Fitted for Hard Times (1 of 3)

Please read Matthew 10:1-15 in your Bible.  Part One: The Conditions of Discipleship

Fitted for Hard Times (1)Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020

In the white collar world of professional businessmen, there has been a lot of popular press written on the subject of leadership.  In the Bible, a lot is said about discipleship and service.  How’s that for an illustration of the clash of cultures?

The subject of discipleship, of training and being trained in following Jesus, is so important we’ll devote the next three weeks to studying Jesus’ method of discipleship in Matthew 10.  It is a rich vein of teaching, so we are going to sink a deep shaft into it.

To stimulate our thinking, it want to share a few insights into the subject of discipleship, representing varied viewpoints.

Nineteenth century Danish theologian Soren Kierkagaard wrote, “I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, “If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me.”  Kierkagaard’s comment?  “And no one laughed.”

The reformer Martin Luther wrote, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

American evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “It is better to train ten people than to do the work of ten people. But it is harder.”

These three men all observed, in their different ways, the essential nature of discipleship in the Christian life.  Real belief is manifest in spiritual growth, as haphazard as it may look from the outside.  There is no choice in this matter; Jesus’ followers are disciples or they follow someone else.

CONTEXT: In Matthew 9, Jesus has called Matthew to be a disciple.  He is the last one to be called to follow Jesus.  Then, at the end of the chapter, Jesus looked compassionately on the crowd gathered before Him and urged His disciples to pray to the Lord of the Harvest for more workers in the field.  These two chapters have a focus on Jesus’ disciples, His partners in ministry.

Jesus prepared His disciples for service and witness.

  1. To be a disciple you must first be named as one of His people (vs. 2-4).

The Twelve are named four times in the New Testament.  The four lists are here in Matthew 10, Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13; there is no listing in John.

This is the only time in Matthew and Mark they are called APOSTLES. The word itself has a specific meaning: “messenger, envoy, ambassador.”  Hebrews 13:1 refers to Jesus as an APOSTLE.

When the word came into use as a title for a church officer, its meaning widened.  At first, only the Twelve were called Apostles.  Then Paul and five others were called APOSTLES.  Then leaders over groups of churches got the title.

Regardless of one’s title, every believer is first called by God.  We are saved because God decided to offer salvation to us.  Here are some general observations about the original twelve Apostles.

– The Twelve were all laymen; there were no priests among them.

– They were not chosen because they gave Jesus any advantage.

– They were a mix of personalities w/ some opposites.  (For example, the opposing political views of Matthew the tax collector versus Simon the Zealot, the opposite personalities of Peter and the “Sons of Thunder” versus “Doubting Thomas.”)

– They were called to follow Jesus, they didn’t volunteer.  Some of Jesus’ followers did volunteer, but they are not called APOSTLES.

The Apostles were ordinary men whom God empowered to extra-ordinary things.  They were so important to the plan of God that Revelation 21:14 tells us that the foundation stones of the heavenly city are inscribed with their names!

  1. To be a disciple you must come under Jesus’ authority (v. 1)

JESUS CALLED HIS DISCIPLES TO HIM: Jesus, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, called each of these men individually.  It was His decision that made them disciples; it was their decision to accept.

To be CALLED is to be invited by God to accept His will.  Everyone is CALLED to be saved.  In 2 Peter 2:9 we are told it is God’s will that no one should perish, that all should repent.  This is a universal calling.

Those who accept God’s call to salvation receive an additional calling to do a specific kind of ministry in a specific time and place.  In the modern Church we have mistakenly used the language of “calling” for professional church leaders.  That is unbiblical.  All disciples are CALLED to minister for Jesus.

HE…GAVE THEM AUTHORITY = On this occasion, Jesus delegated to the Twelve His AUTHORITY to do two things in particular.  One: TO DRIVE OUT EVIL (“unclean”) SPIRITS.  These spirits are in opposition to God.  They do evil and tempt people to do evil.  They were to be driven out because their evil is toxic to humans, separating their victims from God.

Two: TO HEAL EVERY DISEASE AND ILLNESS.  As Jesus gave the Twelve AUTHORITY to do these two different things, it is plain that not every physical illness is a result of demonic activity.  Matthew Henry’s comment is good: “The design of the gospel is to conquer the devil and cure the world.”  Last week we saw Jesus doing both these things in Luke 4.

On other occasions (i.e., Matthew 19:28) Jesus’ delegated authority would take other forms.  What’s important for us here is to note that His disciples do not exercise their own authority.  Instead, they minister under His.

  1. As a disciple you must do service and witness at the same time (vs. 5-8).

Jesus sent out the Twelve after giving them INSTRUCTIONS.  This is a potent word, used in a variety of situations: the commands given by military leaders to their subordinates, the rules or principles given by a teacher to their students, and the word of a king or emperor as laws put upon the people.

This emphasis on service and witness means the object of ministry is not self or other believers, but others, and particularly the LOST.  In this case Jesus’ command was to minister only to their fellow Jews: the Gentiles and Samaritans would be reached at another time.  Jesus’ command to GO… TO THE LOST SHEEP OF ISRAEL fulfilled the Old Testament promises that a Messiah would be sent to Israel.  This is an example to us that ministry is not about gratifying self, but is focused on meeting the needs of others.

Our ministry of witness is to PREACH…THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS NEAR.  Repentance is the response for which we’re aiming as we witness, because repentance is necessary for salvation (Mark 6:12).  THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN refers to the people of God, distinguished by true faith.

To say t KINGDOM is NEAR means two things.  One, it is close enough to be recognized by those who have faith and the Spirit to see it.  Two, that a decision is demanded: don’t procrastinate.  The KINGDOM is NEAR in time; the opportunity to join it is now.

Our ministry of service is to relieve all kinds of distress.  SICK…DEAD…LEPROSY…DEMONS are a representative sample of all the kinds of ills human beings can suffer.  Jesus gave His disciples AUTHORITY over them all!  Following the example of the Apostles, we are to provide the material and spiritual service that results in healing other’s suffering.  The Apostles returned later and testified that they had received power to accomplish these works of service.

Witness and service are to be given generously.  As Jesus said, “FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.”  God gives to us with grace and generosity; it reveals a lot about the true state of our faith when we don’t show that same kind of grace and generosity to others.  In this, the apostles were to follow God’s example and thereby set an example for us to follow.  This instruction also helps us avoid the temptation to build our own ”empire” instead of building God’s Kingdom.

