God Empowers Through His Word

In part 3 in this blog series we look at the final mark of how God preserves His people to persevere.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:5-11 ESV)

Jesus the WORD, is the game changer

In verse 5, there is a change in how the discussions go with the Jews. Once the deity and gospel message of Jesus is pressed, the scene changes. While being ‘occupied with the WORD”, we can only imagine the deep study and Holy Spirit filled insight Paul was receiving from God. I truly believe what Paul is seeing here, is redemptive history being made complete through Christ. It says this in Hebrews 1:1-4.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Let the word occupy your life. Paul was Christ-centered in his preaching. And it cost him everything, and here it cost him a huge conflict with those he was preaching to.

I remember speaking with a friend, and him saying to me, “I think loving Jesus is really OK, it’s just when you start saying He is the only way to God that I have a real problem with”. This is the norm, and if you preach God’s truth in it’s entirety, Jesus will guarantee to offend.

Use His Word as a Guide

Whereas the last vision Paul had was of someone telling him to go somewhere he hadn’t expected (Acts 16:9), in Corinth he has a vision telling him to stay put (Acts 18:9-10). Presumably Paul needed that encouragement. Visions, both in the New Testament and in much later experience, are not normally granted just for the sake of it.1 One of the many lessons Acts teaches quietly, as it goes along, is that you tend to get the guidance you need when you need it. In 18:6 Paul seems frustrated. In verses 9–10 God speaks to Paul, encouraging him to remain in Corinth despite his frustrations, because God apparently has many people to bring to faith there. In the face of opposition, God steps in with faithful love to strengthen Paul’s resolve.2

We ought to desire His presence. It may not be explicit in this immediate text, but as a side door observation of how we ought to desire God in every circumstance. We hear this echoed in Moses’ plea, …

“And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15 ESV)

God is with you.

The LORD here reassures Paul of so many things. For one thing, He mentions that He has many that are His. Of course here, Jesus is talking about those that He has predestined as His own as it says in our text in verse 9. God has everything under control for Paul, because His people are already secured. This should give us encouragement in our evangelism efforts. Your job is to preach. God’s job is to save.

It is God’s presence (“I am with you”; Acts 18:10) that not only energizes believers but protects them from fear, anxiety, and doubt. God’s presence casting out fear is a recurring theme in Scripture. Moses encouraged Joshua, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8; compare Josh. 1:9). The same thought and wording is used by David to his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:29. Hezekiah uses the same language in 2 Chronicles 32:7–8 when faced with the invasion from the Assyrians. God offers comfort through his presence in the Prophets (see, e.g., Isa. 41:13–14 and Jer. 46:28), and the Psalms (e.g., Ps. 23:4). And Jesus promises his presence at the close of his last words of commission to the church: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).3

It is important for us to see that God reaches down to us in the nitty-gritty messiness of life to say, “DO NOT BE AFRAID”!

Whatever you are feeling today, I wish that whatever you are holding on to instead of Christ is fading and hopeless. The WORD of God is enough. God has already preserved us. This is the big idea of the blog today. It’s that Jesus has already claimed his own. You and me. In fact, He defeated death forever if you are indeed in Christ. And we have a hope that can never be shaken and a community that will never die. You can’t do it on your own. By your own devices you have lost, but see Christ has already won the war. We can run with confidence into the battle because Christ has already won the war! There is hope. He is our hope.

Paul was in a great deal of discouragement after dealing with the Jews. In fact, we don’t know exactly why He was so distraught to have the LORD himself tell Paul his encouraging words. But what we do know is that the feeling Paul may have been feeling is the tendency we all can get when the going gets tough. When you are losing and there seems like there is no hope. Maybe it’s when you are winning… Paul just got done seeing the miracle of salvation made manifest right before his eyes by seeing whole households come to faith!

