Journey to the Ends of the Earth | Arrested
Speaker 1:0:00Well, good morning and it's good to be back. Great to see you guys. We missed you while we were away and we had a great time, but it's always good to come home and it's always good to travel with luggage. We tried it the other way in April and that didn't work out so good, so it was better this time with luggage. Can you believe tomorrow is the first day of school? Summer is over. All the parents are smiling and the kids are frowning. That's how it looks every year, every year this time of year, It's hard to believe.
:0:29I hope you're planning to join us this afternoon. We're going to have our back to school picnic at the Bolles School. It'll start at 5:00 and you can join us there. We'll have the church is providing the drinks and the fried chicken and you bring some sides to share and join us there. We will be having yard games together. We're going to have baptism service. We're going to share communion. It'll be a great time. Many of you came last year and know it was a lot of fun. We're going to pray that the weather holds out for us long enough to get that in, but we'll be at the Bolles School and as you go to the security gate there, just tell them you're with Southside Baptist Church and we'd love to have you all come and be a part of that. This afternoon as we just celebrate the end of what's been a really good summer and look forward to an even better fall.
:1:12Also, another tradition that we have at Southside is the Sunday before the first day of school, which is today, we go and prayer walk our two faith based partner schools. So Landon Middle School, which is just a block to the east, off Landen Avenue, right to our east and also Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, the high school for Performing Arts. It's about a mile and a half from here. So it's also nearby. And right after service today; it won't take you long, but if you'll go by those schools and at the front of Douglas Anderson and then also on Landon, at the new parking lot, which is on the opposite side between the football field and the school, there will be somebody there to have a prayer guide for you. Both schools have opened for us that we can come in and prayer walk on the inside. And so if you want to join us, we'd love to have. You don't have to sign up, you just show up and there'll be somebody there to give you a prayer guide and you can prayer walk the schools. We want to make sure that we're praying for the students, praying for the schools. It's a wonderful opportunity. And it's also incredible that they invite us in to do this every year. So we're, we want to take that responsibility and opportunity seriously and go in.
:2:17I know if you're a school teacher, you've already gone back to work, but one of the things we need to pray for all of our teachers is perseverance, right? Can I get an amen from the teacher's? Perseverance. You know, when you get to the spring, you start counting down the school days, you know, there's 50 left, but when you're facing that first day and there's 185 days left, that can be a little overwhelming. And so we're going to pray for perseverance for them. Perseverance is, I love that word. It's a word that inspires and challenges me. Stories of perseverance always inspire and challenge. One of the reasons we like the movies, we like to go to the movies and see stories about people who have persevered and overcome incredible odds.
Speaker 1:2:58But if you were to do a simple google search, all the top google searches of stories about perseverance are stories about people who beat the odds. They're almost all stories from rags to riches. And that's okay. That's good because perseverance does have a lot to do with being able to endure a difficult situation until something better comes along. So you've got the great stories of the athletes who work really, really hard. They persevere and endure a lot of training and a lot of struggling and then you know, it's this kid who goes from the inner city school and then they're on the NFL or the artist who worked really, really hard and waited tables and did all the things he or she could do until finally they got their big break and now you know they're performing, doing what they love or the business person who, you know, three or four businesses failed and nobody would buy their idea and then suddenly just the right opportunity came and they persevered and there was success. That is perseverance and, and we all need to recognize those stories and learn from those stories, but there's another kind of perseverance that we don't really like to talk about and that is perseverance in the face of obstacles that will never be overcome. Perseverance that is in the face of difficulties that you are not going to conquer. So perseverance stories that have to do with parents who have a child born with special needs and that special need is never going to go away. They live with the idea that they are going to persevere as they care for and love this child for as long as God gives them that child. Stories of people who have chronic illnesses and they're diagnosed with a chronic illness and apart from a divine intervention on God's part or some miraculous cure, there is never going to be an end to the suffering. There's going to be this chronic illness is going to be with them the rest of their life and they have to persevere through it and there is no hope of a rags to riches.
