Encouragement for Continuing On
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Encouragement for Continuing On
Today is Mothers Day. I thought about doing a stand alone message for mothers and on a text that I thought would connect to issues moms face. The more I looked at the next section in Acts the more I thought this passage is fantastic for mothers.
The book of Acts is about making disciples. Paul is on a missionary journey to help people follow Christ. Motherhood is ultimately about making disciples. It is the closest, most nurturing, most heart, mind, soul involved discipleship that there is. And yet at the end of the day it is about discipleship. It is about helping a person grow in their faithfulness to God and the fullness he has for them.
Discipleship is not easy. Moms work tirelessly, never get a day off, go without food and drink so their kids can have it, get run ragged all over the place, and are drastically under paid and under appreciated. Moms should probably have union representation. My wife has that and it comes in the form of an occasional ladies night out.
I hope you will be encouraged by today’s passage. We are going to see Paul begin his next leg of his missionary journey. He endures incredible opposition. What you have never experienced and probably never will. And in this we find much encouragement in our role as followers of Christ who are helping others follow Christ.
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the good news. 8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. 19 Then 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. 20 But 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. 21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 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. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples. (Acts 14:1-28 NIV)
I want to look at a few things this passage teaches us about following Christ. Disciples will encounter hardship and will only complete God’s work by God’s grace. I want to look at three things God can help you to complete the work he has given you.
First thing is that we need to persevere.
If I could give you one piece of advice for ministry, for church, for relating with others or succeeding in work or discipleship it is this: don’t give up. As long as you are able, keep on. When you don’t think you can go anymore keep on going. Paul did not make disciples because it was easy. If you want easy don’t follow Jesus. If you want a peace that you can’t stop telling people about and taking risks for then come on in.
How many times said, “God I’m willing to go to this point. You need to show up before we get there.” It is hard investing in others. Give more than you ever thought. Love more. Forgive more. Overlooks offenses more than ever imagined.
Paul begins this next leg of the ministry speaking so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But where God works Satan always comes in.
Right off they are sharing God’s word and seeing some success. But some begin stirring others up, poisoning their minds. They are instigating arguments and poisoning their thinking.
Poisoning involves taking something good and mixing it with something that will kill you. Most heresy has a little bit of truth in it. Critique. Church did this. Don’t like you. Not faithful.
In Iconium Paul escapes a plot to mistreat and stone them. Adversity is always present. Have to press through.
In the next town, Lystra, Paul prays for a man lame from birth and had never walked. Amazingly the man is healed. Breakthrough! Think a miracle is exactly what you need. But the people double down on their stubbornness. “They say the gods have come down in human form” v11 and they begin to worship Paul and Barnabas.
This is an example of how we don’t always see what we should see. Pray for God to help you see as you should. We live in an information age where you can find any kind of information you want. I think this past year we have seen a division in our country where even the data we use is questioned. Science is a tool and in the hands of hard hearts and eyes it is forced to render the results the person wants.
Spiritually we may receive blessings and yet we don’t see them the way we should.
*Keep going even when opposed. Keep going. Even when people don’t see as they should. Keep going when opposition persists.
V22. Remain true to the message. Persevere. Don’t give up. Opposition. Things you think “I didn’t intend for that to happen.”
Acts 13:13. John Mark bailed on them. He left them when they were
Many hardships will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Lauren. Small Group Leader says not paying attention in small group. Lauren says group is so boring because all the others couples do is talk about how hard parenting is. A year later she has a newborn baby. Comes to group like a person drowning in the water and hoping someone can give her advice on how to survive having a newborn. Don’t give up.
Children who are single. Treat your mom with respect. Don’t be arrogant. You have no idea how hard it is and how much parents do for their kids. You will not know until you have kids and then you are going to be sorry for how you treated your parents. That is my experience! Every person does this.
Poisoning minds. Race, sex, roles in life. I want to encourage you what an honorable role being a mother is. Our society does not appreciate moms. Society values money and power. Motherhood is an opportunity to die to yourself every day. It is pouring your life into another person that they might have life. Laying your life down. Know that it is a noble calling. It is a rewarding calling. Don’t let culture poison your minds.
Speak to teen girls. Girls, we are giving you a rose because of who God has created you to be. I want you to know we honor mothers. You may not want that right now and that is completely understandable. I don’t know many ladies who wanted to be moms as a teenager. But there may come a time when you are excited by that. But I also want to encourage you to not let the world poison your mind from what God has designed you to be. Our culture is confused on some of the most basic things about life. God created people male and female. He designed your body to work a certain way. And there are things in life that may cause you confusion. Keep pressing into his word because it has all the answers. I want to be sympathetic to people who have not been rooted in anything and have confusion. But I also want to be clear that God has a design and purpose for men and women, and understanding who you were born to be is an important part of living for him and succeeding in the world. Don’t let the confusion in the world rob you. Know we value you. Know God has a good plan. Know you can come here if at any time you are not sure what to do.