When Israel was delivered from the hand of the Egyptians they were being preserved by God by getting daily rations of manna by a daily miracle from THE LORD. God was preserving them. He was holding them. Some though would try and double up their portion… “just in case” God didn’t come through. They were not trusting in the LORD. See, the book of John talks about how in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. This is Jesus. He has already in eternity past ordained everything you need for His plan to happen and for your eventual good to come to pass.

The message of the Gospel is unmerited preservation! When God sent His son to die for sinners. It was a message of love. Through everything you do, everything you aspire to be. All of it will never be good enough. It’ll never be. You cannot preserve yourself, for you will die. Only one outside of you can ever preserve you. Can a man who is dead in the ocean ever be brought back to life on his own, or does he need help from someone else? He needs help from someone else.

For it says in Ephesians Chapter 2…

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-7 ESV)

And for those of you today who feel weak… who are burdened… here this…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

That very preservation God gives motivates and empowers us to persevere!

footnotes


  1. Wright, N. T. (n.d.). Acts (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides). 

  2. Holcomb, J. S. (n.d.). Acts: A 12-Week Study (Knowing the Bible)

  3. Holcomb, J. S. (n.d.). Acts: A 12-Week Study (Knowing the Bible)

God Empowers Through His Providence

We all have THAT THING that really gets us all riled up.
WE all want to WIN or persevere. Not only that, we all want OUR way preserved. We want the world to think, act and feel the way we do. We want to be preserved and persevere.
We wonder why we are in the situation we’re in and it cause us to be full of fear. If we are honest with ourselves. Am i the only one that feels this way? Don’t you at least feel it around you if not right here, right now. That is if the situation you are currently doesn’t pan out to be the way YOU want, well everything must be wrong with the world.

We so quickly forget who truly preserves us. We so quickly forget the promise. Jesus. Jesus, preserves us. And that preservation is what motivates our perseverance!

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking at the ‘3 Characteristics of How God’s Preservation Empowers Perseverance And Witness’ based off of Acts 18:1-17.

PART 1 – Through the Faith Family
PART II – Through His Providence
PART III – Through His Word

But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” And he drove them from the tribunal.(Acts 18:12-16 ESV)

God Uses Authority For His Gain

At least since the time of Julius Caesar, Jews had been allowed to practice their own religion and were not forced to worship the Roman gods. The question dangling over the young church at several points in Luke’s narrative is this: does being a Christian mean you are acting illegally according to Roman law and custom? Or is the community of Jesus’ followers rather to be seen simply as a variant of Judaism and therefore to be permitted? Gallio, who has presumably taken the trouble to inform himself both about the relevant laws and about what the new religion is up to, dismisses the charge. It is an internal matter within Judaism, not something that Roman law need bother about. Sometimes, as Luke no doubt wants us to remark once more, even pagan officials do things which genuinely and thoroughly advance the cause of the kingdom of God. We see other biblical references to God’s supremacy over earthly rulers in Romans.

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1 ESV)

See, God was not done with Paul in Corinth. The mission was not finished, and there is no one under heaven that is going to stop Paul, not even the government. This was the immediate answer to God’s word of protection over Paul that he should not be afraid… In fact the hates of hell cannot hold back the power and purpose of the church.

Brother Andrew

There is this story of Brother Andrew… missionary during the cold war…

During the height of the Cold War, Communist countries were keeping a tight control on their borders, but God had called Brother Andrew to help the Christians behind that Iron Curtain.
“When I pulled up to the checkpoint on the other side of the Danube, I said to myself, “Well, I’m in luck. Only half a dozen cars. This Romanian border crossing should go swiftly.”
“But when it took forty minutes to inspect the first car, I began to worry…literally everything that family was carrying had to be taken out and spread on the ground.
“Every car in line was put through the same routine. The fourth inspection lasted well over an hour. The guards took the driver inside and kept him there while they removed hub caps, took his engine apart, removed seats.
“Dear Lord,” I said, as at last there was just one car ahead of me, “what am I going to do? Any serious inspection will show up these Romanian Bibles right away.
“Lord,” I went on, “I know that no amount of cleverness on my part can get me through this border search. Dare I ask for a miracle? Let me take some of the Bibles out and leave them in the open where they will be seen. Then, Lord I cannot possibly be depending on my own stratagems, can I? I will be depending utterly upon You.”

