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Overcoming Discouragement | Sunday Message (with Jonathan Laurie)

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
March 27, 2022 3:00 am

Overcoming Discouragement | Sunday Message (with Jonathan Laurie)

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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March 27, 2022 3:00 am

We know life isn't without difficulties. But the world is not our final home. In this Sunday episode, discover how to let the Bible be your guide in times of struggle. Listen in as Pastor Jonathan Laurie reveals three ways to overcome discouragement from the life of the apostle Paul.

Notes

Paul was a man of conviction and character; he was in submission to his Lord Jesus. 

Paul was the right man for the job. 

Paul had grit. He was unwavering. 

How to overcome discouragement:

Obedience 

Serving others

Sharing our hope

God’s revealed will is found in scripture: 

It is not if we will suffer, but when we will suffer. 

It is also what we will do with our sufferings. 

The greatest thing we can do with our suffering is to use it for God’s glory. 

Paul served people because Jesus laid that foundation. 

Paul went from a persecutor of the church to being persecuted for the church. 

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Scripture Referenced

Acts 9:15–16

1 Thessalonians 4:3 

Luke 9:23 

1 Peter 2:15 

Ephesians 5:15–20

1 Peter 4:19

1 Peter 4:1–3

Matthew 20:28

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Hey there, thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners. I'm Greg Laurie, encouraging you.

If you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org. And today we are going to be looking at Acts chapter 21 and 22. My message title, if you would like to take notes, it's a good idea to do that, is overcoming discouragement. Overcoming discouragement. A few years ago, I was out swimming on a pretty good sized day. There's some good waves, good sized waves out there. And this particular day, I decided I wasn't going to go and body surf or surf like I normally did. I was going to go and take out my camera. I have a camera that has a water housing that it goes inside of.

And I decided I was going to go take my camera rig out there and get some cool photos of some barrels and some surfers and stuff. And for those of you that have ever gone and swam with one of these water housings, you know just how cumbersome they are. It's really difficult to get out there. And so especially when the waves are big, it's interesting because the camera rig, the housing, it's really heavy. And so when you're swimming with it out of the water, it's heavy and it's kind of difficult to swim with. Because under the water, it's extremely buoyant. So it's actually not wanting to go very deep. So it's buoyant. So you've got that going. And then it is the exact opposite of being hydrodynamic. This thing is shaped like a cinder block. Okay, so it's hard to swim with.

Okay, just leave it at that. And this day, as I was kind of out taking photos, you kind of have to be in an interesting area to take photos and be close to where the waves breaking. So you kind of have to put yourself in the danger zone a little bit. And as I was taking photos, I noticed that on the shore, there was a girl that looked like she was getting ready to come out and swim into the surf. And right away, I knew this girl had no business coming out into the ocean this day in particular. She wasn't wearing any fins, which is her red flag. She wasn't wearing the right kind of bathing suit. She looked like she was just going for a dip. And you know, she probably didn't know a whole lot about the ocean.

But I see her kind of waft and wade her way into the water, get to about waist deep. And I just know that this is going to be trouble. And so I actually started calling out to her like, hey, hey, you need to go in. The waves are really big today. You need to go in.

You're not suited for this. And now I obviously am risking looking like a jerk here, right? Like, oh, I'm judging this girl's ability to swim. The fact is lifeguards, you guys that are lifeguards and anybody that lives over in Hawaii or where there's big surf, you know that you have to do this. You have to size up somebody's ability to go into the ocean because the fact is they're putting themselves and others in danger. And so sure enough, this girl, she doesn't listen to what I'm saying.

She probably thinks I'm just some jerk guy, you know, trying to make her feel bad. Well, sure enough, she comes out and she's now I'm seeing her and she's swimming out into the surf zone and she's dog paddling. OK, this is not this is not good. There's rip currents out there. It's sucking people way out.

You've got to be able to fight and get your way in. And I see her swimming to an area where I know that there's some rocks and they also know where there's some some submerged stuff underwater that she is just in a bad spot. And so I start, you know what, I don't care anymore. I'm swimming over tour and I'm like, I'm going to really tell her, hey, you need to go in. I'm not trying to be me.