  1. As a disciple you must depend on God, not yourself (vs. 9-11).

This requires you to not trust in your worldly resources.  There is a personal reason Jesus gave this command: the Apostles were to trust God to provide for their material needs.  To teach them this, Jesus instructed them to take no provisions for themselves: no money, no bag for carrying an extra tunic or sandals, nor even a staff.  If they took it along, they were depending on their own resources, not on God.  The phrase TAKE ALONG meant “procure.”  It was about going out to get all the stuff a person might need for a life on the road.

Jesus had a theological reason for this teaching.  If you and I do only the things we know we can do, then we get the glory.  On the other hand, if we do the things that only God could do, He gets the glory.

Jesus had two practical reasons.  First, if you know you’re going to depend on others for all your material needs, you have an obvious motive for ministry.  If your next meal depends on you witnessing, you’ve got some urgency in your belly that doesn’t depend on “willpower.”

Second, this was a short-term “training” mission, not an extended trip.  They were not going to the Gentiles or Samaritans.  There was no need for the extensive preparations that a lengthier journey would require.  Ministry was the priority.

Disciples trust God to equip them through the people He has prepared.  Notice the principle behind Jesus’ instruction in vs. 9-11: worthiness.  The worker is a worthy person.  FOR THE WORKER IS WORTHY OF HIS KEEP.  Those who sacrifice themselves to do the work of ministry deserve our support.

The worker is to search for a WORTHY PERSON to supply His needs and stick with them.  The worthiness of this person would be spirituality first and material support second.  Also, because the Apostles would be associating with that person throughout their stay, their worthiness would be measured by their reputation in the community: would association with them help or hinder their witness?  Jesus told them to STAY AT HIS HOUSE UNTIL YOU LEAVE.  It would be tempting to “trade up” to a nicer house or better food, but that would be ungrateful to someone who’d been generous and might have impaired the reputation of the Apostles.

  1. As a disciple you must practice peace and judgment (vs. 11-15).

Begin new relationships with peace, but be prepared to render judgment.  Remember that the home in this example belongs to a WORTHY PERSON, so it is reasonable to expect a peaceful greeting.

The first step, then, is to give the household a peaceful GREETING (12).  In Jewish culture, that was “Peace to this house” or “Shalom.”

The second step was determined by the response of the household.  If they responded to the greeting of PEACE with PEACE, then they were deserving of PEACE.  In that case, the Apostles were to STAY AT THAT HOUSE until they left, and allow their PEACE to REST ON IT too.

On the other hand, if they responded to the greeting of PEACE by not welcoming them or not listening to them (v. 14), then the Apostles were to LET their PEACE RETURN to them and shake the dust of that house or town off their feet.  In Jewish culture, shaking the dust off one’s feet or clothing was a nonverbal curse (Nehemiah 5:13; Acts 18:6).  For example, it was their habit to shake the dust off before entering Gentile lands so as not to carry any of the soil of the Promised Land with them.  Before leaving Gentile lands, they would shake the dust off to avoid bringing any of that unclean soil with them into the Promised Land.  This was a curse that would come to pass ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT.

Realize that not everyone will accept your witness and service.  These instructions make the most sense when we remember Jesus was preparing His disciples for the possibility of rejection and acceptance.  He was sending them out of the safety of their group and the world was as likely to show them the back of its hand as offer a hand in fellowship.

His other purpose is to demonstrate this is serious business.  To reject God’s ambassadors is a rejection of God; to reject God is to put one’s self under a curse that will come to full and deadly fruition on Judgment Day.  As Jesus explained in verse 40, “HE WHO RECEIVES YOU RECEIVES ME, AND HE WHO RECEIVES ME RECEIVES THE ONE WHO SENT ME.”

Though we come peaceably to witness and serve, there is no guarantee we will be received peaceably.  When people make up their own minds, their response is their responsibility, not ours.

Jesus prepared His disciples for service and witness.

We observed earlier the Twelve were called to follow Jesus, they did not volunteer.  The difference between the two is instructive:

  • Disciples surrender their rights in service to their master, but volunteers retain their rights and some are quite likely to bellyache at perceived violations of their rights.
  • Discipleship is an act of complete self-sacrifice while volunteers offer only a portion of their resources, often what they can easily spare.
  • Discipleship is a way of life while volunteerism is more like a hobby; something we enjoy but is not central to our survival or growth.
  • Disciples live to serve while volunteers expect to be rewarded for their service.

While it is true that the church needs workers, God calls all of us to be disciples.  The difference between the two makes all the difference.  A person can be a volunteer in the church without being a disciple, but a disciple will always be a gracious volunteer.

 

Part Two: The Cost of Discipleship

Part Three: The Courage to be a Disciple

 

RESOURCES:

Message #1321

http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/d/discipleship.htm

The Matthew Henry Commentary, Matthew Henry

Opportunistic Evangelism

witness

The best witness follows God’s lead.

          “A little boy built a model ship, glued all the pieces together, and worked on it for hours.  It was perfect.  Every detail was correct, down to tiny sailors standing on the deck.  He put it in a glass case.  He wouldn’t let his brother play with it in the bathtub.  He was going to keep it perfect by keeping it safe.

“His parents bought a real boat so they could spend the weekends sailing out on the harbor.  They loved it.  At first.  It was a lot of work to maintain.  Boat owners will tell you that the day you bought your boat was the happiest day of your life, and the day you sold it was the second happiest.  At first, they used it a lot.  But then they used it less.  It was expensive.  After a few months, they went to spend a day sailing and found barnacles growing on the side, algae all over it, and a dead motor.  A real boat is only kept in shape by being used.

“The two boats worked in opposite ways.  The model was preserved by being kept safe.  The real boat was preserved by being used.”

<James Miller, found at https://illustrationexchange.com/illustrations?category=631.&gt;

CONTEXT: This is the last word in Matthew’s Gospel, the last thing Jesus says to His disciples, His final instructions before returning to heaven.  They were gathered on a mountain top in Galilee, their home territory, for this final encounter.  Incredible as it seems, Matthew honestly reports that some of the disciples WORSHIPED Jesus, but some still DOUBTED.   Let’s begin there.

