Keep Moving Forward for Christ!
Keep Moving Forward for Christ!
The Book of Acts - Part 47
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - June 29, 2014
*It's hard to say goodbye to people we love in the church. About 25 years ago, Mary and I were serving at McClendon up in West Monroe. Gary and Linda Richardson were one of the finest young couples in our church. But then out of the blue, God called them to go to Nashville, where Gary went to work for the Gideons. They were such good folks and we hated to lose them, but God was in it and He has greatly blessed them there.
*Gary went on to become one of the top administrators for the Gideons. God was on the move in His world, and He is still moving today. God is on the move, and He wants us to move with Him. He wants us to keep moving forward for Jesus Christ. And in this Scripture, God's Word helps us see how to it.
1. First, we need to remember the magnitude of our mission.
*The Apostle Paul helps us in vs. 19-21. Here Paul's team was still on their first missionary journey, and the Word of God says:
19. Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
20. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
21. And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,
*What would make Paul willing to be stoned? What would make him willing to go back to the same place where they tried to kill Him? What drove him to keep telling people about Jesus? It was the cross! It was the good news of salvation for all who trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
*As Paul said in Rom 5:6-10:
6. . . when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
8. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
10. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
*We have a great gospel! That's why Jesus gave us the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, our risen Lord said:
18. "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
*Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us. And He has commanded us to tell the world. How important then is the Great Commission? Can you think of anything that could possibly be more important?
*Paul Rader once made a visit to the Coliseum in Rome. There in ancient times, many thousands went to watch Christians get torn apart by wild animals. Paul Rader was greatly moved by his visit to the Coliseum, and later wrote:
*"I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, "Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get this gospel to the ends of the earth?'" I prayed most fervently in that Roman arena for the spirit of a martyr, and for the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart, as He worked in Paul's heart when He brought him on his handcuffed way to Rome."
*Reflecting on those words, Todd Coget wrote, "Those early Christians 'lived on the threshold of heaven, within a heartbeat of home, no possessions to hold them back.' If so many have been willing to give their lives for the sake of the gospel, isn't there a greater commitment that we should make?" (1)
*Of course the answer is yes. We must recognize the magnitude of our mission. But the amazing truth is that sometimes a small effort on our part can make an eternal difference. At the VBS fellowship Friday night, Karen reeled off the names of 5 or 6 people who invited her to church last week. God used that to really get her attention. She saw His Hand at work in all of those invitations, so she committed to be here this morning, and she was here this morning!
*Let me ask you to think about somebody you can invite to church. And if you can't think of anybody, ask God to show you someone you can invite. May God help us to do all we can to help other people get closer to Jesus Christ! We must, because God wants our church to keep moving forward for the Lord.
2. So remember the magnitude of our mission, and help strengthen the souls of the disciples.
*We must do everything we can to strengthen the souls of the disciples. This is crucial for us to keep moving forward for Christ, and it is exactly what Paul and Barnabas did here.
*Verses 21-22 tell us that:
21. . . when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,
22. strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.''
*Verse 22 in the KJV says they were "confirming the souls of the disciples," but "confirming" there is not talking about a religious ritual. This word "confirming" means that Paul and Barnabas were making the new Christians more firm. They were giving the new believers more support. They were giving them more of the strength they needed to face the trials of the Christian life, and God wants us to strengthen each other.
*Author Henry Cloud gave a great example from his childhood. Henry said, "When I was four years old, I came down with a leg disease that left me bedridden, then in a wheelchair, and then in braces and on crutches for two years. I went overnight from a very active child to one with a serious disability.
*My doctor told my parents it was imperative they make me do things for myself and not spoil my character by doing everything for me. I remember an incident at church when my parents were making me go up a long flight of stairs on my crutches. I was struggling and taking a long time, but they were prodding me on. I stumbled, got redirected, and continued on one slow step after another. I'm sure it was painful to watch. Suddenly, from behind us I heard a woman say to her husband, 'Can you believe those parents are making that child do that?'
*I don't remember what my parents said, but years later I wondered how my mother did it. One of the most caring people I know, she is also one of the most caretaking, the kind who has difficulty making the dog go outside in the rain.
*I can only imagine what it was like for her to let a crippled child struggle through things she could have helped with. So, years later, I asked her, 'How in the world did you let me suffer through what I had to suffer through without rescuing me?' 'Emmett,' she said. 'Emmett?' I asked. 'Yes, Emmett. Every day, when I had to do something I just could not face doing, I would call Emmett, cry my eyes out, and listen to her tell me I had to do it. She would help me through it each time. It was awful.'
*Emmett was my mother's best friend, a wonderful Christian woman. What my mother had discovered was that by herself she could not do that was required of her. But with support she could." (2)
*God wants us to strengthen each other, but how can we do it? How did Paul and Barnabas strengthen the souls of the disciples?
 First it was with godly living.
*Paul and Barnabas were not just talking the talk, they were walking the walk. As they went back through those cities, the people knew that Paul and Barnabas had left everything to follow Jesus, and that they had even risked their lives for the Lord. Paul and Barnabas lived a life worth following, and that's what God wants us to do.