This is not safe for you. And so I knew that she was in over her head. So I swam over to her and as I'm swimming over tour, a set on the horizon stacks up and it starts coming through and I go, oh, boy, this is going to be bad. Sure enough, right as I get is, you know, maybe about 10 feet away from her. The wave breaks right on top of her head, pushes her down. She you know, I pop up right away because I dive down properly and I come up the back. I don't see her. And then she pops up about six seconds later, about 30 yards further in towards the towards the beach. And at this time I realized, OK, I think she learned her lesson.

She is now walking back in very defeated, going back to shore. But I don't know about you, but sometimes we know something that is not obvious to other people. It's easy for us to to sometimes see something that others are not seeing. And it's hard to communicate that.

Honestly, I don't really care if that thing is really important. I don't care if I'm coming off polite because if I'm trying to shove you out of the way of a speeding car, get out of the road. There's a train coming, get out, you know, get off the train tracks, get out of the middle of the road.

There's a car flying by. I don't care if you think I'm a jerk in the moment. I want to save your life.

I want to help you because you can't be mad at me if you aren't alive, for starters. Right. And so when we see people doing something that we know they shouldn't be doing, it can be hard. It can be hard to say things the right way. It can be hard to let them know you're trying to look out for their best interests. Sometimes we know something to be 100 percent true and that is not obvious to other people. And to them, what we are saying makes absolutely no sense. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever experienced that you know something that is true and you're sharing it with somebody that they don't know it to be true and they don't really believe you and there's not really anything that you can say to make them believe? Let me rephrase that.

How many of you are parents? Right. Don't touch the stove, son. It's hot. You're going to burn yourself.

Reaches a hand towards the stove. They want to experience it for themselves. Sometimes you can't prevent that. Well, that sentiment of knowing that you know that you know that you know was experienced by the apostle Paul in our text today. The apostle Paul, in my opinion, is the greatest example of a Christian ever recorded. Oh, without question, in my opinion. I think that he's just he is the man, the adversity he faced, the challenges that he went through, the boldness and the grit and the toughness that he had and showcased to everybody around him. He is a remarkable man, no question. He was a man of conviction.

He was a man of character. He was a man ultimately in submission to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In our book that we're studying and been going over for the last few months, the Book of Acts, the chapters 13 to 28, over half of the book is primarily focused on the ministry, the conversion and the life of the apostle Paul. It talks about his three missionary journeys, his ministry companions, the miracles God did through him, the reception of the gospel to these pagan wicked cities that Paul preached in.

It was clear that Paul was the right man for the job. Jesus' words to Ananias when Paul was converted in Acts chapter nine, Jesus himself said these words to Ananias. He said, go to Paul for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and to the children of Israel.

For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. Paul, he suffered a lot. He did a lot of crazy things. He experienced a lot of crazy things, but he did it for God's glory and he did it because he was in submission to Jesus.

And so now as we move into Acts 21 and what we're going to see is that Paul's ability to travel across the ancient world as a free man would soon be coming to a close. And it wasn't because he was ambushed, but it's because he was faithful to the call that Lord Jesus had placed upon him and the Holy Spirit had given to him. That is why Paul was ultimately arrested. He was being obedient to God.

It's not because there was a riot that took place. It wasn't because he went and preached something that people didn't agree with. It's because he was being obedient to Jesus as he went to Jerusalem. And we will see that Paul was obedient, even if it meant imprisonment, even if it meant beatings, even if it meant persecution and certain death. And so let's read together in Acts chapter 21, starting in verse one. Let me give you a quick verse for context as we jump in here in Acts 20 verse 16. It says that Paul decided to set sail on past Ephesus for he didn't want to spend any more time in the province of Asia. He was hurrying, we are told, to get to Jerusalem, if possible, in time for the festival of Pentecost. Okay, so now we know Paul is heading to Jerusalem.

And so we pick the story up in Acts 21, starting in verse one. And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Kos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patera. And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. And when we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we sailed to Syria and landed it higher, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days, and through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem, verse five. And when our days there were ended, we departed, and we went on our journey. And they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another.

Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home. Let's pick the story up, skip down to verse 10 with me here. We now see that Paul left Tyre, and he went to Ptolemais, and then Caesarea by the sea, and that's where we see him now in verse 10.