For those who DOUBTED, the words of Jesus had no immediate meaning.  His promises of His authority and abiding presence were not for the doubters.  They weren’t committed and at that time, had no part with Him.  The promises were not for them.

Instead, Jesus’ promises were for those who had faith and WORSHIPED Him.  They knew and believed that He commissioned them under the AUTHORITY that had been given to Him by God the Father.  They knew and believed His promise to be with them ALWAYS was perfectly reliable.  They would count on His abiding presence to inform and empower their obedience to His commands.

And so it is for all of us in this very moment.  This passage is for everyone who worships Jesus as Lord of their life.  It will sound like mere words in the ears of those who have not crossed the threshold of faith.  Do you have a model faith or a real faith?  Know which you are as we begin.

  1. This passage has been misunderstood.

Matthew 28:19-20 is known as “The Great Commission” and is frequently cited as a call to evangelism.  On this basis we have been sending missionaries to foreign lands for over 150 years.

Preachers love to cite the four verbs as imperatives to soul-winning.  GO has been understood as being assertive in seeking out t unsaved, creating our own opportunities to tell others about Jesus.

MAKE DISCIPLES has been taken as a call to “soul winning,” a term that never appears in the Bible.  The emphasis is lopsidedly on making converts.

The fact that the word BAPTIZING appears here has been taken to mean that baptism is somehow necessary for salvation.  The evidence in Scripture points to baptism as a demonstration of salvation, not a means of obtaining it.

TEACHING is the most obvious of the four verbs and Jesus Himself explained the aim of our teaching ministry; “TO OBEY EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.”

The usual use of this passage creates problems.  If Jesus’ Great Commission makes every disciple responsible to assertively create opportunities to witness, then we all bear responsibility for every human contact we make throughout the day.  This is a massive responsibility that none of us is capable of undertaking.  It is not biblical, not Jesus’ intended understanding of the Commission, and produces a lot of guilt about the subject of evangelism.

  1. How this passage should be understood.

At the risk of sounding like I am splitting hairs, a correct interpretation of the passage requires translating the word GO properly. We first need to observe the order of the words.  In the Greek, the word GO has emphasis because it comes first.  Here’s how a direct translation reads: “GOING THEREFORE DISCIPLE YE ALL THE NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATEVER I GAVE COMMAND TO YOU; AND BEHOLD WITH YOU I AM ALL THE DAYS UNTIL THE COMPLETION OF THE AGE.”

Second, we must observe the nature of the word: GO is a verb and we are commanded to it, but it is assumed we are going already.

As translated above, GOING THEREFORE is not a command to get moving, but to do something as you are moving.  As you live, put your real faith to work.  To put it another way, Jesus said, “As you go, make disciples.  Baptize them and teach them to be obedient.”

Now we can move to application of the rest of the commands.

The word DISCIPLE means to make new converts and to mature those who have accepted Jesus.  Discipleship is a life-long process where followers of Jesus help each other to mature spiritually.  I believe Jesus had Deuteronomy 6:6-7 on His mind as He gave this teaching.

THESE COMMANDMENTS THAT I GIVE YOU TODAY ARE TO BE UPON YOUR HEARTS.  IMPRESS THEM ON YOUR CHILDREN.  TALK ABOUT THEM WHEN YOU SIT AT HOME AND WHEN YOU WALK ALONG THE ROAD, WHEN YOU LIE DOWN AND WHEN YOU GET UP.

Even though the word GO is crucial for our understanding of this passage, in the Gk it is the word DISCIPLE that is the main verb.  It can be said that GO, BAPTIZE, and TEACH are all explanations of discipleship.  If you live for Jesus, the reason you draw breath today is so that you can disciple and be discipled. That’s the bottom line.

The word BAPTIZE is important to all Christians but not all of them will agree with the way I am about to define it.  Baptism is an action that is both a proof of a real faith and a means of discipleship.  It serves the purposes of witness and maturing a person’s faith.

Throughout the centuries, the Church has recognized this dual role of baptism and has historically used it as a means of maturing new believers.  For example, in the first century church, candidates for baptism had to go through THREE YEARS of preparation before they were baptized.

Finally, the word TEACH takes in all forms of instruction in Scripture and spiritual disciplines.  Because the main ingredients for maturing followers of Jesus are prayer and the Bible, it will always be necessary to be taught.  Folks who figure they have no more to learn reveal they have a “model” faith, not a “real” one.  A faith that works and is not just limited to display purposes is a growing faith.  There is always more to learn.

What we teach and learn draws us closer to God.  We grow by book learning and by life experience; we must not rely on one or the other but seek both.  Teachers teach by setting an example to follow as well as by passing along information, illustrating it with personal experience.  Teachers are lifelong learners.  In this life, we are both teachers and learners.  This is our greatest duty.

The best witness follows God’s lead.

We usually see witnessing as something we initiate, an opportunity we create by being assertive.  Worse, what often motivates us to witness is a false sense of guilt when we aren’t assertive, leading us to approach people in ways that aren’t genuine.  The result is often an awkward, unproductive encounter that may cause more harm than good.

This passage in Matthew’s Gospel indicates a better biblical way to approach witnessing.  Witnessing encounters start with the knowledge that God is the Initiator.  He will guide us to persons on occasions where He has already prepared their heart and ours.  He will give you words to say.

The second step is ours.  We need to listen to the Holy Spirit for the urging to speak and the words to speak.  Awareness of a God-directed opportunity to witness will come to us quietly, a gentle urging that can be easy to ignore or overlook.  What’s needed is active hearts, eyes and ears to sense the opportunities as He sets them in front of us.

The third step is also ours.  We must speak up, say something.  What’s needed here is obedience, not eloquence.  These opportunities are time-sensitive immediate obedience is necessary.

The final step involves the witness, the other people, and God.  We need to fully see and hear the others as we enter into conversation with them, so we can find points of connection to them as people and points to connect them with God.  We need to be awake and aware of the Spirit’s guidance as the dialogue develops, and follow His lead.  In these instances, our book learning (the Bible) and our experience (testimony) will be useful, so we need to be prepared to talk about both of them.

Be forewarned.  These opportunities will not arise in moments convenient or comfortable for you.  Your adult skills of flexibility, risk assessment, and sensitivity will be required.  It will be tempting to “pass by on the other side” ala Luke 10, but you will not be obedient if you do so.