“While the last car was going through its chilling inspection, I managed to take several Bibles from their hiding places and pile them on the seat beside me.
“It was my turn. I put the little VW in low gear, inched up to the officer standing at the left side of the road, handed him my papers, and started to get out. But his knee was against the door, holding it closed. He looked at my photograph in the passport, scribbled something down, shoved the papers back under my nose, and abruptly waved me on.
“Surely thirty seconds had not passed. I started the engine and inched forward. Was I supposed to pull over, out of the way where the car could be taken apart? Was I … surely I wasn’t…I coasted forward, my foot poised above the brake. Nothing happened. I looked out the rear mirror. The guard was waving the next car to a stop, indicating to the driver that he had to get out. On I drove a few more yards. The guard was having the driver behind me open the hood of his car. And then I was too far away to doubt that indeed I had made it through that incredible checkpoint in the space of thirty seconds.
“My heart was racing. Not with the excitement of the crossing, but with the excitement of having caught such a spectacular glimpse of God at work!”

Jesus Rules and Reigns

The truth is for you and me to understand that no matter what happens around us, Jesus is ruling and reigning and sits on the throne. No matter the man that is placed above us to preside over this nation, Jesus is still King. No one is going to shake Him or have him change His mind for His plans will NOT be thwarted. So be encouraged.

See Paul was a Roman citizen and would use his knowledge of Roman law to his advantage. In this case, use the liberties that are given to you and exercise them. It is not faithless to exercise your rights as a citizen in whatever country you live in. Vote for biblical principles. You have a right to make a case and stand for what you believe, just always remember, we serve a higher master, a higher court. We serve King Jesus.

Preservation Empowers Perseverance Through Family

We see restlessness all around us don’t we? Violence and words of malice that strike at the very core of who we are. At this point I sort of a dread having to open my Facebook page to see the hate of everyday. For whatever reason, each of us can so quickly be spun into this web of poison.The funny thing is that as I describe this situation, several things may pop into YOUR head. It may not necessarily be what I’m thinking about. Because each of us have a bone to pick with something.

We all have THAT THING that really gets us all riled up.
WE all want to WIN or persevere. Not only that, we all want OUR way preserved. We want the world to think, act and feel the way we do. We want to be preserved and persevere.
We wonder why we are in the situation we’re in and it cause us to be full of fear. If we are honest with ourselves. Am i the only one that feels this way? Don’t you at least feel it around you if not right here, right now. That is if the situation you are currently doesn’t pan out to be the way YOU want, well everything must be wrong with the world.

We so quickly forget who truly preserves us. We so quickly forget the promise. Jesus. Jesus, preserves us. And that preservation is what motivates our perseverance!

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking at the ‘3 Characteristics of How God’s Preservation Empowers Perseverance And Witness’ based off of Acts 18:1-17.

PART 1 – Through the Faith Family
PART II – Through His Providence
PART III – Through His Word

God Empowers Through the Faith Family

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. – Acts 18:1-8

Presence (v. 2-4)

If you see in the beginning there was an availability by the saints. Aquila and his wife Priscilla were model church members that were ready, willing and available. People knew each other, or at least they found ways to be involved with each other. Everything will be added to you God will bring you the resources you need, including faithful community to surround you to accomplish God’s mission WITH you. For the faith family to be useful and active they were all readily available.

Power (v. 3 and 8)

It has always been speculated what Paul’s ‘thorn’ is in the passage in 2 Corinthians. But what we do know is that whatever it was, it could not be taken away. Most likely, Paul needing some sort of help and couldn’t do everything by himself. There is help. The body of Christ; Aquila and Priscilla ready in and out of season were ready to be of assistance. In fact, they all had a similar trade.