While we were staying there in Caesarea for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And he came to us, and he took Paul's belt, and he bound his own feet in his hands. And he said, 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. Wow, when we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go to Jerusalem. And Paul answered, What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am not only ready to be imprisoned, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Wow, let's pause there. I want to read to you a more modern interpretation, a modern translation of Paul's words here. He was challenged by Agabus, told by Agabus and the believers there, If you go to Jerusalem, you are facing certain imprisonment, and you will be handed over to the Gentiles. Paul said, Why all this hysteria?

Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? Listen, you're looking at this all backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the master Jesus does through my obedience. Can't you see that? Here we see Paul's conviction on display. We see his obedience to his CEO, his commanding officer on display. We see that he is listening.

He is willing to do whatever it takes to be obedient to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Now, in times past, when we saw determination, we saw courage, we saw bravery, we saw guts, we saw dedication in the face of adversity. We had a word for that.

And I think we've kind of lost that somewhat today. That word is grit. Grit. Paul had grit. He was unwavering. He had an enlistment from the Lord Jesus himself, and Paul was not about to shrink back from it. He knew what faced him in Jerusalem, but he also knew that he wanted to be obedient to his Lord.

I've often read this passage and just been blown away by Paul's ability to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. This, you know, Paul being called to go back to Jerusalem and to go there, it would be like us feeling called by God to go to Iran right now and to go preach to all of the political leaders in Iran in their, you know, in their political offices, okay? That would probably not be a great idea for us to go there and do that because we're going to be attacked. We're going to be imprisoned.

We're going to be persecuted for our faith. I think if you and I felt that way, we would probably just associate that. We would conclude that what that feeling actually was was maybe like a bad breakfast burrito or something. You know, I'm going to just chalk that one up to food poisoning, right?

I don't think that's for me. Now, while I don't want the Holy Spirit to lead me into persecution, into the face of hardship, I've got to say I'm so attracted to how Paul is so clearly in tune with God's Spirit and God's will for his life. And this brings us to our first point today. Number one, obedience. Number one, obedience. Paul's life was filled with suffering. It was filled with suffering.

It was filled with beatings and imprisonment. He was abandoned. He was rejected.

He was slandered. He had multiple murder attempts made on his life. And so how did Paul overcome suffering? How did Paul overcome discouragement, our message title today? Number one, he was obedient.

Obedience. Let me read to you verses 22 to 24 in Acts 20. We see a little snapshot, a little insight into Paul's mindset here.

We read this. There is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. Now, I'm not completely in the dark about what will happen to me when I get there, Paul says.

I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there is suffering and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little, the apostle says. What matters most to me is to finish what God started. The job that Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God. Wow. Paul says it matters little.

It matters little. Paul was a man on a mission. He knew suffering was in store, but that didn't deter him.

That didn't discourage when he wanted to be obedient to his master. And so we see Paul being directed by the Holy Spirit in a very specific way, in a very clear way. And we ask ourselves, how do we, like Paul, experience the same thing?

How do we experience direction? How do we experience that resolve, that grit that the apostle had so clearly? In a word, obedience.

We are to be obedient. Now, we think that Paul is some kind of spiritual robot, right? Just this spiritual juggernaut able to just go and accomplish all that God had set before him. Not experiencing any emotion or doubt or concern.

But we know that this is actually not true. Paul experienced tremendous discouragement. He experienced depression.

He experienced all kinds of emotions. But Paul chose to not submit to himself or to his emotions or to outside influences. He chose to submit to his Lord Jesus. We see that throughout the Bible, God has a plan for our lives. He has a purpose for our lives. He has a will, a desire for our lives that is truly the best thing for us, just as he did for the apostle Paul thousands of years ago. You know, so often as a pastor, I receive questions from people. And one of the primary questions I get asked from people is, is this God's will for my life? What should I do here?

What is God's will for my life? Who should I marry? Should I take this job out of state and pick up my family and leave? Should I move? Should I sell my house right now?

Should my wife and I try, you know, in vitro fertilization? Where should I live? When is the right time to try and buy a house? Is this a good time to buy a car? What's God's will? Four-wheel drive or Prius? I think right now would probably be a good time to be a Prius owner with gas prices.

In and out or Chick-fil-A? People ask all kinds of questions. They really do want to know, what is God's will for my life? How do I know the specific will of God in my life? These are all super important questions, honestly. But I would say to you that before God reveals his specific will for your life, you need to make sure you are following the revealed will of God in your life.