:4:58You all know anybody know what I'm talking about. There's just this idea, I'm going to persevere for what? I'm going to persevere until it's over, but then there may not be this great story at the end. Nobody's going to write a book. Nobody's going to make a movie about this. We're just going to endure this hardship until a time when the hardship is over and then it's over. That's it. And these are real life situations that many people face. Many people who go through circumstances and situations and battle struggles with perseverance, with no hope of any change ever in this life.
:5:34There are people that I know and maybe you've read their stories. You've read stories of great missionaries who give their life on the international mission field and parts of the world where most people would never go and they give their entire life there and they die never seeing the fruit of their labor. But today we look back and realize that now there are more Christians in China than there are in the United States. But there were missionaries who gave their life to persevere for that purpose, knowing that they would never see that day. Adoniram Judson who went into Burma and gave his life in that part of the world, had no idea that hundreds of years later there would be Christians from that part of the world who would come to the United States and we would have part of our own church family; the Karen congregation; direct descendants of the sacrifice that Adaniram Judson made 200 years ago. But he never saw that, he just had to face with perseverance the obstacles that were in front of him.
:6:35This past week, there were 10 of us from Southside who went on a trip overseas and we worked with folks who are doing just that. They're giving their lives in a part of the world where it doesn't look like by our human understanding that they'll ever see the kind of movement that they're longing to see. And yet they persevere. They face the obstacles. I had an opportunity to meet with one man who can't even go into the country, where, that is the home of the people group that he's ministering to. So he is strategically located outside of the country to a vacation destination where many people from that country come. For 20 years, for 20 years, he and his family have met with people coming out of this closed country to share the gospel with them. And he said, "I've never had more hope than I have right now for what God's going to do in that place."
Speaker 1:7:31And you think what? What kind of perseverance is that? What kind of dedication is that? And it's not just about international missions. It's about so many areas of our life where we need to have some deeper level of perseverance that goes beyond what can be explained by the hope of a rags to riches story. Because wouldn't that be great if we knew that every time we face an obstacle, if we knew that every time we faced a challenge, a setback, that somewhere within our grasp there was going to be this great victorious moment that would be like the end of a Hollywood movie, but most of the time it is not that way.
:8:08And here's what I've come to understand, just going through life and walking with other people who face situations and circumstances like this. Here's what I've come to understand, that if we aren't looking for a heavenly prize, then we will be distracted and ultimately disappointed by every shiny thing we see in life.
Speaker 1:8:29If our eyes aren't set high enough on a prize that is passed what we might see an experience in this life, then we will constantly be distracted by other things that will pull us off course and ultimately leave us dissatisfied and frustrated in life. See, I don't think it's that we don't have hope for something better. I think it's that we often hope for something better in the wrong frame of time. We hope for something better, some reward here, some reward now. Some reward that we can grasp and hold onto in this life. When I think what the Bible calls us to when it talks about perseverance is a faith that perseveres past this life, past this short life into something that is far better and far more eternal, far more long lasting.
:9:18We've been looking at the last for the last several weeks at the life of the Apostle Paul. Paul has that kind of perseverance and faith, a determination to accomplish what God's called them to do, regardless of the outcome that he might see in this life. We saw in chapter 14, Paul was beaten and left for dead in Lystra, but he got back up and went right back into the city knowing what he was facing. In chapter 16, he's arrested in the city of Philippi and ultimately he's released. And in acts 17, he's put on trial and the city of Athens and he ends up having to leave Athens and he goes into the city of Ephesus where there's a riot and people are basically trying to lynch mob Paul and his friends and he has to flee out of Ephesus. Time and again, Paul faces controversy. He faces trials. He faces difficulties and yet he never gives up. He's like the energizer bunny. He just gets up and he keeps on going. He keeps trying and it's not like things are looking better for Paul. In fact, you could make the case in the argument that if you've been following along, things are getting worse and worse and worse. It's not like there's any hope. Paul doesn't have our perspective. He doesn't look at things the way we're looking at things. He doesn't have the advantage of time. In 2000 years of history, Paul is living in each of these moments and yet he gets up and he keeps going. What kind of determination? What kind of perseverance? Where does that come from?
