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Missionary Memoirs

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 20, 2024 12:00 am

Missionary Memoirs

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 20, 2024 12:00 am

In today's episode, we dive back into our study of Acts, focusing on chapter 14, where Paul and Barnabas face the highs and lows of their first missionary journey. Contrary to what many might think, their experience was marked not only by success and effectiveness but also by intense affliction and discouragement.

Join us as we explore Paul's deeply personal reflections from 2 Corinthians 1:8, where he candidly shares the overwhelming challenges they faced, which even led them to despair of life itself. We’ll learn practical lessons from their journey, highlighting the importance of acknowledging the emotional and physical burdens of serving God while ultimately relying on His strength.

We will witness their experiences in Iconium, where despite severe opposition and poisoned minds, Paul and Barnabas stayed and spoke boldly for a long time, relying on the Lord. Then we move to Lystra, where a miraculous healing leads the locals to mistake them for gods, only for the mood to turn deadly as persecution arises.

This episode offers a balanced perspective on handling both undue praise and severe opposition, showing how Paul and Barnabas refused flattery, refocused attention on God, and risked losing everything for the sake of truth. Their story is a powerful reminder that in every circumstance, whether in triumph or trial, God remains faithful.

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The Apostle Paul was a great and important man, but he didn't want the focus to be on him. Verse 15 says, In other words, don't look at us. Don't burn a candle to us. Don't pray to us. Those are vain, empty things. Look to God who created all that there is.

Refocus their attention. As the Apostle Paul ministered and served and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he refused any attempts to elevate him or give him undue esteem. Paul also lived out that perspective personally.

He wasn't concerned with the trials and difficulties that came with his life of ministry. In other words, Paul's focus was not on himself, but on how great God is. We're going to explore that today in this vintage wisdom message called Missionary Memoirs. Stephen Davey is your Bible teacher here on Wisdom for the Heart. Settle in for today's message from God's Word. We resume our study in the book of Acts with chapter 14 and we're in the midst of Paul and Barnabas's first missionary journey into Asia Minor. If I were to ask the average Bible student what they thought Paul and Barnabas's feelings would be related to their first missionary enterprise, I'm sure that we would throw in the words like exhilarating, exciting, effective, successful, but I want you to listen as I refer to Paul's own diary some comments made public years after the fact that were intensely personal and I might add incredibly encouraging and surprising. Rarely will you read such transparency in someone out front. I'm reading from 2 Corinthians.

You don't have to turn there unless you want to hold your finger next, but I'm going to skip around a little bit. Let me just read you from the memoirs of this missionary. He writes, for we do not want you to be unaware brethren of our affliction which came to us in Asia that we were burdened excessively beyond our strength so that we despaired even of life.

One paraphrase expands his words this way. We want you to know about the hard time we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed and feared we would not live through it.

How's that for a missionary report? Paul how how'd it go on the field? It was all hallelujahs right? Oh I have to tell you it was really hard. There were there were moments when we were crushed. We were we were overwhelmed.

Frankly I have to be honest with you and tell you that I didn't think we were going to live live through it. Paul goes on to write, we felt we were doomed to die and saw that we were powerless to help ourselves. The word powerless means we were utterly without a way of escape. The words for crushed or burdened excessively comes from a word that in the Greek language refers to the emotional burden of being treated unfairly and unjustly. Here's the missionary the great missionary saying the experience we had crushed us, hurt us, overwhelmed us. So at times we even despaired of our lives. You know as I read these comments doing a little cross-referencing to Acts chapter 14 I couldn't help but think there are some things in here for us to learn certainly.

I want to give you a couple of them if you're following along in your notes. When facing tough times number one don't deny that serving God can bring heartache and discouragement. Some people paint the smile on their face and give the quick amen and hey serving God it's you know on the front lines or in the corporate world or testifying for him it's it's all hallelujahs. Well you're not being honest. Second don't ignore the discouragement that comes naturally. Paul admitted it and he had the most to lose being the leader he was.

Third don't forget that ultimately God designs it. He creates pressure with this that presses us to him that create dependency upon him. Now some people never get past the stress and the problem.

You you talk to them and all they have is a report of of how difficult it is. They never get to the point where they say but this is how God is using it in my life to challenge and and change me. There's a balance between the natural difficulty and the spiritual development and we all live somewhere in between don't we? Times we're overwhelmed with the natural difficulty at times we're exhilarated with what we perceive to be the spiritual development but we we wrestle with these two issues in our Christian lives. Would you like an example of balance?

You have it here. Paul after admitting those deep issues of despair and a sense of being overwhelmed at being treated unfairly says in verse 9, indeed we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. The paraphraser says it this way, but all this was good.