If you have never sensed God leading you in this way, then something is wrong at the center of the faith you’re claiming.  Persons with a “model” faith will not sense God leading them in this way; they’ve schooled themselves on how to ignore it.  Persons with a “real” faith will want to have this experience and will grow from it when they take a chance that Jesus’ promises of authority and abiding presence are true.

Ephesus in an Uproar

Expect resistance when you tell the truth but don’t stop telling the truth.

Please read Acts 19:23-41 in your Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) for these remarks.

Riot at Ephesus

Think for a moment about the biggest crowd you can remember being part of at a sporting facility.  For those of us in Sioux Falls, SD, that would likely be at Howard Wood Field.  Can you recall the noise, the jostling, the energy of 10,000 people crammed into those stands? The amphitheater in the ancient city of Ephesus held more than twice that many people.  That’s a crowd!

The most seating that has ever been available at Howard Wood was 16,500, when bleachers were borrowed from local colleges and moved there.  On August 5, 1960, the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings played the very first game in the history of the Vikings at Howard Wood Field.  A ticket to the game cost $5.50 unless you sat in the borrowed bleachers and paid $3.50.  The extra seating would prove to be entirely unnecessary as the attendance that day was under 5,000.  The promoters lost their shirts and the Vikings lost their game, but Sioux Falls will always be the weird beginning to a storied sports team.

This morning we will take a look at a page from the history of the ancient city of Ephesus.  It was a similar comedy of errors to the only attempt to bring NFL football to Sioux Falls.  The tale has a dark side, however, being a clear threat to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the people who held if forth as truth.

  1. Change is hard; greed is harder (vs. 23-27).

“THE WAY” (verse 23) is how Christians of that time referred to themselves.  It is not to be confused with a modern day cult “the Way International.”  Then as in our own time, the word WAY referred to a person’s daily choices that reflected the direction they were headed.  It might also be described as a life goal, mission, or number one priority.

The instigator of the riot was Demetrius, who made his living crafting and selling souvenirs!  You heard me right.  He made little replicas of the massive Temple to Artemis, goddess of wild plants and animals, hunting, chastity and childbirth.  The temple was the major tourist attraction in the city.  She was beloved so Demetrius and his fellows made A “GOOD INCOME” (verse 25) on his souvenirs.

So what’s the problem?  Look back at verse 20 where it is written, THE WORD OF THE LORD SPREAD WIDELY AND GREW IN POWER.  Demetrius apparently felt that Paul’s teaching was a threat.  One, Paul’s teaching had converted “LARGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE.”  When you are growing, people are more likely to consider you a threat and more likely to oppose you.  In v. 26 he said “PRACTICALLY THE WHOLE PROVINCE OF ASIA” was listening to Paul’s teaching.  By his own words, Demetrius, a “hostile witness” gauged the influence of the Church in Asia.        In verse 27 he said that Artemis was “WORSHIPED THROUGHOUT THE PROVINCE OF ASIA,” corresponding to Paul’s area of influence.

He was concerned that not only would business suffer, but also that the temple and the goddess would be “DISCREDITED.” (27)  After all, if people are leaving the goddess to follow Paul’s God, then that implies Artemis is the lesser divinity.  His reference to the WORLD is no exaggeration; archaeologists have uncovered temples to Artemis all over the ancient Roman world.

Demetrius may be sincere in his concern for the temple and for the city, but it seems more likely he was concerned about his wallet.  I say this because if he was concerned about the city, he’d have followed legal procedures as the CITY CLERK suggested (38-39).  Starting a riot is the kind of thing done by a greedy person without a legal leg to stand on.

That’s why Demetrius sought to inflame passion against Paul by accusing him of some awful misdeeds.  He accused Paul of leading people astray (26), telling them scandalous things like “MAN-MADE GODS ARE NO GODS AT ALL.”  He vilified Paul for “discrediting” Artemis and robbing her of her divine majesty (27).

  1. The riot resulted in confusion (vs. 28-32).

Luke described it as A GREAT COMMOTION (23), an example of the understated way things are typically described in the Bible.  The Bible writers didn’t exaggerate; they didn’t need to.

We start with the reaction of the members of the guild of silversmiths to the charges Demetrius made.  They were FURIOUS and BEGAN SHOUTING about how great Artemis was until they wound the whole city into an UPROAR.

Another measure of the commotion is the actions of the mob in verses 29-30: they SIEZED GAIUS AND ARISTARCHUS, who must have been widely known as Paul’s associates.  Don’t suppose they were treated gently.

They RUSHED AS ONE MAN INTO THE THEATER, probably intent on making “examples” of these two men.  I remind you the theater in Ephesus seated 24,000 people.  It was undoubtedly the biggest venue in the city.  It was not used for dramas only, but also for civic events of all kinds.

This concerted rush in a single direction implies that the events were unfolding as planned.  What happened was a riot but it wasn’t spontaneous, at least at the beginning.  Ending up in the theater was strategic.  This is what we’d call a “publicity stunt.”

To his credit, Paul wanted to APPEAR BEFORE THE CROWD, either to talk them out of rash actions or offer himself in exchange for his companions (30-31).  This was not empty posturing; Paul had to be restrained by other followers of Jesus.  OFFICIALS OF THE PROVINCE also weighed in to convince Paul not to go.  This tells us not only that Paul had FRIENDS in high places, but also that the riot must have gone on for some time for all these people to get involved.

The result was CONFUSION and is almost comical.  People were shouting different things, just to make noise.  Some came to the riot late and didn’t know what it was all about, but they were ready to join a protest.  Who doesn’t like a good tar and feathering?

Pity poor Alexander, suddenly chosen to be “front man” for the local Jewish community (33-34).  Some of the people at the riot were Jews and they thought Alexander might get the mob to calm down.   (They were among the confused!)  Alexander was game, but his attempts to MAKE A DEFENSE of Paul, who was born a Jew, were merely shouted down by the crowd.  These Greeks weren’t going to let a Jew tell them how to run t city.

Though it may sound strange that people in a 24,000 seat amphitheater would take up a common shout and do so for TWO HOURS, it was actually fairly common in that culture.  They called these rhythmic chants, shouts, and noises acclamatio, from which we get our English word “acclaim.”