The revealed will of God, which is found all over his word, all over the Bible. Think of it this way. If you are in a parking lot and you punch in the destination of where you're going on your phone and your maps app and you're trying to get to your destination, get some navigation, as you're driving to somewhere you don't know how to get to, one of the first things that your phone will tell you to do is get to a road. Get to a road. And then once you get to a road, it will tell you which way to turn. It can't tell you what's in the parking lot because a lot of times your maps app doesn't know what's in the parking lot. It's not going to tell you, oh, drive straight for 500 feet. You might drive into the grocery store.

So it's saying usually get to a road. And that's kind of like what God does with us. Hey, before I reveal my specific will for your life, you need to get to a road. Get to a road of God's general revealed will, which is found in scripture. I've compiled a couple of really quick ones that will help you know what is God's will for your life here. Here's a few.

We'll put these up on the screen. It says this, 1 Thessalonians 4, 3, For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality. Luke 9, 23, Jesus said, If anyone would come up after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 1 Peter 2, 15, For this is the will of God, that by doing good, you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Ephesians 5, 15 to 20 says, Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and in everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are just a few quick examples of what God's will is for your life revealed in scripture. You want to know what God's unique will is for you, who you should marry, what kind of car you should drive, where you should go to college, et cetera. Make sure you're following the revealed will of God in scripture. That's what the apostle Paul did.

Let me read this last one to you that might shake your world up a little bit. 1 Peter 4 19, Therefore, let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful creator while doing so. Trust God while you suffer. I know there are some that are watching now that are suffering. You are experiencing suffering. You are going through something difficult. And I know that there are some who would like to know what is the secret to avoid all suffering, right? All hardship, all difficulty, all pain. I don't want to experience those things. I don't want to go through that. What can I do to never have that in my life? Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but I've come to believe that suffering is part of God's will for your life.

That's right. I believe that suffering is part of God's plan for our lives. You see, suffering, it purifies us. It leads us closer to God. It removes all other options from the table when we are looking for a leaf because your investments in the stock market, the car you drive, how much money you have in the bank, your college education, your wife's beauty, that drug experience you maybe are looking forward to, all of those things will not bring you hope when you are facing true suffering. They may give you relief.

They may give you distraction for a moment, but so quickly it is clear they are not the answer. So our prayer should not be that God would prevent us from suffering because we just read that suffering is part of God's will in 1 Peter 4 19. No, our prayer needs to be that God would give us a purpose in our suffering. Our prayer needs to be that God would be near to us in our suffering and he would give us the endurance, the faith, the strength, and the perspective to endure suffering. Peter said in 1 Peter 4, 1 to 3, since Jesus went through everything that you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning away from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.

This is good stuff. And then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. I love this verse right here. You've already put in your time in that God ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and prolificate life.

Now it's the time to be done with it for good. I know that that verse was for somebody there. Think of your sufferings as a weaning away from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Yes, suffering can be a tool. Suffering can be part of God's will for our lives. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 5, we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us for while we were still weak at the right time, Christ died for us.

So it's clear that it is not if we will suffer, but when we will suffer and what we will do with our sufferings. I read a book a while back about a gentleman. His name was Victor Frankel, and the book's title is Man's Search for Meaning. Now, Frankel was not a believer. He was not a Christian, but he did believe in God. He was a Jew. And what makes his story so unique and interesting is that Frankel was a Jew in Nazi Germany during World War Two.

And being a Jew, he was sent away to the concentration camp, Auschwitz, where thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered just because they were Jewish, just because of their bloodline. And Frankel reported many of the things that he experienced and many of the things that he saw firsthand as a psychiatrist, as a doctor. And he reported on a number of them talking about how suffering had an effect on mankind and what it did, this horrific suffering. And he said this, and I quote, We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life, even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Wow, that's really profound. I would concur with Dr. Frankel, and I would add that when we place our hope in God and not look at our suffering as something to escape or to endure, but to grow from and to help others in spite of, that is when our suffering ceases to be suffering and that weight becomes a wing. The greatest thing we can do with our suffering is to glorify God with it. In the midst of our suffering, in the midst of our pain, glorify God in that time. You can use it as a catalyst for tremendous spiritual growth, as a bridge to speak of your hope when your non-believing co-workers ask you, how are you dealing with the cancer of your husband? How are you dealing with the disability of a child to speak of true hope that God gives you will blow people out of the water? And this is not something that you're going to have to manufacture and pretend, oh yeah, God, you know, this is great. Everything's great. My life is so happy and I have these terrible things happening to me.