:10:40So Paul leaves the city of Ephesus at the end of chapter 19 and he is on his way to return to the city of Jerusalem. He's going back to Jerusalem and on his way to Jerusalem, he stops by the house of a man named Steven. Now, if you've been with us this year as we've been going through the book of Acts you remember the stories of Steven. So Paul is stopping at Stephen's house and I want you to look with me in Acts chapter 21 at what Paul is told as he is getting ready to go back in to Jerusalem. Because it's important for us to understand that Paul did not go into these trials and these struggles unaware of what he was about to face. That Paul knew full well the difficulties he was going to face. And yet he persisted in moving in the direction that God was calling him with faith and determination and perseverance.
:11:33So look with me at Acts chapter 21, verse 10. Paul is in the house of Steven. They know about his plans to go back to the city of Jerusalem "While we were staying there", this is Luke writing, Luke is traveling with the apostle Paul. "While we were staying there for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down to Judea." Now, if the name Agabus sounds familiar, it is because Agabus was the same man who, at the Church of Antioch, basically said, "Hey, I've seen a vision. God is calling you to set Paul and Barnabas aside to go on this great missionary journey." Same guy, Agabus. He's one of those minor characters in the Bible. You should name your kid, Agabus. If you're about to have a boy, just consider that name. It's a great character. Don't worry about how they're going to be mocked and ridiculed through life, he needs to build up faith and determination and perseverance. That'll do it.
Speaker 1:12:25So Agabus came down from Judea and "coming to us he took Paul's belt and bound his feet and his hands and said, "Thus says the Lord," So now imagine this. This guy takes Paul's belt off of him and wraps his hands and feet, and he's giving you a living visual illustration, and he says, "Thus says the Holy Spirit. This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." Now, that's just weird. I mean if you were at a dinner party and some friends came over and somebody took your belt and did that, you'd be like, "thanks?" I mean, you'd be like, "thanks for that information." But that wasn't Paul's response. Listen to what happened. "Then Paul answered," Sorry. Luke says, "When we heard this, we and the people, there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem." Now the reason that they believed Agabus and just didn't think he was crazy is because they've had experiences with Agabus before were what Agabus has said has absolutely come to pass. So they trust Agabus. And so all these people in Steven's house are saying, "wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Paul, you should really think your plans to go to Jerusalem because this guy is always right. And if this is what awaits you, Paul, please, please, please don't go to Jerusalem." Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?" Here it comes. "For I am ready not only to be imprisoned, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. Did you catch that?
Speaker 1:13:57I understand what Agabus is saying. It's not that I don't believe Agabus and it's not that I didn't hear Agabus. I know full well that what Agabus is saying is true, but what you don't understand is that I am determined to do this even if it means I will be in prison, even if it means I will have to give my life. And since he would not be persuaded, we seeded and said, let the will of the Lord be done.
:14:24So what does that mean? That means all of Paul's friends, good people, love the Lord, follow Jesus knew that they were trying to talk Paul out of doing God's will in order for Paul to stay safe.
:14:36Now listen, I think one of the biggest problems in the church in America and specifically at Southside Baptist Church is that we will sacrifice the will of God for safety nine out of 10 times. We will sacrifice and do what is safe rather than be obedient to what God has called us to do. We have to take and understand that God's will is not always the safe choice and you have a decision to make. Nine out of 10 times in your life you have a choice to make. Will I be safe or will I be obedient? And God is calling you to be obedient and to trust Him with your security. Do you have that kind of faith? And, listen, if you don't, it's okay. You're in good company. Philip was in the room, I mean, there were people in the room who, great men and women of faith, who were trying to talk Paul out of going to Jerusalem, but it said this, "let the will of the Lord be done." They understood and knew that it was God's will, and yet they still tried to talk Paul out of doing what they understood was God's will.