  1. A wise man quieted the riot (vs. 35-41).

Where Alexander failed, the unnamed CITY CLERK succeeded; he QUIETED THE CROWD and got them to listen for a time (35).  While the title CITY CLERK may sound a little nerdy, this man was the chief link between the Roman Empire and the city administrators.  He wielded great power.  This is why the people were willing to listen to him and why they heeded his words.

His wise arguments convinced the CROWD.  We can see four parts of his rhetoric.

First he appealed to their pride in a positive way (35-36).  He cited as UNDENIABLE FACTS that the temple in Ephesus was the greatest in the ancient world because the goddess herself flung the massive silver image in the middle of the temple to earth and the temple was built around it. This was, of course, a myth, not a fact, but the CITY CLERK used both savvy and mythology to remind the people that the city had nothing to prove.

He effectively said, “Demetrius and his guild are wrong; there is no danger to this temple.  It is divinely protected and too big to fail.”

Since the temple was in no danger, there was no need for all this noise (“BE QUIET”) or to do anything RASH.

Second, he asserted that Gaius and Aristarchus were not criminals (37).  These statements were true.  He said, “THEY HAVE NEITHER ROBBED TEMPLES NOR BLASPHEMED THE GODDESS.”  At that time, robbing temples and committing blasphemy were serious crimes, punishable by death or exile.  This was the truth: Paul’s associates had committed no crime against the temple or the city.  Instead, they were being used as scapegoats by the mob.

Third, the clerk insisted that the rule of law be followed, not rule by the mob (38-39).  Notice that he knew exactly who was responsible for all this trouble and called him out: “DEMETRIUS AND HIS FELLOW CRAFTSMEN.”  This was a subtle warning: should the ax of punishment fall, it would fall on Demetrius and his cronies.

His point was that there were legal and reasonable ways to settle a grievance fairly, ways that would produce good results.  I imagine he had sympathy with Demetrius’ concerns, especially the economic ones.  However, to his credit, this man stood up for justice.

Fourth, he warned there would be negative consequences if the rioters continued to make this COMMOTION (40).  In the Roman Empire, where riots occurred, imperial legions would not be far behind.

No one in local government wanted Rome to step in and put the city under military rule.  This very thing happened at least once in Roman history.  In 20 BC the city of Cyzicus allowed some Roman citizens to be put to death in a riot.  They lost their city government because of it.  This is no idle threat.  If the empire heard about the COMMOTION and called him to account for it, the clerk would have to say, “THERE IS NO REASON FOR IT.”

His wise arguments apparently persuaded the people; HE DISMISSED THE ASSEMBLY (41) and that’s all we hear about it.

Though this passage has some goofy elements to it, the dark truth behind it is this: Expect opposition to the truth.  We’d like to think being a follower of Jesus should be the end to our troubles.  We’d like to think being truthful will eventually be recognized, maybe applauded.

These thoughts do not come from the Bible.  Jesus Himself said, “IN THIS WORLD YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE.  BUT TAKE HEART!  I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” (John 16:33)

Naturally we’d rather stand in the arena to enjoy the cheers of the crowd.  We’d rather not be Gaius or Aristarchus, who were stood before the jeering thousands of Ephesus.  We wouldn’t like to be Alexander and have to face the crowd that shouts us down.  Success will not spare us the opposition of sinful people; it will likely invite more.

So what is our hope?  Our hope is Jesus.  “I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD” is His promise and our hope.  Nothing in this world – neither its acclaim nor its opposition – should move our hope anywhere else.

 

RESOURCE:

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Acts, Eckhard J. Schnabel

Last Supper, Last Words, (3 of 5)

opposition-300x239

Retrieved from http://www.newlife4kokomo.org/unfazed-how-to-deal-with-opposition/.

Please read John 15:18-6:4 in your version of the Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.

Opendoorsusa.org compiles a “World Watch List” that reports on countries where persecution of Christians is strongest.  According to their most recent report, the top five worst places to be a Christian are, in order, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Pakistan.  Probably no one is surprised to hear those names.  You may be surprised to hear that India is 11th on the list, Ethiopia 39th, our neighbor Mexico is 39th and Columbia is 49th.  When you see them on a map, these countries circle the middle part of the globe, with more tolerant countries to the north and south.

Christians have established and enjoyed freedom in America for so long we find it hard to imagine state-sponsored or societal persecution of the Church.  In our own country, what I would call “practicing Christians” number only 20% of the population.  Given our cultural situation, this is not a statistic we can just ignore.  It is not impossible to believe that persecution is ever more than a generation away.  Whatever form it may take, Jesus’ followers should expect opposition from the devil and his people.  At the Last Supper, Jesus was preparing His eleven disciples to deal with opposition on a worldwide scale and to a lethal degree.  His teaching?

Don’t be discouraged by the world’s opposition.

  1. God’s people will be opposed by the world. (15:18-25)

We can be sure the WORLD will oppose Jesus’ people as it opposed Jesus.  He gave us six reasons for this persecution.

#1 – IT (the world) HATED ME FIRST (v. 18).  Jesus is first in all things, including being hated.  In the Gospels we see hatred being directed at Jesus, not the disciples.

#2 – You don’t belong to the WORLD (v. 19).  This word for WORLD in New Testament era Greek does not refer t0 this planet, but to human culture and systems that set themselves against God. Commentator William Barclay has a great definition of the world: the WORLD is “human society organizing itself without God.”

When we are born again we are born into God’s heavenly rule and our primary citizenship is there.  This is why the Bible tells us that we have been called “out” of the world though we still live in it (see John 15:19).

#3 – The relationship between SERVANT (us) and MASTER (Jesus) in verse twenty.  They persecuted Jesus; they will PERSECUTE us.  The SERVANT (or disciple) identifies with the master and shares the master’s life, so what the MASTER faces, the SERVANT does also.

That can work advantageously too.  If they had OBEYED Jesus’ teaching, they would obey ours too.  Saved folk don’t immediately go to heaven because God wants to use us to bring others to faith.

#4 – They don’t know God the Father or recognize God the Son (5:21+6:3).  Sometimes it’s hard enough to remember the names of people you’ve met, say nothing of recognizing people you don’t know.  What’s true in earthly life can also true in spiritual life; it’s impossible to know God without faith in Jesus (see John 14:6).

#5 – Because Jesus exposes their sin, they are GUILTY (22+24).  In John 3:19-20 Jesus taught that evil people prefer the darkness because it hides the evil they do.  We’ve all seen how hypocrites hate to be exposed for what they really are.  They react negatively and strongly to the one who has exposed them.