No, of course not. But God is going to give you what you need in those times. We're told in scripture that God is near to the broken hearted. You better believe that those who are experiencing those things, experiencing those hardships, God is there with you and you will not have to fake anything. You will be able to speak out of a deep well of experience and spiritual truth and you'll be able to share that with people.

That's not something you're going to have to manufacture. And as you do that, it is going to bless you in return, being obedient to what God has called you to, to speak of the true hope that God gives you. Suffering reminds us of three things, three things that can be an encouragement to us. When we are going through suffering, it reminds us the state of our fallen world. It reminds us the state of our fallen world, that this world is not our home.

This world is in fact going to come to a end someday. It reminds us that God is working in us. Suffering is an opportunity for spiritual growth. God is working in us.

And lastly, the world is not our final home. Suffering reminds us of these things. Paul says in Romans 8 18, for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. So number one, if you want to overcome difficulty, if you want to overcome suffering, number one, be obedient. Be obedient to what God has given to you.

To overcome discouragement, we ought to be obedient to God and committed to God as our foundation. Let's continue reading in verse 19, Acts 21. Paul has now come to Jerusalem. He's met with the leaders in the church there in Jerusalem.

And we see that we pick our story up here in verse 19. He says after greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, you see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.

And they are all zealous for the law. And here's where it gets a little bit discouraging again for Paul. He just reported all these amazing things. He just talked about the work that God did across the ancient world. And yes, they celebrated with them, but it was also mixed with a concern. Verse 21. And they've been told about you and all you teach the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses. Telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.

What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have found four men who are under a vow.

Take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads. Thus, all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but what you yourself also live in observance of the law. So what happened here was there was a false rumor that had spread about Paul. This warm reception that Paul was given by the church leaders in Jerusalem headed up by James, the very half brother of Jesus. They praised God for what had happened and they were blown away to hear these wonderful reports. Now Paul, he would have been meticulous in his report.

He would have been meticulous in his account of all that God had done all over the world. And Paul also brought with him a sizable gift, an offering taken up from all the churches to bring back to the believers in Jerusalem. But Paul's warm reception, as I mentioned, was mixed with concern. A heretical group who Paul calls the Judaizers had spread false rumors about Paul that he was telling the Jewish people abroad that they no longer had to follow the teachings of Moses. That they no longer should follow the customs of the Jewish people and they no longer had to adhere to the ritual vows of the Jewish faith. Observing feasts, following Sabbath regulations, dietary restrictions, circumcision. Now while this was not Paul's message, he definitely did not preach against those things.

He had a larger goal. He wanted to preach the whole gospel to the whole world. The Judaizers convinced back in Jerusalem, the new Christians, the Jewish believers there, and many of those that were in the church, that Paul was an enemy of the faith and that Paul was a heretic and he needed to be stopped. Now the church leadership in Jerusalem, they knew these rumors were false and so they were trying to find a solution here. So they decided, Paul, the way that you could prove to everybody that you are not this man, that they're saying that you are, you are not a heretic, you are not saying to stop doing these things.

Here's the solution. Go into the temple, present an offering to the temple priest for the four men that were completing their Nazarite vow and show your respect for these rituals and customs. This is exactly what Paul talked about when he says in 1 Corinthians 9 20, to the Jews, I have become a Jew in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I become as one under the law, though not being myself under the law, that I might win those under the law. I do it all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them in its blessing. Paul was being all things to all men. He was being a servant and doing what the church leadership had asked him to do. And that brings us to point number two, serving others.

That is what the apostle Paul did here to overcome discouragement. He served others. He was serving others.

He did this thing that he didn't feel convicted about doing, that he didn't feel he needed to do. But he catered to the weaker believers and he catered to these people and had to prove himself. And so he served the church by doing this. Paul knew he was no longer under the old Jewish covenant that God had made with the people.

