Faithlife Sermons

2023-03-19 Discouraged in Corinth

Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:18:22
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DISCOURAGED IN CORINTH (Acts 18:1-17) Date: ____________________ Read Acts 18:1-17 - A cartoon depicts a chuckling man who appears in his 80's. The caption reads, "Who said ministry is stressful? I'm 35 and I feel great!" That could be Paul arriving in Corinth except - he didn't feel great. He's discouraged. He later says, I Cor 2:3: "And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling." That feeling worsened until God gave him a message 9b) "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent." That God sent a vision tells us Paul was about to shut down. He was only human! He was down for good reason. So far, having followed God's direction to Europe, he's been beaten, jailed and asked to leave Philippi; kicked out of Thessalonica; fled Berea, and been mocked in Athens. Now he's in Corinth -Sin City of the ancient world. He's not expecting things to get better! Corinth had replaced Athens as the leading political and commercial center in Greece. It connected the Aegean and Adriatic with all points north. The people were ambitious, on the make! It was NYC and Vegas all rolled into one. Corinth was known for its licentiousness. Towering 1500 feet above Corinth was the temple of Aphrodite with over 1,000 temple prostitutes. All sensual pleasures were easily accessible. The term "Corinthianize" was coined to describe a profligate lifestyle. It was a rip-roaring town where only the tough survived. That's where Paul has come to evangelize. It became, along with Ephesus, one of Paul's two greatest places of ministry, but as he rolled in, he was legitimately discouraged. But God was there to buck up His discouraged warrior in ways that apply to us as well. At our lowest, He is there. I. God Encouraged Paul By Relationships God uses friendships, new and old, to encourage Paul's heart. He finds Aquila and Pricilla, a Jewish couple, recently arrived in Corinth. They're tentmakers, (leatherworkers) a trade that Paul probably learned from his father. This gave Paul something to fall back on. Paul also worked other places including Thessalonica, (I Thess 2:9); here in Corinth, and Ephesus (Acts 20:33-34). Aquila was a native of Pontus, located in Asia Minor on the south shore of the Black Sea. Priscilla probably from Rome. They started there, but were driven out by an edict by Claudius expelling all Jews in AD 49 or 50. Suetonius says the edict was issued bc Jews were "indulging in constant riots at the instigation of Chrestus." [Christ] Dissension and persecution always seemed to follow the gospel. In any case, Aquila and Priscilla were caught in the crossfire, and driven out of Dodge to Corinth to ply their trade. They had probably set up shop in the agora thus attracting Paul by their common vocation. Paul, in need of companionship, found a ready partnership with these who became two of his closest friends, eventually risking their lives for him as Paul later mentions in Rom 16:3-4: "Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus 4) who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well." This was the start of a beautiful friendship just when Paul needed it most. We're not told that P&A were believers yet, but probably they were, or, their conversion would have been mentioned. They were a gifted and discerning couple who were of great comfort to Paul, as to Apollos later. Then Silas and Tim arrived. When Paul was driven from Berea, he sent for them to leave Philippi to join him in Athens. They came, but Paul feared for conditions in Thessalonica, so I Thess 3:1: "Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone." He sent Tim to Thess. Silas was sent elsewhere, but now they both "arrived [in Corinth] from Macedonia." They were a great boost to Paul's morale. The Thessalonians were doing well - and they brought a monetary gift from Philippi - enough of that "Paul was occupied with the word" - that is, he quit working. Thus God encouraged Paul's heart with kindred spirits who animated his soul. We all need Xn friendships, more than we know. They challenge us in the faith, and encourage in the day of discouragement and trouble. Heb 10:24: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25) not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another." As we use our giftedness, others are built up, and so are we. We experience the love of Christ thru others. Wesley was right: "God knows nothing of solitary religion. No man ever went to heaven alone." We have faults, but we are also conduits of the love of Christ. So reach out. Find some friends, like Paul did. Someone who knows Jesus - even better than you. Someone who will challenge you when you are wrong - Prov 27:6: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend. . . . . 9) and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel." But someone who will love you in spite of yourself - Prov 17:17: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Like David found Jonathan; like Paul found P&A. It will enrich your life. II. God Encouraged Paul By Results That isn't so obvious at first. Look! 5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." That hardly seems like encouraging results - more like different verse, same chorus. Dif town, same opposition. The gospel only sparked controversy. But that's not the end of the story. Paul moved next door to the home of Titius Justus to preach. And the results were entirely different. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized." So the head of the Jewish community has come to faith. Later his successor, Sosthenes, comes to Christ. And many others. It's like the floodgates opened. Why? God's grace. God tells Paul in a vision, 10c) "for I have many in this city who are my people." They've not all come yet; some of them are even hostile at the moment, Paul, but guess what? I've got a lot of people here whom I "chose before the foundation of the world." They're marked out by me, and they will come as a result of your preaching. So get on with it. You preach; I'll draw. You give the gospel; I'll give the increase. You be faithful; I'll take care of the results." The Results Dept is God's! Isn't that encouraging? Making converts is not our job. Our job is to share Christ. His job is to draw whom He will. I love how a pastor Ken Copeland, not the PG guy, said this: "The power of the gospel is not in our performance. We're like the neurotic rooster who thinks the sun comes up because he crows. Sometimes when we're driving, our wife may irritate us. If we're going too fast, she's over there braking - from the passenger seat. That won't work. The steering wheel is mine; the accelerator is mine; the brakes are mine. So in ministry, the power is the Lord's." The effort is ours; the results are His. Paul need that reminder. III. God Encouraged Paul By Relief This was unexpected. Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, was high up in Roman politics. He was the son of Seneca the Elder and brother of Seneca the Younger, both highly influential Roman philosophers. He'd held office in Rome and was now in Corinth, a highly placed politician. So, the Jews brought him the same complaint against Paul they'd made elsewhere: "He's persuading people to worship God contrary to the law." Any ruling against Paul by Gallio would have established precedent throughout the empire. The judgment seat, or Bema, where Paul appeared is still standing in Corinth. Given past history in Philippi and Thessalonica, Paul could only expect the worst. But just as he started to defend himself, Gallio interrupted. He'd seen through the whole ruse. He knew this wasn't about Jews being concerned for Caesar's honor and prestige; it was a religious disagreement between two elements of Judaism from his perspective. So he refused to intervene. He said, "If there's a real crime here, I'll hear it; but this involves your own religious laws, not Roman law. Settle it between yourselves. It has nothing to do with me. So, away with you all." This dismissal of the case established the validity of Xnty and provided a measure of protection for the next decade. Paul must have been flabbergasted by this out-of-the-blue ruling. That was a first. The Jews were not just flabbergasted, they were irate. Their anger needed a scapegoat, and they found one of their own - Sosthenes, ruler of the synagogue, and probably the one making their case before the court. Probably blaming him, they began to beat him -- their own leader! It is interesting that Sosthenes is listed as a "brother" in I Cor 1:1 indicating he came also came to faith. What a testimony and what an encouragement to a discouraged warrior. Just when he expected the worst, God gave him something really good. I once had my wisdom teeth pulled - all on the same day. I made the doc give me a pain prescription ahead of time. But amazingly, I never felt a thing, even after the anesthetic wore off. Paul must have felt a little that way. Expecting pain, he got an encouraging gift from the Father. Something to treasure. IV. God Encouraged Paul By Revelation It seems that even with new friends, and some initial conversions, Paul was still struggling, maybe even thinking of skipping town. We're not the only ones who can wonder if it's worth it? Amazing to us, so did the great Apostle Paul. So God did one other thing. He gave him a night vision - a special revelation from God that gave him four reasons to keep on. First, God directly told him to stay, so there was no question it was God's will for him. Second, He promised no harm would come to Paul. Third, God revealed He had many more people in that city. There would be an outpouring of God's grace. And finally - and probably most importantly to Paul, God reminded him,10) "for I am with you." What encouragement this vision must have been. Now, we don't have visions today, but we God's permanent Word to us. And guess what? It gives the same promise of Christ's presence with us - all the time. Heb 13:5: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Really, Lord? Even when it's all going wrong? Even then, I am there. Even when I can't sense your presence? Even then, I am there. Even when all seems lost? Even then, I am there. He promised all believers, Mt 18:20b: "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Perceived or not; God is always there! Christian Reger spent 4 years in Dachau. In the 1st month he abandoned belief in a loving God. But even tho God did not deliver him from the horrors of the camper, he came to realize God had not left him. "God did not rescue me or make my suffering easier. He simply proved to me that He was still alive, and he still knew I was here. . . Others turned from God because of Dachau. Who am I to judge them? I simply know that God met me. For me, He was enough, even at Dachau." He was enough for Christian; He was enough for Paul; He's enough for us as well. He will never leave nor forsake. Conc - Discouragement is one of Satan's greatest tools to destroy us. But it is always a trap. First, we are not alone. Others love Jesus and can help share our burden. When Elijah was ready to quit and telling God, "I, even I only, am left" (I Kings 19:14d) - even after his great victory over the prophets of Baal, God encouraged him: I Kings 19:18: "Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." We're not alone; there are others; we need to seek them out for encouragement and growth. We are God's gifts to each other, Beloved! Second, we must remember, He's the fruit producer. Jn 15:5: "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." As Paul stayed faithful even when discouraged, Christ produced the fruit, and He'll do no less for us. And finally, we have His incredible, permanent promise: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Where we go, He goes. What we do; He does. He is the unseen guest at every challenge and every encounter. We are partnered with the greatest power in the universe whether it seems like it or not! It's an old story, but still applicable. At the first CW battle, Bull Run, both sides were hampered by inexperience, and troops were easily confused and discouraged. At one point, on Henry Hill the Confederates were retreating quickly. General Bernard Bee rode up to General Thomas Jackson: "Gnrl, they are beating us back." Jackson replied, "Stand firm and give them the bayonet." Bee galloped back to his own men, pointed to Jackson and said, "There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians." And so they did. But we have a far greater leader to rally around than that. May I urge you this morning: Heb 12:2: "Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith." Let Him perfect yours; let Him do it now. When faith kicks in, discouragement has to leave the field. Let's pray. DONE 7
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