Speaker 1:15:40Listen to verse 15. "After these days, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem." That's a powerful sentence because of all that it includes. That Paul set aside safety to do what he knew God was calling them to do. So he gets to Jerusalem and he visits with James, who's the head of the church in Jerusalem. James is the brother of Jesus. Didn't believe his brother was the Messiah until after he met the resurrected Jesus, because that's the only way you'd believe your sibling was a messiah to his if he died and rose again. So James didn't believe until after the resurrection. Now he's the head of the church in Jerusalem. Paul goes there for a specific reason. He's been collecting help from all the Gentile churches because there's a great famine in the city of Jerusalem and Paul has been collecting resources to take back to Jerusalem to help them with this famine. So he goes there. He does that. While he's there, James says to Paul, "Now, listen, Paul, let me just give you a little a little PR advice here, because your reputation among the Jewish believers is hurting a little bit. They think that you're trying to destroy all the law. They think that you're trying to destroy Judaism and the temple and all that. So here's what we think you ought to do. Just for the sake of the PR. You ought to sponsor these four guys that are going to make a vow and the temple. Go with them, pay their way, go make a show of it in the temple and that way everybody, all the Jews will say, see, Paul's not trying to throw the law out. He's not trying to undo the law of Moses and destroy the temple like you think. There's nothing to be afraid of here. Nothing to see here. This is, this is Paul." And so Paul actually agrees. He says, "okay, I'll do that." So he goes to do this, and in Acts chapter 21, beginning in verse 27, this is what we read happens. "When the seven days were almost completed..." That's the time of the sacrifice that they were making. "The Jews from Asia..." These are the people who had been with Paul as he was in other parts of the world. They were Jewish believers in other parts of the world who had seen what Paul was doing and weren't happy about it. "Seeing him in the temple stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him." That doesn't mean like they laid hands on him like you know, bless you, my brother. That means laid hands on him.
Speaker 1:17:53"They laid hands on him, crying out 'Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he is brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." Now, these men from Asia had seen that Paul had with him, a couple gentiles who were traveling with him from the city of Ephesus. They had assumed that Paul had taken those Gentiles into the temple, which would've been a violation of the Jewish law. So they start spreading this rumor. "Hey, he is causing trouble right here. He's bringing these gentiles into the temple. We need to do something about this." So Paul is arrested by the religious leaders. He's beaten and he's brought into trial before the high priest. Now here's the question. Remember, Paul did not go into this situation unknowingly. He knew full well what he was getting into. Not just because Agabus had told him, but because God had told him many times. The Holy Spirit had revealed it to him many times. So how did Paul go into such a situation, facing such overwhelming circumstances? Why would Paul not only endure but knowingly enter in to such unimaginable suffering?
:19:12Well, here's my theory on it. My theory is this, that Paul could not be taken captive by the Jewish religious leaders and Paul could ultimately not be taken captive by the Roman officials because Paul had already been taken captive by a higher power.
Speaker 1:19:36There was no way that Paul was going to become a prisoner to anybody because Paul had already surrendered his life and was a prisoner for the sake of Jesus. Listen to what he said in Ephesians 3:1, "for this cause, I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles." You catch that? Paul perceived himself already as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I am a prisoner of Jesus already. I have no choice but to do what he's told me to do because I am imprisoned to Jesus, and why am I imprisoned to Jesus? Why am I a prisoner of Jesus? For you Gentiles. There's a purpose behind this. There's a higher calling, a higher power. Listen to what he said in Philemon 1:1, "Paul," he introduces himself, "Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus..." Paul wasn't worried about being taken captive by anybody else because he was already a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
:20:36Now this caused me to think about a word that we sometimes avoid talking about because it's got a lot of negative connotations, but the word, "arrested." Now I thought about asking how many of you have ever been arrested, but I realized that could be a little uncomfortable for some. Some of you, I know the story. Others I could have found out this morning maybe.
Speaker 1:21:01But think about this. We talk about the word arrested and the first thing that comes to our mind is being bound in handcuffs and taken down to the courthouse or the jail and that's being arrested, being booked on charges. That is being arrested. But you know, the word arrested actually has a different meaning to. It's to have one's attention suddenly captivated by something or someone. To be arrested by the beauty of something that you see. You go somewhere and you see something so beautiful that it takes your breath away. Now, let me ask, how many of you have ever been arrested, right? Yeah. Yeah. So you can be arrested, you can be captivated by an idea. Some of you back when you were dating, you were arrested by her beauty. You were arrested by his charm.
:21:54You see, Paul had been arrested. He had been arrested by the beauty, the majesty, the glory of the resurrected Jesus Christ and the mission that he had called Paul to follow. He had been captivated by it. And here's what I think is critical for you to know. If you're going to face the challenges, not that may come, but that will inevitably come that may not have a silver lining at the end of them. We are either captivated by the call of Christ or by every trial and temptation of life.