He no longer had to follow the dietary restrictions and attend the feasts and all that. But he served the spiritually weaker believers by going with them. It was not sinful for Paul to go do these things, but it was no longer necessary. It was likely that the believers in Jerusalem would have seen Paul as unclean ceremonially as well, because he'd been around Gentiles for so long. And so Paul's desire for humility and unity allowed him to be the bigger person here. And he purified himself and he paid for the men completing their vows and offered a sacrifice. Paul served people because Jesus laid that foundation. Paul went the extra mile because Jesus modeled this so clearly.

In Matthew 20 Jesus says, The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as ransom for many. When we face discouragement, when we face these things like Paul was having our name slandered, having our reputation marred, one of the ways we can overcome that, overcome that discouragement, overcome that suffering is, like the Apostle Paul and like Jesus, serve others, to serve others. You know, being a pastor at a local church and meeting so many people, I've gotten to know some pretty amazing individuals. I got to know one woman in particular who had gone through cancer and was going through chemotherapy, and her name was Wanda Fletcher. And I tell you what, she was one of the most powerful witnesses for Jesus I think I've ever met.

The second time that she got cancer, it ended up taking her life at far too young of an age. But Wanda was an evangelist and she was an encourager, and you couldn't keep her from doing either of those things. When she was receiving chemotherapy, the nurses coming in to tend to her and help get the IV in her arm and all that stuff, she would be witnessing to them, talking about her hope in Jesus, talking about what she learned in church that weekend, inviting them to church, praying for them, holding them by the hand, not letting them go until she could ask them a question and pray for them. And she led a number of people while she was going through chemotherapy to Jesus, and they showed up at her funeral never meeting anybody else in her family and just knowing that Wanda had passed and telling us and telling everybody there what Wanda had done. And it was just so clear, this woman, Wanda, she had just the spirit of Jesus inside of her. She loved people, she loved to be an encouragement, and she loved to share her faith. Recently I came upon an email from Wanda, which she wrote in 2013, two years before she went to be with the Lord.

And she wrote this to my dad, and I read it to you. And she says, Greg, what a joy it is to wake up and know that God has blessed me with another day. And you also, because my devotional has arrived, speaking of his daily devotion he sends out. Greg, thank you for staying strong in the truth of God's word. This is Pastor's Appreciation Week, and I am so thankful that you follow his word and are a wonderful leader of your flock.

I have no need to go church shopping or hopping. I praise my Lord for the gift of you, Kathy, Jonathan, and your extended family. Greg, it was so great to go with Jonathan this last week to Skid Row on Saturday. He did a wonderful job sharing with all of us. I love that young man, and thank you and Kathy for him.

He is so patient with me. Have a wonderful blessed day. Thanks for caring and sharing and going the extra mile for all of us. Here's an example of a woman who's going through suffering. She was hurting. She had to use a cane and a walker everywhere.

That didn't stop her from getting around on Skid Row, this crazy area with people and drugs and all kinds of things surrounded by darkness, going around, letting her light so shine before men. She was praying for people, laying hands on people. People are looking at her. They're like, you need to be sitting down.

You shouldn't be doing this. She's like, oh, you can't stop me. She loved it. She loved to share Jesus. I'll be running around in the church sometimes on Sundays, kind of making a beeline, trying to get to somewhere, something, you know, had to be done.

And so I'd be shooting from one place to another. And she would call to me from across the building. She would say, Jonathan, Jonathan. And I go, oh, there's Wanda. I look over. Hey, Wanda. And she goes, I love you.

That's what you stopped me for. And now I look back and I'm so thankful that she did do that. She did love me and she loved everybody she came into contact with. And I just love the idea that now she's in heaven worshipping Jesus. And I can just see Jesus walking from one side of heaven to the other. She's calling out to Jesus.

Jesus, Jesus, I love you. And she does. She loves Jesus. And I'm thankful for people like Wanda because in the midst of their suffering, in the midst of their pain and their hardship, they want to be an encouragement to others.

They want to serve others. They want to tell others about Jesus and ultimately her hope in Jesus. And now Wanda is with Jesus. And so Paul, he was an encouragement. He took the higher road here and he agrees to go into the temple.

And now we see what happens next in verse 27. When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia seeing him in the temple, these were the Jews that literally followed Paul everywhere he went and kind of slandered him and threw him under the bus and caused riots to kind of happen everywhere he went. And so these Jews from Asia saw him in the temple in Jerusalem. And what did they do?