*Gerald Johns once told me something that their pastor in Houston used to tell the church every Sunday: "Live a life worth sharing, so you can share a life worth living."
 How did Paul and Barnabas strengthen the disciples? They did it with godly living, and with godly encouragement.
*Verse 22 says they "exhorted" or "encouraged" them to continue in the faith. We all need that kind of encouragement. And we all need to give encouragement, but it's not always easy.
*As Roddy Chestnut said: "It's always easier to tear things down than it is to build things up. Dominoes are easier to knock down than set up. A meal is easier to burn than cook properly. And flowers are easier to cut than to cultivate." But God wants us to encourage each other. (3)
*Bob Soulliere reminds us that encouragement is a major theme Paul's letters. Paul was passionate about building up the churches. He realized there was only so much he could do. So Paul used encouragement to help make other Christians strong enough to serve." (4)
*We can see a good example in 1 Thessalonians 4:1. There Paul used the same word he used here in vs. 22, and Paul said: "Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God."
*William Barclay once said: "We must encourage one another. One of the highest of human duties is that of encouragement. And Barclay gave the example of something J. M. Barrie once wrote to Cynthia Asquith: 'Your first instinct is always to telegraph to Jones the nice thing Brown said about him to Robinson. You have sown a lot of happiness that way.'"
*Cynthia spread a lot of happiness with her encouraging words. Then J. M. Barrie poured some of that happiness back on her. Now God wants us to encourage other people.
*William Barclay explained: "It is easy to laugh at men's ideals, to pour cold water on their enthusiasm, to discourage them. The world is full of discouragers, but we have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many times, a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word." (5)
 How did Paul and Barnabas strengthen the disciples? They did it with godly encouragement, and with godly truth.
*In vs. 22, they didn't sugarcoat things a bit, but said, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." Many tribulations: That means lots of pressure.
*Roddy Chestnut reminds us of the old Irish Blessing: "May the road rise up to meet you; May the wind be always at your back; May the sun shine warm upon your face; The rains fall soft upon your fields; And, until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand"
*Well, Christians: Thank God we are always in the palm of His hand. But as Roddy noted, "Sometimes the roads rise up to meet you with potholes or big chunks of tractor-trailer retreads dead-center in your lane! The wind won't always be at our backs, and the sun won't always shine warm on our faces. No one gets to go through life unscathed! Don't be surprised by trouble.
*There's some unhealthy Christian teaching that says Christians shouldn't experience trouble, but should expect health and wealth in life. Was Paul blessed with health and wealth? Was Jesus? Was something wrong with their faith? Of course not. Remember what the Lord told His followers in John 16:33: 'These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.''' Now that's the truth! And it will give us the strength we need to keep moving forward for Christ. (6)
3. God wants us to keep moving forward for Christ, so help strengthen the souls of the disciples, and be on the lookout for new leaders.
*As Paul and Barnabas headed home from this first missionary journey, they stopped at the new churches along the way. And one of the most important things they did was enlist new leaders to serve in the churches. So vs. 23 says that "when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
*Paul and Barnabas knew that they needed help! So they "ordained" or "appointed" elders in every church. Every church needs leaders. Every church needs young leaders to carry on the work of their parents' generation. And every growing church needs more leaders, more committed Christians who will step up to serve.
*When I think of Sunday School, the Nursery and VBS, I think of leaders. The church must always be on the lookout for new leaders. But we must also lookout for the leaders we have. How can we do that? The same way Paul and Barnabas did in vs. 23, through prayer and fasting, "they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
*They "commended" them to the Lord. I really like that word "commend." The word picture is to deposit something for protection, like putting money in the bank. It's the very same word Jesus used when He died on the cross for us. In Luke 23:46, Jesus said, "Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit."
*Jesus knew that He could safely deposit everything into the Hands of His Father. So can we. We can safely deposit everything we have and everything we hope for in the Hands of our Heavenly Father.
*Robert Leroe told about a preacher who was very close to death, and this is what he said to his son: "Don't worry about me. I'm feeling somewhat better today. But should I slip away while you're gone, you'll know where to find me." And we do know where to find him! -- Safe at home forever in the Hands of God. (7)
*God wants us to keep moving forward for Jesus Christ, just like Paul and Barnabas. So we must recognize the magnitude of our mission, help strengthen the souls of the disciples, and be on the lookout for more leaders. Keep moving forward for Christ!
(1) Illustration from Our Daily Bread - Source: SermonCentral sermon "The First Missionary Journey - Part 2" by Todd Coget - Acts 14:1-28 - July 21, 2002
(2) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Desperate Mothers" by John Tung - Exodus 2:1-10
(3) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "An Encouraging Word" by Roddy Chestnut - Acts 14:21-22
(4) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "An Encouraging Word" by Bob Soulliere - Acts 14:21-22
(5) Adapted from the Barclay Study Bible - THE MEANING OF CHRIST FOR US - Hebrews10:19-25
(6) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "The Lystras of Life" by Roddy Chestnut - Acts 14:18-20
(7) Sermon Central illustration contributed by Robert Leroe