Why? Because it it caused us not to trust in ourselves but to put everything into the hands of God. What a wonderful balance. He doesn't just jump into hey our missionary trip really caused us to develop in our trust of God's power without first saying it was tough, difficult, it was crushing, overwhelming. God taught us through that how to rely entirely upon his power and his grace.

Great balance. Well when was this period in Paul's life in which he was crushed and overwhelmed and despaired of his own life? Well Acts chapter 14 puts us right in the middle of it. So let's look there at the conditions surrounding the context that would then produce these powerful words that we've just read in the epistle to the Corinthian believers. Acts chapter 14 is where we left our study off.

Let's pick it up there then with verse 1. And it came about that in Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together and spoke in such a manner that a great multitude believed both of Jews and of Greeks. But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. Literally they poisoned the minds of of the Gentiles. They stirred into the soup bowl of imagination all kinds of lies and rumors and and untruths to stir up contention and strife.

You would think now that there's going to be a rather short stay in Iconium. Truth is they they evidently had a conversation and it went more like this, Barnabas are you thinking what I'm thinking? I sure am. This is a wonderful place for ministry to happen. What do you say?

We stay here a long time. Really? Well verse 3, therefore, we'll stop there now. Remember now as you study the bible whenever you see a therefore you need to ask what it's there for. It is there for us to realize that in spite of verse 2 the mounting opposition, the pressure, the embittered people who resent their presence and ministry they didn't leave. In spite of verse 2 therefore verse 3 says they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord.

Good. You could underline the phrase with reliance upon the Lord because that's the key. It isn't that they naturally enjoy confrontation.

It isn't that they naturally enjoy people resenting their ministry. Oh it was because they relied entirely upon him and gave them strength and by the way that's the best place in all the world for all of us to be. Relying entirely upon him in the midst of opposition and confrontation and strife and resentment. But relying upon him as Spurgeon wrote it the best place in all the world to be spiritually is is shipwrecked on the island of God's sovereignty.

Well let's go on. He was bearing witness to the word of his grace granting the signs and wonders be done by their hands but the multitude of the city was divided and some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles and when an attempt was made by both the gentiles and the Jews with their rulers to mistreat and to stone them they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycone, Alyssa and Derby and the surrounding region and there they continued to preach the gospel. We see now the mood of the people has changed. It's now turned murderous. It's no longer a battle of theology or ideology. It is a battle where they are now gathering stones and they're writing the names Paul and Barnabas on each one of those stones. So Jesus Christ in his own words in Matthew 10 said when they persecute you that that is when they attempt to take your life flee and go to another city and preach the gospel. It's one thing to witness to a man on his porch as he rails against you and Christ and the church and spews his venom and hatred. It's one thing to stand there and testify of Jesus Christ but it's another thing to stand there witness to him while he's loading shells into his shotgun.

Common sense goes says go to another house. Well this wasn't the only time Paul narrowly escaped with his life but he did. Now verse 8 introduces us to an entirely different problem. It's one thing to keep your chin up when you're persecuted, when you're misunderstood.

It's another thing and just as difficult to keep your pride down when you're appreciated and praised. Follow along in verse 8. At Alyssa there was sitting a certain man without strength in his feet lame from his mother's womb who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke who when he had fixed his gaze upon him and had seen that he had faith to be made well.

Now let's stop here for just a moment. In other words Paul is preaching he can't help but notice as he's preaching this this rapt attention this man is giving him. He notices from that from that visage that that expression on this man's face that God is granting him the faith to believe the message that he is delivering. And in the case of this particular man the gift of faith in Christ will be coupled with the gift of healing. It would be as a sign gift that Paul was indeed the messenger from God in this foundational error and we've already spent much time studying that issue. So notice verse 10 Paul said with a loud voice stand upright on your feet.

Paul the divine healer reveals the power of God the divine one. You notice here that Paul doesn't pray first. Notice that he never even mentions the name of Jesus. He doesn't call upon the Holy Spirit.

He didn't ask certainly for a seed gift. He didn't say to Barnabas standing nearby boy I hope this works. Oh no he said at will stand to your feet. And he leaped up and began to walk verse 11 and when the multitude saw what Paul had done they raised their voice saying in the Lyconian dialect or language the gods have become like men and have come down to us and they began calling Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes because he was the chief speaker. This is interesting go back to verse 8 for just a second.