They stirred up the whole crowd just like they had in the past. And 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 in this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place for they had previously seen Trophimus, the Ephesian with him in the city. And they suppose that Paul brought him into the temple. And then all the city was stirred up and the people ran together. They seized Paul.

They dragged him out of the temple and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the Tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. And so we see Paul's in some hot water here.

He's got the whole city worked up into a frenzy, running together, throwing these false accusations out. It was insane, so much so that they were literally beating Paul to death. They were throwing blows at him. They were hitting him. They were kicking him.

They weren't gonna drag him out of the city like they did with Stephen when they drug Stephen out and they stoned Stephen outside of the city gates. No, they were gonna do it right there on the spot in front of everyone. They didn't care who was around, but God intervened. And a commanding officer of the Roman cohort, which basically is a Roman officer in charge of 1,000 Roman soldiers, when he heard what was going on, he came down and he stopped it with all 1,000 Roman soldiers, right?

Spears drawn, swords drawn, whatever, shields, Roman armor glistening. It would have been a sight to see. And there was Paul in the middle of it. This moment right here marks, again, a transition in Paul's ministry. No longer from this point forward would Paul walk the ancient world a free man.

No longer would he be able to go and come as he pleased. From this point on in act, Paul is a prisoner and ultimately headed to Rome to stand trial. But this did not stop Paul and he did not allow it to slow his efforts and sharing the hope that was within him. Paul overcame discouragement and his suffering through serving others. And that's how we too can overcome discouragement and suffering is by serving others. And now we look at Acts chapter 22, starting in verse one.

And this will bring us to our third and final point. Paul begins his address. He asks the Roman cohort if he can address the crowd, the people that are making these accusations against them, the people that are saying that he's a heretic and that he's blaspheming God, these Judaizers, everybody's so up against Paul. And so Paul begins his address.

He agrees and he gets to share. And what does Paul do? He points to Jesus. He says this in Acts 22, starting in verse one.

Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you. And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And Paul said this, I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this way to the death, that is the Christian believers, binding and delivering to prison both men and women as a high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them, I received letters to the brothers and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus about noon, a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And I answered, who are you, Lord? And he said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting. That brings us to our third and final point. Number three, Paul was able to overcome discouragement and adversity and suffering by sharing his hope.

Number three, he shared his hope. Paul begins his response to the false charges of being a heretic and a blasphemer by doing what? By pointing to his personal testimony of what Jesus had done for him. Paul went from a persecutor of the church to being persecuted for the church. His life had been radically changed and he wanted everybody and anybody around to know the hope of Jesus and to know that Jesus could do the same thing for them.

He used his opportunity right here when he should have been making a defense maybe, right? Instead, he talks about his testimony and he uses this chance to share the hope that lied within him. First Peter 3.15 says, Honor Christ the Lord as holy.

Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. And yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. This is exactly what Paul did here. Paul got to share his personal conversion in a very clear way in Acts 22, verse one going all the way to verse 21. We're not gonna have time to read through it today, but Paul shares his testimony with pin drop silence, with total accuracy and eloquence. Everybody there analyzing every word of Paul, every pause that he took, every breath that he had, they analyze it all and they were being critical of it. This was the first time that Paul was able to address a crowd back in his old stomping grounds of Jerusalem, literal stomping grounds. I don't doubt that Paul stomped on some people while he was in Jerusalem, but you've got to admire the boldness of Paul.

You've got to admire his directness, his ability to bring glory to Jesus, even while he was supposed to be defending himself. He asked the Roman court, can I make a defense of myself? Can I say something?

And he says, sure, go ahead. Now, if it was me, I would have gotten up there, you know, listen, you idiots, I'm not the guy that you think that I am. I'm not doing these things. These guys are making it up. These are the heretics.

These are the guys you need to go after. No, Paul doesn't do that. He shares his hope in Jesus. He shares what Jesus had done for him. And so how can we find encouragement in our own testimony? How can we find encouragement?