They did all their WORK for the glory of God – (v.3) Paul being a tent maker uses this profession as a means of networking for God’s glory. In other words, it is not the case that Paul engages in tent making as a necessity so that he can do his “real job” of preaching. Instead, Paul’s varieties of work in the sewing shop, marketplace, synagogue, lecture hall, and prison are all forms of witness. In any of these contexts, Paul participates in God’s restorative project and lives out his new identity in Christ for the sake of God’s glory and out of love for his neighbors—even his former enemies. Even as he is being transported across the sea as a prisoner, he employs his gifts of leadership and encouragement to guide the soldiers and sailors holding him captive to safety during a severe storm (Acts 27:27-38). If he had not had the gift of being a preacher and apostle, he would still have been a witness to Christ simply by the way he engaged in making tents, toiling for the sake of the community, and working for the good of others in all situations.

We must make sure we don’t make distinctions that separate us from the every day, every moment actuality of our faith and the implications it will always present. In every way Paul was who he had to be in order to share Christ. So with out excuse we must be faithful to be Christians, and present to do the work of ministry.

Possession (v. 5)

[9] And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. – 2 Corinthians 11:9

Based off of this coinciding scripture which most likely points to this point in Paul’s second journey, when Silas and timothy ‘arrived from Macedonia’, in verse 5 is probably part of the gift that they bring to Paul.
This piece is always so interesting. But the people in the early church always took care of one another. The piece that is important to note about this community action is the manner in which they help each other.

You don’t have to ‘start a ministry’ to be faithful. Just be it, Just do it. You never know the actions you take, how many years down the line that it’s going to affect someone’s life. In my life, I was only 8 years old. My father had just had been in a real bad place. The cards just didn’t fall in his lap right. It’s the sudden lay-off, the sudden drop in pay and the inevitable hardship that follows when the money you make doesn’t fit the outgoing bills. My parents loved the LORD, they were faithful in sharing Jesus with their friends and the LORD provided so many resources through those around us.

There are always those people right. All of us a story or two that carry examples of servants that really went out of their way to be like Jesus to us. Be like that. And i think more than ever these realities hit me as an adult knowing the risk families took by allowing us to live with them and take us in.
Even now, there are people in this body that love us, my family, in ways that truly speak to us and care that helps and motivates me to speak truth boldly. For them I am so grateful.

Are you ready?

Following after such great examples like Aquila, Priscilla, Silas and Timothy. There are so many arenas that right now you can help your faith family with. That you, can help advance the kingdom and make a difference. Really there are three main things most churches do. Consider the following

1. Sunday Mornings

– Prayer Team
– Hospitality
– Kidz Program
– Stewardship
– Audio & Visual Tech Team

2. Community Groups

– Authentic Friendship- Hospitality –
– Discipleship & Leadership
– Mission Organization

3. Bible Study

– Youth Advocacy
– Children’s Bible Memorization
– Bible Study Leader
– Communicator

I believe that if we as a local body does 3 things really well, we can be most effective at accomplishing the great commission in your city. This is our field. Your city is your inheritance. AS a team that is filled with the fire of the Spirit to be witnesses to your hurting community, we can do it together.

Reasons To Pray When Things Don’t Make Sense

I vividly remember the phone call I got late that night. I knew that at some point my brother was to come home. I was just hanging out watching TV and, “ring ring…”. I answer the phone call and it’s the authorities letting me know that my brother had gotten in an accident and is unconscious. It was me and my parents at home that night. I remember us and people from the church praying and asking God to have mercy and deliver him, there was no script, there was no perfect way of saying it, but what we were saying was, “God, spare my brother’s life… please God, Spare my brother’s life.” I knew, somewhere deep inside to pray, we had nothing, there was absolutely nothing to grab a hold of at the moment except God. For this particular story, my brother was miraculously spared. I know this is not always the case, but we were overjoyed that he was conscious again by the time he reached the ER.
We all have a story like that don’t we? Sometimes it is filled with doubt, maybe you don’t have all the facts, but you are begging God to deliver, you, a friend, maybe a marriage for deliverance from danger. We want God to move, we want Him to change things. We want Him to move on our behalf.  So what are some reasons to continue to pray when things don’t make sense?