Speaker 1:22:29You will either be arrested by the beauty and the majesty of God, or you will be arrested by every circumstance that comes into your into your life. You will either be a prisoner for the sake of Jesus Christ in His higher purpose, for your life or you will be a prisoner to every whim of every circumstance and every opportunity and every short lived venture that comes along in your life. One or the other. And Paul had already decided. "I'm going to be a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I am going to be arrested by his purpose for my life. I am going to be captivated by His beauty. So it doesn't matter. I can face the Romans. I can face. I can face what the high priest will say about me and do to me because I am already a prisoner of Jesus Christ. They can't take my life from me because I've already been crucified with Christ. Therefore, I no longer live. The life I live in this body I now live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave His life for me. Do your best. Bring your best because my life is not my own. I have been captured, captivated, arrested, imprisoned by Jesus Christ."
Speaker 1:23:50So I'm want to look at what Paul said to the Ephesians before he left Ephesus, before he went to Jerusalem, because I think it's going to give us a few ideas about how we can prepare our hearts and souls to have the kind of persevering spirit that Paul demonstrated. There are three things I think that captivated Paul that will help us not only to endure but to embrace the hardships and the struggles of life.
:24:17So turn back one chapter with me to Acts chapter 20, beginning in verse 18, and as Paul was getting ready to leave the city of Ephesus, he met with the leaders outside of town and he had a conversation with them. And this, I think, gives us at least three things that captivated Paul. And this is what our invitation is to be captivated by these things. First of all, to be captivated by his divine perspective. Be captivated by God's divine perspective.
Speaker 1:24:47Look what he says, beginning down in Acts 20, beginning in verse 18. "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time. From the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews. How did I not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable and teaching you in public and from house to house testifying both to Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and now behold I am going to Jerusalem." Read this with me. "He's going to Jerusalem." What? "Constrained by the spirit." Say it again. "Constrained by the spirit." In other words, he had no choice. He was constrained by the spirit. This is what he had to do, constrained by the spirit, "not knowing what will happen to me". He didn't have the plan. He didn't know all the answers in advance "except that the holy spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and affliction await me." The Holy Spirit did not tell Paul, this will be your best life now. That is not the message that the Holy Spirit told Paul and I'm telling you, that is not the message that Jesus has for his church today either. If you think that by following Jesus, everything is going to be dandelions and rainbows and lollipops and unicorns. You are not following Jesus.
Speaker 1:26:13This is the message you had for him. Prepare yourself because everywhere you go there's going to be hardship. And Paul had this divine perspective. He understood things from God's perspective, not his own. He went into this fully aware and knowing what he was doing.
:26:28At the same time, Paul wrote a letter to a church that he had worked with in the city of Corinth, and this is what he said in 2 Corinthians 4:8. We'll put it up on the screen for you. Second Corinthians 4:8-11, "we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake so that his life may be revealed in our mortal bodies." See, this is a divine perspective. This is the perspective that says, you know what? I'm going to suffer, but that's ultimately for God's glory. That God's glory will be revealed in my suffering. God's glory will be revealed in this terrible situation, in my imprisonment, in the abuse and the persecution. God's glory will be revealed. There is a higher perspective. There's something else going on. He goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 4:17, "for this light and momentary affliction." Wait, Paul, light and momentary affliction? You've been doing this for a decade now and they keep beating you and they keep throwing you out of town and they keep throwing you into prison. I don't know about you, but I don't call anything that happens to me for six months, light and momentary, let alone something that goes on for 10 years, "for this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not only to the things that are seen," listen to this now, "we don't only look at the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen." Catch this. "For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
:28:21Now, just think with me philosophically here for a minute. What is Paul saying? Paul is flipping the script entirely on reality. He's saying everything that you see with your eyes, that's just temporary. That's not what's real. That's not what's permanent. What is permanent is what is eternal and see when you have a divine perspective that allows you to know that everything in this life is temporary, then suddenly you can put your hope somewhere else. Your hope isn't in just the rags to riches story or to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Your hope is in something beyond this place because everything that you see here is just temporary. You do know that the job that you have, the career that you work so hard for, the education that you gain, you work so hard to build your way up in this company. You do know that one day somebody else is going to have your job and they're going to forget about you. I mean, they're going to give you a party. Maybe they'll give you a watch. You know everybody will sign a card, see you later, and then the next day somebody else can be sitting in your office and you think, no, no, no, no, no, no, because I'm going to work so hard that they're going to name the building after me. Yup. And then one day they're going to tear the building down. Right?