How can we draw from that? Well, sometimes we need to look back to see what God has done in our lives and recognize that it wasn't us that got us here, but God himself doing a work in us, making us a new creation, conforming us into the image of his own dear son. The reason we can take comfort in that is because in Philippians 1 six, Paul himself says, I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ, knowing that what God has started, he will finish. Listen, this brings great hope to the follower of Jesus Christ. And also sharing with others what Christ has done in planting a seed or having that conversation about Jesus, it brings honor and glory to the Lord. So while you were suffering, while you're going through that difficulty, share the hope that you have in Jesus.

Share with other people. Again, here are the three points that we went through today talking about how to overcome discouragement. Number one, obedience, that we would be obedient to God's will for our lives. Number two, that we would serve others, that we would be the bigger person. We would see others' needs as greater than our own.

Number three, that we would share our hope, our ultimate hope in Jesus Christ. Listen, you can have perspective in your pain. I don't wanna preach that God won't deliver you from your pain because we know that he can.

And he often will do that. He will deliver you from pain. He will deliver you from suffering and sickness and so forth. But honestly, I've read the Bible too much to believe that God doesn't have a purpose for us in our suffering. I believe that God's will for us is suffering in varying capacities. It doesn't mean that it's the reason for your suffering just so you can grow, but I do believe that it is the meaning of it. As we read in Romans 8.28, Paul says, we know that God works together all things for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his own dear son so that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Listen, that is what Paul is talking about here. God taking something bad and working it together for the ultimate good. He works all things together for good. Good things, bad things, neutral things. He works all of these things together for the ultimate good for the follower of Jesus Christ.

And also in Jeremiah 29.11 where it says, I know the thoughts that I have toward you says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope. So listen, you may want to avoid all suffering. You may want to avoid all pain and affliction.

And listen, who doesn't? Everybody wants to avoid those things if possible. But I don't believe that that's always in the cards for us. I believe that suffering is part of God's plan for our lives and the question we need to ask ourselves is what will we do with it? Not why, why God, why. It's okay to ask God why, just don't expect an answer. What we need to instead ask ourselves is what.

What should I do with this as a result? What can I do with my pain? And as you find that purpose for your pain, as you find that purpose for your suffering, you're going to find God's nearness. You're gonna find yourself glorifying God, following those three points, being obedient to God's will, serving others, sharing our hope in Jesus, that is going to help you endure these trials and go through these things. And so as we close our service now and this message comes to an end, I just want to say that if there's some of you that may be watching and you're so fearful of suffering, you're fearful of the things that can happen around you, things that could happen to your family and you just feel so vulnerable, listen, you're not alone.

You're not alone in this. Of course we are fearful of a family member getting sick, we're fearful of something horrible happening in our lives, but listen, that is the hope of the Christian, is that beyond this life there will be a beautiful family reunion, a heavenly reunion where we will see Jesus face to face. We will have our bodies made whole. Everybody that's sick will be made well. There will be no Alzheimer's, there will be no cancer, there will be no death or disease or disabilities.

Everybody will have their perfect and new bodies and most importantly, Jesus is going to be there and we're gonna get to see him face to face. That is the hope for the believer. For those of you who haven't put your faith in Christ, I'm not sure what to tell you. I don't know what your hope is. I don't think that there is any hope in the things that this world has to offer, but I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that if you put your faith in Christ, you will find the hope that you are looking for.

You will find the perspective that you need to face these things and not just face them and get through them, but to conquer them and to grow from them and to help others in spite of them. And so listen, if you'd like to put your faith in Jesus Christ today, I would love to extend that invitation to you right here, right now. You can have the hope of heaven in this moment.

No kidding. All you have to do is call upon the name of the Lord. Make him your Lord and your savior, your master. You're subservient to his will, you're obedient to what he has called you to do.

That's what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. So if you'd like to do that, I'd love to lead you in a prayer. You can pray this wherever you're at, watching at home on your computer, driving to work in your car, wherever you might be, you can pray this prayer.

Just pray this and mean it in your heart. Dear God, I know I'm a sinner, but I know Jesus is the savior who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. I make him my master, I make him my Lord, I make him my savior, and I turn from my sin now and I turn to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit from this moment forward.

In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this podcast. To learn more about Harvest Ministries, follow this show and consider supporting it. Just go to harvest.org. And to find out how to know God personally, go to harvest.org and click on Know God.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-15 02:48:59 / 2023-05-15 03:09:29 / 21

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