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Trouble ... Again!

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
July 11, 2023 12:00 am

Trouble ... Again!

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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July 11, 2023 12:00 am

What was the first disagreement recorded in Church history? More importantly, how should we respond to division in the body today? Watch the full-length version, or read Stephen's manuscript here:


Can you imagine what this servant godly leadership meant to Greek born widows who were hungry and neglected and lonely? It was much more than money and food. It was compassion. It was love. It was care.

It was ministry. And James would write, pure religion and undefiled before the Father is to care for who? The widows and the orphans. So the question is not how much experience do you have in serving widows and their needs, but how much of you does the Holy Spirit possess? The early church faced occasional problems just like every group of people. You've likely had to deal with issues in the groups that you're part of. One of the issues for the early church that we have recorded for us in scripture is how to properly deal with widows in the church.

They needed some help in doing that well. God wants his people to care for the widows in their midst and today we explore the biblical model for how that was to happen. This is Wisdom for the Heart and Stephen Davey has a lesson for you from the book of Acts entitled, Trouble Again.

Here's Stephen with today's lesson. Chapter 6 where we'll continue with our series through the biography of the world's first church. We've already read in chapter 2 how 3,000 believed and were added to their number. In verse 42 we learned that more and more people were being added daily. One evidently was keeping a close count. By the time you reach chapter 5 verse 14 we're told that there are exactly 5,000 men and we're not told how many women or children.

In chapter 6 we discover the number is multiplied and by the time you get to verse 7 we read that it's being multiplied greatly. They're regularly meeting in the temple during this time. It's huge corridors and canopies with its stone structure. It would have made a wonderful meeting place for the believers as they gathered no doubt by now spilling out into the porticoes and onto the porches. I can only imagine the irritation of the Sanhedrin as they recognize that no matter what they try to do they just can't stop this movement from growing. And now the temple has become congested. They can't even get into their offices without having to tiptoe through prayer meetings and as they're offering sacrifices they're hearing the preaching of the cross of Christ echo down the corridors. Well for the most part in chapter 6 their hands are tied but what we're about to discover this morning is the church's ability to destroy itself. While the church has faced persecution bravely and corruption purely we now come face to face with the very first recorded episode of dissension and disunity.

And let's take a look at how they handle it. Notice verse 1. Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number a complaint arose.

I want to stop there for a moment and suggest you follow along in your study notes provided. We're going to give several principles that I think are ageless from this text and here's the first one and it's very encouraging frankly. It's this that vibrant effective growing churches are not immune to problems. This church here is not even six months old and there's already a problem there's complaining the Greek word for complaint is the word for murmuring or muttering people in our own culture if we translated this into our culture would be talking about it in the parking lot they'd be muttering about it over Sunday dinner telephones would be ringing and people would be saying if you heard about the problem let me let me tell you about it added to your prayer list that's why I'm calling you so you can pray about it. Now don't misunderstand here the complaint that they had was serious and it was legitimate and I'm going to describe it in a moment but if anybody ever says you know what we need to do is get back to the first century church.

Usually what they mean by that is we need to get back to a time where everybody knew everybody and everything was peachy keen. But may I remind you that this church of some twenty thousand people crammed into the temple square for celebration filtering into hundreds of homes during the week was too large for anybody to hardly know anybody and on top of that their leaders had already had scrapes with the law and now had criminal records. They've already had the death of two hypocrites in the middle of a service and now a huge section of the body is disgruntled and hurt. The appropriate attitude is this this church was exciting it was courageous it was growing it was vibrant and it had its own unique share of growing pains like every church does. So the principle could be reworked to say strong leadership and a committed membership do not guarantee the absence of problems.

I find that encouraging. Now let's take a look at the complaint. A complaint arose on the part of Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. Now this is a serious problem that has to be addressed no doubt.

It was serious because of a number of things and while it may seem a small thing to provide a remedy you need to understand that it goes much deeper than what you might think at first reading. A man by the name of William Barkley sets the stage in context he writes these words listen in the synagogue there was a routine custom. Two collectors went around the market and the private houses every Friday morning and made a collection for the needy partly in money and partly in goods. Later in the day this was distributed it is clear that the Christian church had taken over this same custom. Now here's the problem there are two kinds if we could call it two kinds of Jews in the early church. Your text names them as Hellenistic Jews and Hebrews or literally Palestinian Jews.

Now follow this and you'll understand the volatility of the problem. The Hebrews or the Palestinian Jews were descendants of the faithful Jews who years earlier had left Babylon under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah and they'd come back to rebuild Jerusalem to its original glory in fact to a greater glory. They were committed to the Hebrew scriptures in fact they read the Hebrew Bible and they spoke Hebrew in Aramaic. The Hellenistic Jews were descended from Jews who had chosen not to return to Palestine but perhaps for business reasons or enterprise or whatever they had sort of blended into the Greek culture and they had also sort of absorbed some of that Greek culture into their lifestyle.