We're told three different ways that this man can't walk. A certain man without strength in his feet number one lame from his mother's womb number two who'd never walk number three in other words only a god could perform this miracle. This was a hopeless case and they were right at that respect the only thing is they had the wrong god. So they begin cheering in verse 11 in the Lyconian dialect the gods are here Zeus and Hermes are here. Now at this point in time Paul and Barnabas who evidently don't know that the Lyconian dialect don't know what's happening but it sure a lot nicer than what happened in the last village right. It's not until verse 13 that they get the full picture notice and the priest of Zeus whose temple was just outside the city brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds and these temple assistants are helping the priest of Zeus get ready to begin the worship ceremony. Verse 14 but when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it that literally means when somebody explained to them in their language what was going on somebody explained the worship service that was about to begin they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd. Can you imagine this scene these two ordinary guys perform an extraordinary supernatural miracle and are now being claimed to be Zeus and Hermes and garlands and flowers are draped about them the priest is there the people are bowing down they're singing their praises and you could probably get used to that. Now granted as I read this and studied this and know that all scriptures profitable for our application I think what we do have here however is a good model for us now nobody in here including myself for certain will not be mistaken for Zeus that's probably a safe thing to say or Hermes but they do in their response provide some things that we can certainly model when we receive undue praise flattery when we receive appreciation that may even go too far that develops pride. First of all and we're going to work our way through this with these thoughts be willing to refuse it look at verse 14 but when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it they tore their robes rushed out into the crowd crying out and saying men why are you doing these things we are also men of the same nature as you you can't you can't say that kind of thing unless you're willing to be absolutely open transparent before this adoring audience we are also men of the same nature as you in other words we're made out of the same fragile stuff that you are. I think we need this today I think the church models the world with its celebrity status I think we need more singers and authors and radio personalities and conference speakers and pastors and teachers and ministry presidents and statesmen who are willing to say to those who follow their writings or their ministry you want to know something I'm made out of the same stuff you're made out of don't build a shrine on my feet wouldn't that be encouraging to those of us who follow their writings and Eugene Peterson however sadly notes that in the church today we have celebrities but not saints we we have the same hero worship within the church I fear that we have in the world and the blame is to be laid at our feet as well those of us who follow who read who honor I was reading the words of a gentleman who really provoked my thinking Ogilvy is his name he writes we have a seemingly limitless capacity to give the honor that belongs to Christ to the people who introduce us to him that interesting pastors parents leaders friends teachers who have brought us the good news are often made the source of our security we elevate them to super sainthood and miss for ourselves the dynamic that has made them admirable we make matinee idols out of Christian leaders we put the communicator on a pedestal and evade the communication interesting thought the reason there are so many proud Christian celebrities today is that we've given the messenger more honor than the message mind if I get a little personal some of you have raised children who are now godly serving the Lord faithfully people come up to you and ask for advice and ask you how you did it how do you respond well uh 30 things I'm under the impression that if you receive any praise you've received undue praise people may perceive in you the marriage that they want to have they come up to you and they say you they come up to you and they say you have got it all together how did you do it and in that fleeting moment what do you say do you even buy it I think we have way too much popularity in the Christian community I think it's because we do not portray ourselves realistically to people when the approval comes we do not resist we certainly don't refuse so be willing to refuse it number one second of all be willing to refocus it that's the critical point move forward in helping these people verse 15 says men why are you doing these things we are also men of the same nature as you and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them in other words don't look at us don't burn a candle to us don't pray to us those are vain empty things look to God who created all that there is refocus their attention away from you to them they were willing to risk losing every bit of the popularity even though at this moment they have a hearing pragmatists would say today that they ought to take advantage of that hearing and hush down the truth a bit they didn't verse 16 and in the generations gone by he permitted all the nations to go their own way now here's where it gets convicting he says to them in effect you like all the other nations have been allowed to go your own way into these vain empty pursuits you see that temple out there it's vanity it's emptiness you see this priest here he follows a vain teaching but God by his forbearance has allowed you to go this way by his long suffering look at verse 17 yet he did not leave himself without witness in order that or in that he did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful season satisfying your heart with food and gladness this area by the way was known for its magnificent orchards perhaps Paul gestured as he said that God has given you the reins which has brought this produce a God that you have ignored as you followed after your vain and empty religious pursuits and he left you with a witness though he ought to circle that key word in verse 17 witness you ever been asked what about those who've never heard the gospel will God hold them responsible surely God wouldn't judge them we've never had this book well evidently Paul and Barnabas believe and they're telling them here in Lystra that before they ever got there the citizens of Lystra had received a witness from God and what was that witness the reins those orchards creation well be willing to refuse it this undue praise refocus it risk losing it finally be willing to restrain it you know it's one thing to not accept undue flattery or praise but it's another thing to go out of your way to stop it that's what they're doing here notice verse 18 and even after