Speaker 1:29:40And here's the thing. Our problem isn't that we don't plan into the future. Our problem is that we don't plan far enough into the future. And what Paul is saying is these light and momentary afflictions don't compare with the weight of glory. So while you're spending all your time worrying about the suffering that's attached to the things in this life that you're not going to keep anyway. Some of you will never be more healthy than you are right now. This is it. Like it's all downhill, right? I mean, come on, can I get a witness? Some of you know. And so what? So what? So you think so you go through a struggle, you go through a physical, a trial you, you beat cancer. That's great. Praise the Lord. Unless Jesus comes back, you're still gonna die. I mean, listen, I'm not trying to depress you. I'm trying to give you a hope that goes beyond this life that lets you be resilient for the suffering that will inevitably come to you. If you are married right now, there is the high probability that one day one of you will be a widow or widower, one of you will be alone. It's going to happen. These are the light and momentary afflictions and we live our whole life somehow thinking that we're going to be the exception, that we're going to be different than everybody else, only everybody through all eternity. This is the path that you have struggled. This is the path they have walked. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he died later. There is only one person who's overcome that and that's Jesus Christ, and if you are crucified with Him, you will rise again to live with Him. That's the hope. That's the weight of glory. That's where we place our hope. Our hope is not in a job. Our hope is not in finding the right spouse. Our hope is not in beating cancer as much as I want all those good things to happen for you. That planning is not planning far enough into the future. And if you want to overcome, if you want to be a person who perseveres overcomes, you have to have a persevering faith that understands there is a divine perspective that goes beyond these momentary and light afflictions. Listen to me, if you live 80 years and in the course of 80 years of life, you struggle with whatever ailment, whatever situation it is that you struggle, do you realize that that 80 years is nothing compared to eternity?
Speaker 1:32:10It's nothing. I mean, when we've been there 10,000 years bright, shining as the sun, we have no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun. You've been singing that your whole life. The problem is you don't believe it. That this life is so temporary and that divine perspective will help prepare you for what is to come.
:32:30The second thing that I think Paul has his. He understands he's captivated by God's divine purpose. Listen to what he says in verse 24, "but I do not account life of any value or precious to myself. If only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." You know I've always, in seminary and church, I always admired those people who had a life verse. Man, I wish I had a life verse and I'd pick a verse. I'm like, that's gonna be my life verse. Only it really wasn't my life first because I just wanted to have a life verse that sounded cool. And then God added this verse to my Bible one day. Acts 20:24. And I knew. There's a brick out here. Back when we did bricks. My family, we all bought a brick and my brick has my name, and it's got Acts 20:24 on it. "But I do not account my life of any value or as precious to myself. If only I may finish my course and the ministry that I've received to share the gospel of the grace of God."
:33:36Listen, that's, that's a cause worth dying for right there. See what Paul understood was he was captivated by a divine purpose for his life. Listen to what he said in Philippians chapter one, how this works its way out. He's writing to the Philippians. He's in prison, and listen to what he says. "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." It looks bad, but you're just looking at it from an earthly perspective. You're looking at it from the temporary perspective. It's really served to advance the gospel "so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest of my imprisonment, that my imprisonment is for Christ and most of the brothers having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment are much more bold to speak the word without fear"
:34:25You know what Paul looked at, he said, you know what? I'm in prison, but it's part of the purpose because the gospel is spreading. All my disciples understand, Hey, they've got to. They've got to step it up. I'm not there to do it, so they're out sharing the gospel. This is God's plan. This is God's purpose because I know what I'm called to do. Do you understand God's purpose for your life? Do you understand that everything that you think is a problem or an obstacle could very well be part of God's purpose for you? Paul had a thorn in his flesh. He didn't know what it was for. Ultimately, he understood that it was to keep them from becoming conceited. He prayed to God for three times to have it removed and God finally said, my grace is sufficient for you that my power will be revealed in your weakness. God had a purpose and God has a purpose for your suffering.