In fact according to Hebrew writings known as the Talmud they referred often to these Hellenists as second-class Israelites as tainted Jews. Well now at Passover Hellenistic Jews flock to Jerusalem to celebrate from Passover to Pentecost and we studied how many of those Jews came from other nations and you remember when Peter and the others stood and they spoke in those previously unlearned languages and all of those languages and those were languages of Jews from other nations. Many of them believed and many of them decided to stay behind they wanted to be part and parcel of this phenomenal work of God and so they stayed in Jerusalem having believed and been baptized. Now in the early months these who stayed and those who had already lived there discovered that just because you're a Christian doesn't mean that centuries of prejudice are automatically erased and they're looking at each other kind of sideways in the assembly. The issue here had the potential of splitting the church and destroying its testimony. David Jeremiah writes these interesting words he says trouble in the church always travels faster than triumph.

You notice that? And discord is a disgrace to any church. It is a terrible witness that the Church of Jesus Christ, follow this, which is supposed to have the power to change the world cannot even solve its own problems and maintain its own unity. Well by God's grace and the wisdom of those in the body the problem will be averted but for now let me suggest another principle that comes from this text to our culture. Unity can be achieved in spite of diversity including racial diversity.

We still have that challenge today. When I was in Japan a year or so ago I talked with our missionaries who told me the struggle they're having in their church between the Japanese and the Chinese. Because of the war they experienced between those two nations generations ago there's still trouble and they're facing difficulty in absorbing both Chinese and Japanese into their fellowship. In our culture obviously the racial divide is between black and white. While the church ought to be modeling love and service between black and white and yellow and red and brown and whatever else.

It often mirrors the world's standoffishness. You know we'll keep others at an arm's length. We as a church ought to model the truth of scripture and I have said it before in relation to the race issue and I'll say it again. If you're white in this church and you have problem with a black individual sitting next to you or someone of another race and you may not even be sure what that race happens to be but it doesn't seem to be Euro-Caucasian descent. If you have a problem with them I want you to know they can stay and you can leave.

And all God's people said? In fact we need your seat. Well I'm glad you are in a good mood because I want to move on to some more subtle prejudices.

The Amening might not be so loud but we're off to a good start. What about the unspoken snobbery between the wealthy and the not so wealthy? Between the white collar and the blue collar? What about when you pull into the parking lot? You know you have the Mercedes Benz Lexus owner and the much more spiritually discerning Ford pickup truck owner. And all you guys who own pickup trucks it's not right for you to look down on all those other people.

Well there's a problem also with the wealthy and the not so wealthy, those who buy their clothes from places like Hudson Belk when they're not even on sale. Can you imagine doing that? And you come in and you slip in and sit beside somebody who's wearing kind of ordinary stuff. You know there aren't any labels visible. And you don't even introduce yourself.

Well they're not any advantage to me. James wrote that the church had actually developed an usher strategy. James is writing to believers and he says if you see somebody come into the assembly and they're wearing wealthy clothing, he said you have a practice of ushering them to the best seats. The best seats happen to be in the front row which makes me wonder if they were Baptists.

But anyway, they ushered them down to the front. And if you see a man come in with poor clothing or rags, make him stand in the corner or give him a seat in the back and the implication is tell him to keep quiet and hopefully no one will notice that he goes to the church. James writes in chapter 2 verse 9, if you show partiality you commit sin. What an incredible testimony we have here. And we can have to unbelievers in Wake County when we let them know that prejudice doesn't have a place in church.

Which is what they had here because they're about to deal with it. Let's look further. Verse 2, in the Twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, it is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Here's the third ageless principle.

Priorities must be maintained in spite of pressure. I want you to notice verse 3. But select from among you, brethren, men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. I want you to note here that the point is not that this is something less spiritual. There isn't something less spiritual about serving tables. It has nothing to do with preeminence in ministry.

It has everything to do with priority in ministry. And I use the word pressure somewhat cautiously because it isn't emanating from the text. I just happen to believe that the pressure would have been there for the apostles to do something themselves about the problem. In fact, I believe that their natural response might have been to distribute the food themselves.

One commentator I read sort of painted a picture like this. You know, Peter gets up and he says, well, you know what? If we wake up earlier and go to bed later, I think we can do it. John pipes in, yeah, and if we skip lunch and work on Sundays, we can add it to our schedule. And Matthew says, well, you know, if we do all the above, I think we can add the widow's ministry to our plate. I think that's the natural response.

It's a natural thing to want to do it yourself, to solve the problem yourself. But as the church grew here and as the needs grew, the leaders in the church recognized their inability to do it all. I was struck with that application as I was studying in relation to our own church, as our church grows and keeps growing and keeps growing and demands change and you, as a body, have changed wonderfully well. There used to be a time when I visited every new baby in the hospital. I had my picture taken holding the baby.

