the questions go something like, “If God is for them why are they persecuted and suffering so much?” When the rocks fly, you would think that having God on your side ought to have certain perks wouldn’t you? How do you answer that age old question? Why do bad things happen to Good people?
Paul faced this question as he returned to the scene of the crime so to speak. He found that the disciples from Iconium, Lystra and Antioch needed to be encouraged. They witnessed the brutal treatment of Paul and I’m sure the news spread quickly in that locality.
Paul wasn’t just being macho, you know “suck it up buttercups”. It wasn’t the drill sergeant response they needed to hear. Yet they did need to know the truth. So as Paul went from town to town, “22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” he said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 (NIV).
Really he’s not telling them anything new. He was just dispelling the myth that once you become a Christian everything will be rosy ever after. Life has its hardships for every person. And we as God’s children must understand that we too will go through them but unlike those who reject God’s grace, we are assured that we will overcome. So we can press on and fulfill what it is that God has destined us to do.
Paul’s encouragement was forward looking. He knew that they would have to continue without his help and so he did things with that in mind.
Luke tells us in verse 23 that, “23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Acts 14:23 (NIV). This would become the pattern for Christ’s church throughout the ages to come.
People would come to know and follow Jesus. As they grew in their faith Christ would place them in positions of trust and responsibility where they too would lead others who would come to Jesus grow in the faith and pass the baton. These were not perfect people. They were simply very committed people. Committed to the Lord and His church.
Paul later told Timothy and Titus what sort of people God was going to appoint. Those qualifications can be found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. And well I don’t have time today to go into all those qualifications I would like to end by pointing out the most obvious one that many skip over when reading the list in those passages.
One of the first qualifications that is often overlooked or down played is the desire to become an overseer. If there is no desire to be in leadership with an individual then likely the Holy Spirit hasn’t appointed them to that role yet. It is not that we leaders look for the challenge or the honor or necessarily want to be the leader. But neither do we shrink back when asked to lead. I’ll leave the rest of the qualifications for another sermon.
Appointing leaders is important. It was important enough for Paul and Barnabas that they willingly went back to the scene of their assault. They took time in the places that they were hurt the most to make sure that the church was getting off on the right foot. This in of itself is a miracle. You know as well as I do that human tendency is to avoid places that we have been hurt.
After appointing the elders they continued on their way back to the church at the Antioch that sent them on this journey of faith. I can’t over emphasize the importance of this. An apostle is one who is sent under the authority of another. They are not lone rangers. Sometimes our missionaries today feel all alone out there but they need not. Especially in our day and age. We have the technology to connect anywhere in the world in a very short time. So keeping connected with the sending body shouldn’t be that hard.
Yet it was important for Paul and Barnabas to return to Antioch and give an account of their journey, and important enough that the Holy Spirit prompted Luke to write down those details so we could learn from them and do likewise.
The people who were praying needed the encouragement of knowing their prayers availed much. Those who gave needed to know that what they gave was used to further God’s Kingdom on earth. And the rest of the people needed to know that God is active and alive and still saving souls through people obedient enough to be sent. It encourages us all to participate in our role of reconciliation that God has given us to do.
That’s why we always plan for a debriefing time when we have sent people on missions from Grace. In the next couple of weeks we hope to hear from Scott and the team news from Mexico. And we will spread that out over a couple of weeks so that we can truly get a sense of what God was up to through their ministry.
This week take time to encourage someone with what God has done in your life. In doing so you’ll Give to God the Glory and He’ll bless you even more.