Jesus exposed their sin indirectly in His teaching.  He set forth God’s righteous standard and they fell far short of that.  He exposed their sin indirectly in His living, as His moral and spiritual life was in perfect conformity with God’s standard.  Jesus exposed their sin directly by publicly condemning their hypocrisy .

His most vicious enemies were hypocrites who resented His teaching because it blew up their self-deceptions and their public perceptions.  Ironically, hypocrites don’t feel guilt because their self-deception goes so deep, but Jesus said in both these verses that they are, in fact, GUILTY people.

#6 – Because they hate God the Father and we are related to Him (vs. 23-24).  There is no separating God the Father from God the Son; nor is there any way to separate God the Son from His people.  The hypocrites would soon display hatred of God the Son by having Him nailed to a cross.  Jesus wanted them to know hatred of Him was the same thing as hating the Father.

The WORLD will HATE God’s people.  To HATE means to dislike so much persecution is the result; detest or abhor.  The tense of the verb indicates the WORLD’s hatred is ongoing.  In this case, Jesus and His Church are hated undeservingly.

They HATED Jesus even though He did MIRACLES among them (24).  In the Bible, one of the purposes of MIRACLES is to validate the message of anyone who claims to speak for God.  Jesus’ MIRACLES validated His message and still some people HATED Him.

Let’s go one further: most of Jesus’ MIRACLES were acts of kindness.  He did healings and exorcisms by the dozens.  He raised the dead and fed thousands.  These were never displays of power intended to impress.  Jesus used divine power to help people.  What kind of a person is going to HATE Him for that?  Not a good or godly person.

Their hatred fulfills prophecy (v. 25).  Jesus quoted Psalm 35:9 & 69:4.  We don’t normally refer to that part of the Old Testament as LAW, but Jesus saw it that way.  It was a “law” in the sense that you could expect hypocritical people to behave this way just about every time.  Notice Jesus said “THEIR LAW” to make it clear that the hypocrites do not even keep their own standards, say nothing of God’s.

  1. The Holy Spirit helps us keep our testimony in spite of opposition. (15:26-16:4)

He is the SPIRIT OF TRUTH (26).  The Holy Spirit gives us opportunities to TESTIFY to the TRUTH, the words of testimony, and courage to speak them.  Our part is simply to follow through and do it.  The Holy Spirit also helps us under-stand and apply the Bible to our own lives and use it to help others.  To what the Spirit provides, we add our personal experience, Bible knowledge, personality, and inner convictions.  Put it all together and we are a witnessing MACHINE!

The Holy Spirit will TESTIFY about Jesus and with His help, we will also TESTIFY about Him (26-27).  We can and should use the communication tools and technology available to us, within reason.   However, we tend to think that mass media is going to be sufficient for our outreach.  I have said this before, publicity and programs will never replace people.

The vast majority of people (more than 80%) who are in church are there because someone invited them personally.  God has chosen you and me to make personal invitations and I fear we are not keeping up our end of the deal.

As we saw in 14:29 and in 15:19, 16:1+4 are part of Jesus’ purpose in these last minute instructions: to prepare His disciples to stand firm in the face of what was about to happen to them.  Jesus’ teaching here is for His disciples in the first place.  We do well to note the original context, as always.  But we also need to understand the principles and apply them to our own context.  This means Jesus’ words prepare us for two things: to be a witness and to suffer worldly opposition for our witness.

Opposition will even come from seemingly religious people (16:2-3).  Jesus’ strongest opposition came from the Pharisees, people who were highly esteemed in their culture as scrupulously religious folk.  But it’s not hard to be very religious yet not possess a bit of love: that’s hypocrisy.

Jesus warned His disciples that violent opposition will come from people who’ve convinced themselves their violent acts are a form of service to God.  In the book of Acts we see how Saul persecuted the Church until Jesus confronted him on the road to Emmaus.  He fulfilled this prophecy, as have other religious people in all the times since Jesus said these words.  It’s particularly disappointing when family members betray one another, but Jesus wanted us to be sure that we had been warned; to expect opposition and thereby not be discouraged by the world’s opposition.

Hostile Witnesses?

(Please read Matthew 2:1-12 in your favorite Bible.  I have used the NIV for these remarks.)

You may have heard the phrase “hostile witness” in a TV courtroom drama.  The practice of designating someone a “hostile witness” is quite rare in actual courtrooms; or so I’ve read.

Witnesses for the opposing side are always treated as “hostile” in the sense that they’re going to testify against you.  And normally, witnesses for your own side are “friendly” in the sense that their testimony will help you make your case.

Without complicating the matter, asking the judge to declare one of your own witnesses as “hostile” allows the attorney to ask more leading questions of the witness.  Instead of questions that must be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” the lawyer can ask questions where the answer is more complex and the answer is implied or included in the way the question is worded.

<Researched at http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/business-career/legal/hostile-witnesses? on 12/8/16.>

The thing about hostile witnesses on which I want to focus is that they’re generally believed to be more objective about an issue because their bias would be contrary to the case at hand.  Take the Magi, or wise men, as an example.  They were not Jews.  They were not Christians, because that term had not been coined yet; the Founder of our Faith was still learning to talk and perhaps be potty trained!

These were not people who would lie or exaggerate to make a case for Jesus as the Son of God, let alone as the King of the Jews.  Their actions were directed by their pagan beliefs and superstitions, not by faith or any philosophy supportive of the Jews and their God.

As we will see, an exciting part of this account is that these non-Jewish men recognized Jesus as the rightful King of the Jews nearly three decades before any Jewish folk came to that discovery.  Their recognition of the Christ-child is something God accomplished – in part – outside His usual means of revelation.  He used people who were not His people to confirm that He had indeed kept His promises.

Here we are at the “Three Kings,” or the “Wise Men,” as they have been called over the ages.  Here is the part of the Christmas story that has the most effect on the cultural celebration of Christmas.  The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas flows from the gifts of the magi to baby Jesus.  Just think of economic impact if they had composed poetry in His honor instead?  How would the American retail sector survive without the annual influx of cash in December?

Forgive me that skepticism.  What matters here is that the Magi witnessed to the true identity of the Baby in Bethlehem.

  1. The magi provided a pagan witness to Jesus’ identity.

Who they were: astrologers and court magicians who gave advice to kings.  Their beliefs bear a resemblance to the beliefs of a number of modern Americans: henotheism.