Great, great time. I visited everybody who went into the hospital for whatever reason. Now that ministry is given to a multitude of caregivers, Sunday school class leaders, deacon, fellowship, individuals. Nowadays the only visits I try to make personally, and I don't make them all of them, are those that are very, very serious. And as a result, I'm really not very welcomed in the hospital. I visited one man a few months ago who was in for a very serious surgery and I walked into the room and he took one look at me and he said, oh, no, not you.

It must be bad. Well, the church is a growing church here in Jerusalem and the priority of ministry must be defined and then followed. And for the apostles it was prayer and it was preaching of the word. Here's another principle, number four, ministry position should be based upon character, not experience. Look at verse five. And the statement found approval with the whole congregation and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, a proselyte from Antioch. By the way, the word select back in verse three, you ought to circle that word.

It literally means to inspect, to examine. They were not asking for the first seven volunteers. It would take deep character. It would take the dominating control of the Holy Spirit to serve people, to be an errand runner for God, to give to others without ever receiving anything in return. But can you imagine what a servant godly leadership meant to Greek-born widows who were hungry and neglected and lonely? It was much more than money and food. It was compassion. It was love. It was care. It was ministry. And James would write pure religion and undefiled before the Father is to care for who?

The widows and the orphans. So the question is not how much experience do you have in serving widows and their needs, but how much of you does the Holy Spirit possess? I was having lunch this past week with a gentleman in our church who travels around the country speaking in conferences and seminars. He's in a different church just about every month. He told me the story of a church on the West Coast that had a need for someone to reach and minister to singles. And there just happened to be a man in the church with his wife who was a plumber. And he had a real heart for singles, and so he just started inviting singles over to his home for lunch after Sunday. And that thing just grew until he didn't have room in his home. And he decided to start a Sunday school class, and he had a unique gift of teaching. And that class grew to nearly 200 singles every Sunday morning, and then over to his home, those that could fit in crammed all over his house into his yard. And it was an incredible ministry, to the point that the church board decided they needed to hire a full-time singles pastor. And after much discussion and dialogue, they decided the man needed to be a seminary graduate. So they fired the plumber, and they hired a man with a degree.

But it happens all the time. You see, the ministry is not a matter of credentials. It is a matter of character, and that's what we're learning from that particular passage. Number five, maturity as a body is revealed by delegating ministry instead of dominating ministers. Look at verse six. And these they brought before the apostles, and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

Now, the laying on of hands did not denote or communicate any special power. It was a matter of delegation and representation and identification. Who will do the ministry? Seven godly men, who, by the way, all have Greek names. Fascinating thought.

The majority selected the minority to solve the problem. But think about what that meant here for them to delegate that in Acts 6. The apostles could be accused of not being available, of not having compassion. How would you feel, by the way, if you were there?

Just think for a moment. If it was your widowed sister, or if it was your own widowed mother, you mean the apostles aren't going to get involved? They're giving the responsibility to seven men with Greek names that we don't know.

See, no matter how simplistic their response was to the people, no matter what the criticism might have been as a result, they said, our priority is this, and we will delegate this. However, since it is a priority of the church to meet the needs of people, we're going to see to it that the responsibility and the authority is delegated to others. How do we measure up as a church?

How do we measure up as a body? Over the years people have come up to me and said, you know, Stephen, our church is really missing it in this one area. Maybe two or three. And we're missing great potential, and I see a particular facet of ministry that we just have to have and we just need, and we're missing it because we don't have it. And my response and the response of the entire pastoral leadership usually goes something like this. I couldn't agree with you anymore that this ministry is missing it there and we need that ministry. And since God has given you the insight to discover the needs of that ministry, I think he has you in mind to organize it. Well, I, you know, just a suggestion, just kind of want to run that by you. How exciting it is when somebody says, you know, I never thought about it that way.

I'll do it. Six, effective ministry can maintain its mission in spite of challenges and changes. Notice verse seven, and the word of God kept on spreading.

Isn't that great? The word of God kept on spreading and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem and a great many of priests were becoming obedient to the face. This problem, as one man wrote, became the prelude to new potential. Now let's ask ourselves a question or two before we wrap it up. We discovered the attacks of Satan against this early church. Has it ever occurred to you that what he does to the church, he does to you individually? It usually mirrors the attack corporately. What do you do when Satan's attacks get personal, like persecution?

Do you remain courageous and committed? We have studied that particular attack. What about the temptation toward hypocrisy and corruption, hidden secrets and deception?

You have the mask on when you come into the assembly. We've studied that one. Or how about here, like the ploy called dissension or better yet distraction?

