Yesterday was a great day at Orchard Community Church. We baptized two people who wanted to publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus as their savior. It was powerful!
The sermon yesterday was on Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts 15:36 through 20:38. Paul and Silas travel to many different cities as they continue to spread the gospel. We looked at the idea of perseverance. Paul and his companions go through so many difficult situations yet they continue to share the gospel no matter the consequences. In these chapters of Acts, here are just some of the difficult things that Paul and his companions go through:
- Disagreement w/ Barnabas (15:36-41)
- Beaten, flogged and imprisoned in Phillipi (16:16-40)
- A friend named Jason is taken before city officials because of Paul and Silas’ preaching of the gospel in Thessalonica (17:6)
- Endure a riot against them in Ephesus (19:23-41)
- While Paul is preaching, a guy (Eutychus) falls out a window and dies – Paul raises him from the dead (20:7-12)
- Ends by going to Jerusalem where he is certain he will be arrested or killed.
You can endure a lot when you know that you are headed in the right direction. In Acts 20:24, Paul says, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Jesus set the goal of the Gospel Mission in Acts 1:8 when he told his disciples, “you will be my witnesses”. It is not our job to convince people. It is not our job to grow the largest church. The destination or the goal is simply to be a witness. Paul realized this and this is why he could go from one city to another where he was beaten and imprisoned because he knew that the whole point was simply to be a witness. It was about his “success,” it was about the spread of the gospel.
Trust in the Gospel’s Power
Paul was able to face many difficult situations because he knew that the gospel was God’s power for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). When Paul and Silas are sitting in prison after being beaten, flogged, and put into stocks so that they could not move, what do you think they did? They sang praises to God. Why? I think it was because they knew that the gospel was powerful in any situation and the best method they had at their disposal in that moment to share the gospel with anyone listening was to sing praises to God. Where we might have seen difficulty and despaired, they saw an opportunity for the gospel and trusted that the gospel would have an effect.
Because they trusted in the power of the gospel, Paul and Silas were able to share the gospel in many different situations with many different people. They shared the gospel with people from a Jewish background who knew the Old Testament and understood the promises of the Messiah. They were also able to share the gospel with people who worshiped everything but the God of Scripture and were completely different culturally. They shared the gospel with people who rejected them and their message and they shared the gospel with people who welcomed them and readily accepted the gospel. Why could they face so many different environments with the same perseverance? Because they trusted in the power of the gospel to impact any situation and any person.
Many people see Paul as a sort of Lone Ranger Christian, but this is certainly not the picture we see in Acts. He is constantly working with people, discipling people, taking them with him on his missionary journeys, leaving people to complete work that he started, and sending people ahead of him to start the work in a new city. Paul certainly recognized the need to serve with other believers. In fact, for Paul this was part of the gospel mission. Working with people and training them to serve wasn’t a distraction for him as he served, it was an essential part of his ministry. People like Epaphras, Timothy, Titus, Aquilla and Priscilla and many others all served with Paul and are the unsung heroes of Acts. Harry Truman once said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” I like this, but I would change it a bit to say “It’s amazing what God can accomplish through us if we only care that He gets the credit.” A big part of persevering on the gospel mission is that we do it together.
Leave the Results to God
Paul went to cities where lots of people turned to Christ and he went to cities where lots of people fought against him and ran him out of town. In fact, in one city, Ephesus, both of these things happened (see Acts 19). Paul understood that we don’t determine our mission and therefore we shouldn’t set the standard for success. Our role is simply to keep on sharing the gospel. Keep going – persevere. The results aren’t up to us so we should not get discouraged by small results and we shouldn’t think that we are doing something right when there are large results. Our measure of success is faithfulness – perseverance – everything else is God’s job!
A final thing I learn from Paul and his companions in these chapters of Acts is that the mission is about God and not about us. We are able to persevere because it’s not about us. If it were about us then the rejections and persecutions would be cause for alarm and quitting, but if it is about God then as long as God gets the glory then we can keep on going.
If you are sharing Christ with someone who keeps rejecting the message of the gospel – keep going.
If you are thinking that you are a failure as a follower of Christ – keep going.
If you get frustrated with the ups and downs in your church – keep going.
The gospel mission requires perseverance. Will we keep going?
Here are the devotionals for the week that were on the back of the sermon notes:
Monday: Read Acts chapters 16-17. What are some of the difficulties that Paul and other believers face in this chapter? How do you face similar difficulties in your life? What are some of the different groups that hear the gospel in this chapter and how do they respond? How does this encourage you to share the gospel with different people in your life?
Tuesday: Read Acts chapter 18. Who are some of the people who help Paul as he continues his ministry and how do they help? Who has God brought into your life to help you as you follow Him and who are you helping?
Wednesday: Read Acts chapter 19. How was the gospel challenging normal life in Ephesus? How does the gospel challenge some of the thing we consider normal today?
Thursday: Read Acts chapter 20. What are some of the main things Paul says to the Ephesian Elders and why do you think he thought these things were important as he was saying goodbye? Do we need to hear these things today? Why or why not?
Friday: Read Acts chapter 26 in preparation for Sunday’s sermon.
photo by Flickr user hcii