:35:13Here's the question. Are you gonna waste the hurt? Are you going to waste the hurt? So you lose a spouse and you go through a horrific battle that ends not how you wanted to to end? Are you going to waste the hurt of that or are you going to see that God had a higher purpose? Even in your suffering? Are you going to view the struggle you're having with your children? That God has a higher purpose? Because if you think that if you believe, if you're captivated by God's higher purpose, you can endure the struggles that come your way.
:35:48And finally, Paul was captivated by his divine plan. Now, which in turn with me to Acts 23, we're going to look at the end of this little episode in Jerusalem. The crowds became basically became so violent that they were about to kill Paul, and so the Romans who were overseeing that area inserted themselves into the situation.
Speaker 1:36:07Acts Chapter 23, verse 10, "and when the dissension became violent, the tribune afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks." Now remember, it looks like utter pandemonium right now. I mean the city is coming apart at the edges. It looks like the wheels are falling off the bus to everybody except to Paul, because Paul knows, Paul had enough experiences to know. You know what? God's got a plan. God's got a plan. I don't know what it is, but God's got a plan. Look, look what happens in verse 11, "the following night, the Lord stood by him and said," Now if you have a Bible with red letters, these letters are probably in red, which means that Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, reappeared to Paul and said this, how encouraging would that be?
Speaker 1:37:00Listen to what he said. "Take courage for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you will testify about me also in Rome. Now, if you've been following us, you know Paul has been trying to get to Rome all along. Do you know what just happened? Through this pandemonium in Jerusalem, through the arrest, the trial, the beating Paul just got an all expense paid trip to Rome. And guess who's gonna pay for it? Caesar. And so ultimately Paul would be transported by the Romans, back to Rome, where we know the gospel would take root and spread to the ends of the earth. And Paul was undeterred. He was determined. He was persevering in the face of the struggles because he was captivated by God's plan. He trusted that God had a higher purpose.
:37:57And here's what you need to know about the struggle you're facing right now. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's a job situation. Maybe it's a family situation. Maybe it's a health crisis. But you will seldom, if ever, know God's plan in advance or even in the midst of the suffering because ultimately what God is trying to forge in you, his faith, and if you knew it wouldn't require faith on your part. And so what that tells me is that just says, you know what? Hold on. Seek, be captivated by his divine perspective. Be captivated by his divine purpose for your life. Be captivated by his divine plan and trust and know that this light and momentary affliction is working a greater good in my life.
:38:40Now, let me just share a few questions for reflection with you. We put these on the back of your bulletin and maybe this week as you read, if you're following along in the reading plan, maybe these questions will be something that you'll use every day, to just kind of help you as you process this. What is the divine perspective of my current situation? Just lift yourself out of your situation for a minute and ask yourself what's the divine perspective? What does the situation look like in 20 years, in 40 years, in 50 years, in 100 years?
:39:13Because here's what I've learned. I go back in my life and I asked myself what was I most worried about 10 years ago? What were you most worried about 10 years, what were you most anxious about 10 years ago? My guess is for most of you, some of you this is not true, but for most of you, you're not worried about that anymore. It's totally different now than it was then. So why would you not think that 10 years from today the situation's gonna be different than too. What is your divine perspective on the situation? I love what Chuck Swindoll says, "life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond." That's true. I mean, you don't have to believe in Jesus for that to be true. That is just true. Students, as you get ready, go back to school, college students, as you get ready to go off to campus? Listen to me now. That is true. Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you choose to respond, so do the next right thing. Whatever happens, keep doing the next right thing.
:40:11Second question, what is God's purpose for my life? Now this one's going to take you a little longer than a week to answer. Some of you've been trying for 40 or 50 years to answer this question like, God, what is your purpose for me? But I think it's really important that we come to grips with what is God's purpose for my life? Because that knowledge will give you the stamina to endure the hardships that will inevitably come.