One individual wrote the devil's third attack was the cleverest of the three. Having failed to overcome the church by either persecution or corruption, he now tried distraction. If he could preoccupy the apostles with social administration, which though essential was not their calling, they would neglect their God-given responsibilities to pray and to preach and so leave the church without any defense against false doctrine.

All right, let's apply that individually. What is it in your life that distracts you to the point that you lose sight of God's goals for your life? When you become vulnerable to the enemy's attack and to defeat, it may not be something sinful, by the way. It's simply something that sidetracks you. It may be a relationship that weakens your walk with God rather than strengthens your walk with God. Maybe it's an activity.

It could even be wasted evenings in front of the television. Something in your life that's not necessarily revolting, it just doesn't revitalize. It doesn't refresh your walk with God. It distracts.

It might be something good when God has something better. So what do you do when Satan attacks? The same things. Let me give you three things that they did. Number one, restate your priorities and stick with them.

Some of you may need to spend this afternoon writing them down in ink and hang with them. Secondly, refuse to cherish anything or anyone who diminishes your hunger for God. And third, rely upon the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom as you face fresh changes and challenges that come your way.

By the way, I want to remind you of something very quickly that would be easy to miss. Stephen and Philip were both outstanding speakers. In the next chapter, you discover Stephen's first and last sermon.

It's a classic. In the following chapter, you're about to discover that Philip is holding evangelistic crusades in Samaria and multitudes are coming to faith as a result. If what these men really wanted was attention, they would have never done this. Stephen, Philip, serve the needy. Serve the hungry, overlooked widows.

Away from the spotlight, away from public view and even though they were obviously gifted in speaking and teaching, they said, we will do it. The question then is, are you willing to serve in the shadows? Are you willing to meet the needs of somebody who can never repay you? I want to close by reading a story, a true story of a high school student who did just that. It was a simple act of kindness but it had a dramatic result.

Let me read it for you. Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles and since they were going the same way, he volunteered to help carry part of the burden. As they walked, Mark discovered the other student's name was Bill, that he loved video games and baseball and history, that he was having a lot of trouble, not only with most of his school work but he was having a lot of trouble at home. They arrived at Bill's home first and Mark was invited in for a Coke. The time passed quickly and they shared small talk and a few laughs and Mark went home. But now at school, Mark and Bill never passed without hellos. They even ate lunch together a few times and had other brief contacts over their high school years. Finally, the long awaited senior year came and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could meet. When they did, Bill reminded him of that day several years ago when they had first met. Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day? Asked Bill. Mark responded, no, not really.

Why? Well, Bill quietly said, I had cleaned out my locker because I didn't want to leave a mess for anyone else. You see, I had already stored away enough of my mother's sleeping pills to commit suicide. After we spent some time talking together and laughing, I realized that if I had taken my life, I would have missed that time and others that might follow and it gave me hope. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my stuff that day, you did a lot more.

You saved my life. A few men in Jerusalem saved the testimony of this New Testament church. Not to mention, mass defection. The best you could have hoped for after this episode would be two churches. First Church of the Palestinians.

First Church of the Hellenists. But to the surprise, and I believe, horror of Satan's hosts, some men were willing to recognize the real issue. Others were willing to serve.

The body was willing to change. And the word of God continued to spread and lives were impacted for the glory of God. You see, a church like this in Jerusalem, and I hope a church like ours, doesn't persuade people. It attracts people.

And it will when we model them. As we model love, and in particular as we model how to properly care for those who are vulnerable among us, we attract those who long for what we have. As Stephen just reminded us, we're not trying to convince people or talk people into joining us.

But we do attract people when our lifestyle is authentic and compelling. It's a challenging reminder today from God's word. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart. This is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. We've gone back to the archives, to our vintage wisdom library, and brought out this series from the book of Acts.

It's called, The Harvest Begins. Today's lesson is entitled, Trouble Again. Even though these lessons were recorded many years ago, and the sound quality is not as high as you're used to, we knew you'd enjoy these lessons and that they'd be a blessing to you. We'll continue through this series in the days ahead.

I hope you'll be with us for all of it. I want to make you aware that Stephen has a companion resource to this series. It's a study guide also entitled, The Harvest Begins.

This study guide is perfect for individual or group study and allows you to dive deeper into this early section from the book of Acts. We're featuring this resource during this series and we can give you information if you call us today at 866-48-BIBLE. That's 866-48-BIBLE or 866-482-4253. You'll also find The Harvest Begins on our website, which is Go there anytime to access our resources or learn more about our ministry. Wisdom for the Heart is produced by Wisdom International. Before I leave you today, I'll make you aware of one more resource that can help you grow in your Christian faith. Download the Wisdom International app to your smartphone. You can take Stephen's Bible teaching ministry wherever you go. Join us next time for more Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-11 04:05:56 / 2023-07-11 04:16:40 / 11

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