1. Because God is Sovereign

The whole concept of God’s complete sovereignty is a hard one for a lot of people to swallow. We want some sure way of understanding everything we see.
“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6).
Long story short here is that God does what he wants and the early church understood as the context of their prayers. Even in times of uncertainty, they trusted God to do His work, His will and in His way. We know this was true because we see a prayer in the midst of persecution early in the Book of Acts.

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,… for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

(Acts 4:24, 27-28)

The people knew exactly what was going on, and they knew it’s been part of God’s plan all along.
There is no “secret way” of knowing how God will judge. Fervent prayer is how the church must operate in our core. It is this kind of faithfulness that will spread the church to the ends of the earth.
In a way, by God being Holy, by very definition, He does what He wants. There will not be expected conclusions to how God interacts with us, but we are to pray for God’s revealed will since we don’t know His hidden will.

Yes. Pray. God is sovereign. Pray. Remember, the communication we have with God is one that should be unceasing. Pray when you want God to move in your life and in your community’s life. Pray for the souls of those you are reaching for Christ. Pray in the context knowing that God has a plan in the midst of your confusion.

2. Because We Are Not Alone

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church… When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. (Acts 12:5,12-17 ESV)

Within the context of what was spoken of earlier in Acts 4, and the prayer that the community of faith said together, there is just something about all of these passages that make the most difficult things just a little easier to swallow; it is that we are not alone.

And if it’s a true community, it’s gonna be real. It’s gonna be messy, and it’s not gonna be perfect. A community full of faith in God and love for one another is a community that is authentic. You can see this authenticity here in this passage when you get to the nitty gritty of how the community responds… during a prayer meeting on behalf of Peter seeking God’s provision.

There are people that are dealing with doubts, fears, and uncertainty. Here, they definitely made it obvious in scripture. Are you being this honest? This how we edify and build one another up.

3. Because He Always Hears Us

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5 ESV)

In Verse 5 the ESV reads as ‘earnest’ prayer, This word is only used a few times in the NT. It is a very strong word meaning “to reach out in a tense, resolute eager way” or “Prayer was going up”. This means they were praying intensely, with resolve and had an expectation to see God answer. Nothing else mattered but God and His everlasting kingdom!
Fervant or earnest prayer is how the church must operate in our very DNA. It is this kind of faithfulness that will spread the church to the ends of the earth.
Luke, who is the writer of Acts uses this word in another place in scripture.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44 ESV)

Hopefully we can see this intensity noted by our Lord as He is praying earnestly before getting betrayed and all the emotion that is tied knowing is to become of you being in the governments hands.
The important aspect to note about the Lord listening to His children, is noticing that our Lord prayed earnestly, but He earnestly asked for His Father to do His will. In this prayer Jesus did not sin by asking God to take the cup from Him if there was another way.

The big difference between our sometimes fleshly prayers and that of our Savior King Jesus is that He desired His Father’s will above anything else, yes, even if that meant dying a cruel death on a bloody cross for us while we were still sinners.

Praying according to His will is the key. Praying that God has His way. It’s the heart of the matter where we don’t expect God to align to our desires but our desires to be aligned with His.
When you pray, and the answer doesn’t turn out for the good you expect, does not mean that God is mean, nor does it always mean you don’t have enough faith. It just means that sometimes the answer is no, sometimes it’s yes and sometimes it’s wait.
You might feel like the father in the Gospel of Mark with the sick son.

…“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

It’s all about Jesus and caring for one another.

He is a good father and He listens to His children. He doesn’t always answer the way we want, but He does hear us.

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