saying these things they with difficulty restrain the crowds from offering sacrifices to them imagine that after saying look we're just ordinary men look we're just ordinary men my name is Paul not Hermes this is this is Barnabas he's not Zeus take these flowers back and your oxen and don't do this there's a case of mistaken identity going on here stop it even after all of that they persist how the human heart persists in worshiping something it can see and touch feel they still want to go on with it I mean you'd almost think that Paul and Barnabas could leave and they'd still have a or worship but evidently they stopped why don't these people get it well maybe a legend from this era will help Ovid the Roman poet wrote a legend that had become by this time fact it's a legend about this area this region a legend that the gods Zeus and Hermes had visited this region I think that's what sort of developed this worship to be so obsessed with Zeus and Hermes the legend says the Zeus and Hermes came down as two ordinary looking men they came to this particular region of Lystra and Derby they wanted to see how humanity would treat them and so they sought hospitality in the thousands of cottages and hamlets around those these hill countries they were refused by everyone everyone except an elderly couple who invited the men and fed them and gave them a place to stay while they were seated at the table after eating dinner the wine bowl the legend says was empty and suddenly the wine bowl filled to the top it was then that this elderly couple knew that these weren't two ordinary men and so these two ordinary men at that point introduced themselves as Zeus and Hermes then they invited this elderly couple to follow them and they went up to the top of the hill and this elderly couple watched as these two gods started fires as it were in every cottage destroying every home in that region and then those gods turned toward that humble cottage where this couple lived and turned it into a magnificent palace with a golden roof this was the legend these people lived by now you have two ordinary men who come into their village or town and suddenly there is a miracle there's a man who cannot walk who has never walked who was born this way and suddenly he's walking and this crowd assumes they're back Zeus and Hermes are here and this time let's not make the mistake of our forefathers let's honor them and worship them a miraculous thing has taken place and so with great difficulty Paul and Barnabas had to keep them from worshiping them as they tried to refocus their attention on a creator god well there's soon help along that line verse 19 Jews came from Antioch and Iconium oh they've traced them here and having won over the multitudes they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city supposing him to be dead can you imagine people who once wanted to worship them are now wanting to kill them i think that maybe as some have suggested they're fickle and that they are probably soured on the idea that nobody's home is being turned into a palace with a golden roof i don't know how much space took place but evidently people came to faith because it tells us in verse 20 while the disciples stood around him he arose and entered the city some people believe Paul rose from the dead here good commentators i don't myself the word arose and this name is used throughout the new testament over 100 times for resurrection but in this very passage this very paragraph it's used by Paul when he tells the man to get up he tells him to arise same word where divine power infused this lame man where he was able to walk preceding verse says they supposed him to be dead which also also gives us a hint that he he wasn't but what you do have here is a miracle any way around it but it isn't a miracle of resurrection it is a miracle of restoration of revitalization here's Paul he's been stoned as it were to death broken bone after broken bone concussion bleeding wounds and and suddenly they're they're encircling him these disciples among them a young disciple who'd come to faith during this trip by the name of Timothy they're all there and suddenly Paul arises infused with divine strength those broken bones are set and healed immediately open wounds bleeding are closed and healed immediately the concussion healed immediately the text tells us that Paul goes back into the city packs and leaves in a matter of days he will be preaching again we'll pick it up there in our next discussion but before we close I want to read to you you can close your bibles from his memoirs again these interesting words just listen Paul writes I therefore since we have this ministry as we received mercy we do not lose heart he's talking about this time we don't lose heart we have renounced the things hidden because of shame not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God for we do not preach ourselves Christ Jesus is Lord we have this treasure in earthen vessels that is we have this wonderful gospel message delivered through clay pots as it were that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves we are afflicted in every way not crushed perplexed but not despairing persecuted but not forsaken struck down but not destroyed therefore we do not lose heart take it from the memoirs of this missionary God is faithful you his servant can handle the extremes in life the highs the lows you come to the point like Paul as he wrote in his memoirs we came to the point where we realized it was good in that it caused us to realize that we were not going to be saved but we were going to be saved and that it was good in that it caused us to rely entirely upon the Lord shipwrecked on the island of God's sovereignty your service of Jesus Christ might take you into difficulty as well i hope this time in God's word will help and encourage you when that happens if you joined us late you've tuned in to wisdom for the heart today's lesson is called missionary memoirs and it comes from our vintage wisdom series from the book of acts this particular series is called the gospel spreads we have a companion study guide by that exact same name it's also called the gospel spreads this study guide contains the transcript of Stephen's lesson as well as questions to help you or a group explore this section of God's word in more detail now during the broadcast of this series this study guide is available at a deeply discounted rate if you'd like to get a copy there are two quick and easy ways you'll find it on our website when you get to the store the item you're looking for is called the gospel spreads we can also help you over the phone you can call us at 866-48-bible that's 866-482-4253 and again that discounted rate will be in effect during the time that we broadcast this series so take advantage of this offer today I'm Scott Wiley and for Stephen and the wisdom team I want to thank you for listening join us next time here on wisdom for the heart you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-20 05:13:10 / 2024-06-20 05:23:09 / 10

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