There is opposition, poisoning. Know it. Prepare for it. Keep going through it.
- Stay True to the Faith
Not be true to you. What is your life conforming to? Not follow your heart. Follow the faith!
Greatest self realization is understanding who God has created me to be and how I can experience more fullness in who he is and how I can glorify him.
“Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”
Remain true to the faith. Not a faith. The faith. The faith delivered to you. It is objective. It is real. It is knowable, recognizable, and transferable.
Not the only time in the NT:
- I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3 ESV)
- rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Col 2:7 CSB)
This is an important faith. Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code” was a best seller and made it appear Christianity was invented in the fourth century at church councils. Not true.
Paul had this faith guide him. He remained true when the world was falling apart. Are you conforming to the faith or trying to make the faith conform to you. Are you looking to God’s word to conform to or are you just focused on making happen what you want to happen.
- Abraham had a promise from God and a body that was dead as a doornail. His faith over ruled his circumstances. Do your circumstances rule your faith or does your faith rule your circumstances
- We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV)
Consider Paul’s life in light of passages of Scripture.
- And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7 ESV)
- Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, (Eph 3:20 NIV)
- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Eph 1:3 ESV)
Is God’s word shaping you or do you base your life on your circumstances.
*He didn’t doubt the goodness of God.* He did not question the character of God. Our circumstances get bad and suddenly God is incompetent. Paul saw all those wonderful things about God can still be true and you suffer. Life is not about getting what we want. It is about honoring God. See his worth and excellency and saying I will live for that even if my life falls apart.
Moms: Becoming a parent is hard. You are going to go through hard times in life because you love that person. A decision to disciple bringing you into a life of suffering. Paul suffered because he cared. Some moms have lost kids. It hurts. Not it used to hurt. It hurts. We trust in Christ because we believe Jesus is able to deliver us from all these hurts. He can save us. Let the word shape your hurts, your hopes, your losses.
Returns to Antioch.
v27 “they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”
Praise God that people heard the message they were speaking. Praise God people were convicted of their wrongs. Praise God that they were able to appoint elders. That is a big thing for a church to have leadership that will sustain it. Elders are to be able to teach, able to understand sound doctrine, rebuke those who stray from it.
Paul planted churches. This is what he did. Pattern of advancing the gospel that is given in Acts is that churches were planted.
These great milestones are happening, but they are not out of the woods yet. Church is not a building but just an assembly of people. Nothing stable about these toddler churches. Much to be seen about these people and these churches. Would they stand, walk, run, or collapse and fall. Don’t know. But they are telling all that God did. Not that he needs to do. Not that he didn’t do.
Enjoy where you are at. Enjoy grace. There is always one more thing to do. 1 Thess 5:16 “Give thanks always!”
Paul is and I wonder if he had healed from being stoned. Is he open wounds or scars, chipped teeth? Not complaining about what God had not done.
Celebrate. It is an expression of faith and gratitude. When this disappears so does hope. We begin to drift not because we are passive but because we actively choose not to see the work of God. Celebrating is an act of faith.
Have people in your life that you are celebrating with. And celebrating spiritual victories. Do you have people excited about who you have shared the gospel with? Who has come to church? Who has been healed? Who has abandoned their idols? A lot of Chrisitans wouldn’t be that interested in this. Be a good citizen! That is the measure of success. Don’t endanger yourself for others. Don’t inconvenience yourself for others.
Reflect with others on what God has done. Robin Williams said “I used to think the worst thing in the world was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in the world is to end up with people who make you think you are all alone.”
People could have avoided Paul. Don’t get me in trouble. I am not going to end up like that. You’re going to celebrate those tottering churches???
Don’t act like something you are. But don’t act like God hasn’t worked. The one who helps that toddler church stand up is the same one who is going to guide it through the wilderness.
Are you celebrating? Share what you are thankful for. Share how God has worked. Teens sharing about grateful for in Covid.
Get with others who know Jesus is alive, who know he has worked, is working and will continue working. Celebrate. Yes, there is much to be done. But stop and give thanks!
I don’t know struggles you have.
Trust in Jesus and follow him. Conversion is not just a profession of faith but a way of life. A life of trusting in Jesus and following him. You have a Savior and good news that is worth taking risks for. That is worth conforming your life to and is worth celebrating even when things don’t go your way.
Faith makes it possible to persevere, to follow God’s word, to celebrate. When faith goes these go. But you also need to cultivate faith.