Wikipedia defines “henotheism” as the belief in and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities. Ancient peoples were extremely territorial and they believed that the gods were too; the popular superstition was that all gods existed and competed for worshipers and space on earth through the nations that they patronized.

This is the religious flipside of the modern politically correct view of “tolerance” set in a religious context.  While people of those cultures were competitive about their beliefs, they weren’t at all concerned about disproving the existence of anyone else’s gods.  These men were not Jews and they did not start out as believers in Jesus in any sense that would be familiar to us.

In this context, men like the MAGI were schooled in the beliefs and practices of many religions and sought to learn from them all.  They wanted to use their knowledge to divine the future and thereby establish their usefulness to the governing powers of their time.

As superstitious people do even in our own time, the MAGI believe that there was a cause and effect relationship between the movement of the stars and the actions of people.  Astrology was one of the tools they used to try to divine the future.

What they did is more important to our study: they came from Persia looking for a king.  They were seeking a KING OF THE JEWS, a political figure. We might conjecture they were seeking knowledge or political influence; we aren’t told whether their motives were selfish or not.  It seems more likely to me that they spotted this star, reported it to their king or nobleman and that person sent them on a quest to find the king and open relations with them.  In this case, their motive is primarily duty.  This would have been an extension of their job.

There are three clues the text gives us to measure the status of the MAGI and the effect of their visit.

– Verse three shows they were taken so seriously that the question they asked DISTURBED King Herod and the entire city of Jerusalem.

– In verse four we read the king called together ALL THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND TEACHERS OF THE LAW to research the answer to the Magi’s question.  The key word here is ALL.  The Magi were given VIP treatment!

– In verse eight, Herod attempted to use them to flush out the child-king.  Once exposed, he undoubtedly planned to have the child killed, which is how Herod dealt with all threats to his throne.  This implies Herod’s respect for the Magi in the sense that he was to some degree certain they would succeed in their mission.  If they found the newborn king, you can be Herod wanted to be first in line right behind them!

  1. The magi set an example for us to follow.

They are an example of seeking. The MAGI undertook such a long and difficult journey, so we can safely say they were highly motivated.  Further, they were motivated enough to leave their homeland with only a general destination in mind; they knew they had to go to Judea.  As Jerusalem was the capital of Judea, they likely went their first.  As they were court officials they knew how to behave around a king and may have carried papers that officially introduced them.  It’s logical to assume they went to Herod first.

Once Herod directed them toward Bethlehem, verse nine tells us the STAR took over and somehow directed them to the exact place in the village where Jesus and His family resided.  In spite of the way the scene is depicted on Christmas cards and in crèches, the MAGI did not appear on the same night as the shepherds (see Luke 2:1-20).  Based on the next passage (2:16), we think the MAGI arrived two years after Jesus’ birth.  This does not mean their search took them two years.

The point is this: they completed their quest.  They were OVERJOYED at seeing the STAR and having it guide them on the last leg of their journey to the new Jewish king.  (In fact, the original language is redundant, bordering on gushing; “thy rejoiced with a great joy exceedingly.”)

They did what they were commanded to do back in Persia: find and open relations with the new king.  They BOWED DOWN AND WORSHIPED HIM.  Normally, this phrase refers to the respect given royalty but it does not rule out the devotion offered to divinity.  The MAGI gave expensive gifts to the baby Jesus; gifts befitting a king.

In this, the MAGI accomplished their mission.  But I believe they must have immediately sensed there was more to this child than had been revealed to them by the STAR and Herod’s religious researchers.  As we will learn next week, the three gifts served a practical purpose.  Joseph was commanded to take Mary and Jesus to safety in Egypt.  The GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, and MYRRH could be sold/traded/spent there to provide the small family with the resources they needed to survive.  This was Providence at work.

Have you ever wondered why they followed through in this way?  Why weren’t they surprised to find a “king” in a peasant’s house?  Why didn’t they assume they’d made a mistake and turn for home?  My guess it was the STAR.  It was the STAR that had started them on this journey and it was the STAR that lead them to the end.

I wonder how highly motivated we are?  The availability of information and the abundance of churches can make finding Jesus pretty easy.  Or is that the case?  Have we complicated matters with our endless options and minute variations?  Are we compromised by worldliness?  Has our culture put blinders on us so we see only what is directly ahead and have only a partial conception of the bigger world and our even-bigger God?

They are an example of obedience to God.  In verse twelve, the MAGI received a message from God in much the same way Joseph had back in 1:20; IN A DREAM.  There is no mention of an ANGEL appearing in their dream and it is a warning, not a command.

Think about two things here: One, how seriously these superstitious men would have taken a dream.  Interpreting dreams was part of their daily work, so the dream was, like the STAR, a very effective way for God to get their attention.  Two, we see God’s grace in sparing them from Herod’s violence.  Don’t doubt for a moment that a violent, sinister man like Herod would hesitate to use torture to extract the information about the child’s exact whereabouts from them if they returned to Jerusalem.  We’ll talk more about Herod next Sunday, but he was paranoid and very near the end of his life at this time.  He would have had no hesitation to hurt and kill the MAGI in order to get at the new-born KING OF THE JEWS.

Also in verse twelve, we see the MAGI taking seriously the warning they were given as they RETURNED TO THEIR COUNTRY BY ANOTHER ROUTE.   Remember, back in v. 8 King Herod had specifically commanded them to come back to Jerusalem and report their findings to him.  To not do so was to risk his wrath, and thereby risk their lives.  This is no small decision.

Ruthless and powerful, King Herod was a very real threat; but they chose to give more heed to a dream they all had shared.  Not everybody would be wise enough to heed God more than the king.  Do you suppose that’s why we call them “the wise men?”

Years later, when the baby Jesus had become a man He said in MTW 10:28, “DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THOSE WHO KILL THE BODY BUT CANNOT KILL THE SOUL.  RATHER, BE AFRAID OF THE ONE WHO CAN DESTROY BOTH BODY AND SOUL IN HELL.”  I would say that the MAGI are an example of someone who possessed this wisdom.

            In his sermon entitled, “The Wise Men Worship The King” Pastor David Anderson made the following observations about the MAGI and their unique place in the NT story of Jesus.