:40:34Third question, do I trust God's plan or am I trying to force my own? Do I trust God's plan or am I trying to force my own plan? Because if you're like me, I spend about 90 percent of my time trying to force my own plan to happen though I finally relent and say, okay, it's your will, God. Just like those people back at Phillip's house. Right? Okay. We'll just do what God wants us to do finally. We tried to fight it and now we can't give in. Why not just start life out that way? Whatever your plan is, God, here I am. I'm ready. What is God's plan? Or are you trying to force your own? Paul said this in Colossians 4:18. He said, "I Paul, write this greeting to you", he's writing to the Church of Colossae, "Write this greeting to you with my own hand, and he says this. He says, remember my chains. Grace be with you." Now I ask myself this question. Why would Paul say that? Was Paul trying to evoke sympathy from the church at Colossae? Did he want them to feel sorry for him? I don't think so. That's not consistent with anything else Paul ever wrote. Why would Paul say, remember my chains? Because I think Paul wanted those early Christians to understand there are going to be chains in your life. The question is what will the chains be? And so my question for you today is to what or to whom are you chained? To what or to whom are you chained?
Speaker 1:42:01Are you chained to an addiction? Are you chained to the pursuit of a career? To wealth? Are you chained to your reputation and what people think about you? Are you chained to your body image? Are you chained to food? Are you chained to shopping? Are you chained to your spouse? Are you chained to your children? Are you chained to your house? What are you chained to? Because all of us are chained to something. The question is, what are you going to be chained too? Because there is, there is a way that we can be chained to something that gives us freedom, and that is when we choose to be captivated, arrested by the purpose that God has for our life. Are you looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow now? Are you looking for the riches in the rags to riches story or are you seeking a prize that goes beyond what is temporary into what is eternal? Paul said to the Philippians in chapter three, "I press on to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." He said, I'll just keep pressing on. I know I'm going to get thrown in prison. I'm going to press on. I know they're going to beat me. I'm going to press on, and when Paul died, listen, listen. When Paul died, Paul did not think that this would be the case today. Paul did not think that all across the globe and hundreds of languages, people would be reading what he was writing back to these churches. That's not how Paul lived his life. He lived his life captivated by the purpose of Jesus Christ. Trusting that the prize that awaited him was beyond this life, the hope of glory, the hope of eternity with Jesus. What's captivating you?
:43:50I'm going to get you to bow your heads and pray with me. Our musicians are going to come back and we're going to sing a song that just talks about God's greatness. And maybe for some of you in this time of reflection, it's just important for you to just be captivated by how great He is, by His perspective, by His purpose for your life, by the plans He has for you. Maybe you just need to be reminded, He is bigger than whatever obstacle you're facing, but for others of you, maybe today, you would realize that you're tired of being changed to what's temporary and you want to be captivated by the beauty of a Savior who gave Himself for you that you might be free. And if that's your story today, maybe you would just come down here, pray with me, pray with others. Maybe you just need to pray at these steps. Maybe there's something, a situation right now, and you just need that divine perspective because you've been caught up in a temporary, short sighted perspective and you want that eternal perspective. Whatever it is God's doing with you in this time, I invite you to use this song of reflection to respond to the Holy Spirit. Will you stand as we sing?
:44:58Father, we thank you. We thank you for the example of the Apostle Paul, but more than just his example. Lord, we thank you for the truth of the message of the Gospel, that when we die with Christ, we will be raised to life with Him, not just someday in the future, but even now in this life that we can face trials and struggles and difficulties. We can face and overcome all the obstacles not out of our own strength because we're good enough or worthy enough, but because we have been captured by You and that You are leading us on triumphantly towards that prize, that ultimate destination. That's nothing transient or temporary, but it's eternal. Lord, give us your perspective. Lord, help us to understand our purpose. Lord, this is a room full of people where I think probably most of the people in this room do not understand. Have not taken the time to seek to know what is Your purpose for their life. Lord, I pray that today if nothing else, they would begin to pursue. What is God's purpose for my life. Lord, for others were facing circumstances. People are facing struggles and they do not understand or know or believe right now that you have a bigger plan. Would you just affirm to them that You who gave Your life for them would not spare any other good gift and that you have a purpose and a plan in the middle of the trial that they're facing? Father, I just pray that your Holy Spirit would do a mighty work in the hearts and lives of Your people today, that we might be captivated, arrested by Jesus. And it's in His name we pray. Amen.