  • These Magi are not identified with perfect precision.
  • Educated speculation says that they were likely the priestly caste of the Medes and Persians.
  • Daniel refers to the “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams”
  • These Magi are called “wise men” because they were people of learning. Think of these folks as a mixture of being the elite, the intellectuals, and the religious priests of their culture.
    • They were like science-math-literature-priests.
    • They were astronomers/astrologers.
    • Star-gazing book worms.
    • And they were Gentiles.
    • There is no indication they were kings.
  • And there is no indication that there were only three of them. There were three gifts, but this doesn’t prove a thing.
  • Sorry to ruin the Christmas song, “We Three Kings from Orient Are.”

So what do we take away from the account of the Magi’s visit to the Christ-child?  What can we learn from these events and how can we put it to work in our lives?

We can follow the example of zeal and dedication in following God that the Magi showed in seeking the newborn king of the Jews.  They set out on a long and difficult journey to a foreign land with very little to guide them.

We, on the other hand, have all the information we need and don’t need to move an inch to find Jesus.  What’s required from us is faith.

The Magi recognized Jesus as King and responded appropriately: they worshiped Him and  immediately obeyed His command.

(If you’d like the video version of this message, look up EBCSF on YouTube.)

A Smile Framed by Tears

(Read Philippians 1:7, 12-14, 17-18.)

“Joy in Creation”

How vast he wonders God hat wrought!

Heaven, earth, stars, He made from naught.

He must have felt a glow of pride

When laws He’d planned ruled space so wide.

I’m sure He felt a pleasant thrill

When plants grew green from plain to hill.

Perhaps he laughed a bit when He

Taught squirrels to bounce from tree to tree,

He surely spent some happy hours

Splashing color on birds and flowers.

He still must find it rather fun

To daily tint each setting sun.

The Lord God surely understands

Our joy in the work of our own hands.

– Miriam R. Murdock

CONTEXT = Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, & Philemon are letters Paul wrote while in prison.  Philippians was written during Paul’s imprisonment in the capital city of the empire, Rome.  He was under house arrest, awaiting Caesar’s decision on his case – life or death.

You would think that kind of waiting would produce a certain amount of anxiety.  Not to mention the obvious troubles of being imprisoned.

All that to say this; you’d understand if Paul were a little anxious.  To the degree that you can put yourself in his sandals, you’d understand if Paul had difficulty seeing the sunny side of life.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen to any degree that seems to have slowed Paul down.  He learned how to minister in his chains and made the most of his situation.  In fact, here’s what Acts 28:31 records about this period of Paul’s life; BOLDLY & WITHOUT HINDRANCE HE PREACHED T KINGDOM OF GOD & PRAYED AND TAUGHT ABOUT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Paul did not allow his physical chains to be spiritual restraints.  Further, he did not allow his problems to restrain his spirit.  As we will see, he had joy in spite of what he suffered.

The joy of sharing God’s grace (v. 7).

         Though self-pity would be understandable in Paul’s case, he focused on love instead. Interestingly, in the Greek, the translation of verse seven can go both ways; it can refer to Paul’s love for the church or for the church’s love for Paul. However you take it, their relationship encouraged Paul.

What they shared was more important than what imprisonment took away: God’s grace.  “Grace” is God dealing seriously & completely with sin but without punishing the sinner.

DEFENDING & CONFIRMING are legal terms. Paul used them to refer to opportunities to witness that came as a result of his imprisonment. He doesn’t use legal terms because his thoughts are on his legal proceedings, for Paul’s greatest concern is using every hearing as an opportunity to tell people about Jesus. So it’s actually a play on words or inside joke for Paul to express it this way.

The church in Philippi was also involved in this.  Because of the love and support they showed Paul, he saw the church as his partner in witness.

The joy of advancing the Gospel (vs. 12-14).

         What is clear as you read the account of these events in Acts, is that the only crime of which Paul was guilty, was being a Christian. What we learn in Paul’s letters was that the example Paul set was being copied. He had the faith and wisdom to see that God was using his calamity to create opportunities to ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.  How do we know this?

    • Because other Christians were emboldened, joining Paul in standing for faith and against persecution.
    • Because we all learn that trials are “fertilizer” for faith. Days of ease and seasons of success don’t have as much to teach us.  One important benefit of suffering is that it strengthens us for deeper relationships (with God and each other) and develops spiritual stamina to withstand trials. (See 1 Peter 1:3-7.)
  • Because God can turn trials into triumphs. What the Enemy intended for a deterrent was turned into an OPPORTUNITY!
  • Because Paul gained access to the powerful people. Though Paul was a Roman citizen, how easy do you think it would have been for his to get a chance to talk with the emperor?  His imprisonment got him several chances to talk to several levels of Roman rulers, including Caesar!

 The joy of preaching Christ (vs. 17-18).

         The cloud: false teachers preaching Christ with bad motives in their hearts. So, to all of Paul’s other troubles, add Paul’s concern for the churches under his care. Paul knew that some church people were trying to take advantage of his absence to push their false teaching on the churches. Part of their falsehood was personal; they were attacking Paul, trying to destroy his credibility as a means of building up their own

The silver lining: Christ was still preached. It takes faith and Spirit-led imagination to find “silver linings.” Our human nature tends more toward despair or anger, doesn’t it?

Paul believed God’s promise in Isaiah 55:11 = “SO IS MY WORD THAT GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH: IT WILL NOT RETURN TO ME EMPTY, BUT WILL ACCOMPLISH THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH I SENT IT.” To Paul, this meant that even in their falsehood, these false teachers were still proclaiming the Word.

Paul, by faith, saw good in his situation; he identified what God was doing. God is so much more powerful than our enemies, He turns treachery to triumph. So, rather than complain, Paul found something praiseworthy in his situation.

He wore… “A Smile Framed by Tears.”

 “Joy: Our Destination”

          “Life’s inevitable problems turn some Christians bitter.  These are the ones who say only sadness and sorrow are our lot in this ‘valley of tears’.”

In response to this problem, Rev. Timothy Goldrick wrote, “Others are given the grace to realize that suffering is not our perennial state.  Joy is our destination.  These are the ones who no longer take themselves so seriously.  They learn to laugh more easily.  Joy sets them free to be who God intends them to be.  They get a life.

“Why not start now?” he concluded.

(“The Joyful Noiseletter,” November 2007, p. 5.)