God Gives Us Great Reasons to Rejoice!
God Gives Us Great Reasons to Rejoice!
The Book of Acts - Part 48
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - July 13, 2014
*Church: There is a joy that belongs to us, because we belong to Jesus Christ. Yes, life gets hard, but God gives us great reasons to rejoice! And tonight's Scripture highlights some of those reasons.
1. Rejoice first, because God gives us joyful reunions.
*Missionaries Paul and Barnabas started to make their way home in vs. 21-22, and Luke tells us that:
21. . . When they had preached the gospel to that city (i.e. Derbe) and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,
22. strengthening the souls of the disciples. . .
*Imagine the joyful reunions that took place as Paul and Barnabas began to go home. Until they got to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, they followed the same route they initially traveled to share the good news about Jesus.
*What a blessing it is to be reunited with family and friends and fellow-believers! It's one of the things I noticed the most when Anita got into Calgary last weekend. And it's one of the things our team enjoyed when we got home this weekend. Our Katie made signs! God gives us joyful reunions. And we know that the best reunion is yet to be, when God takes us home to Heaven.
*The closest I've ever felt to that ultimate reunion was at a giant Prayer Rally held at the West Monroe High School football stadium. That rally was scheduled in response to a prayer-in-school lawsuit that had been filed by the ACLU, and it was held on January 30th of 2000.
*The goal was to take a bold stand for Jesus Christ, and for the power of prayer. The theme was "United We Stand. Boldly We Pray. Humbly We Wait." Religious liberty lawyer, Matthew Staver, spoke for a few minutes. There was special music and a season of prayer. Then a giant crane hoisted a cross that must have been thirty feet tall.
*They were hoping to have 10,000 people come to pray, but 15,000 people showed up on that cold day! The stadium was completely packed, both in the stands and on the field. Anybody who was there knows that it was a high and holy time. I have never seen anything quite like it. The testimonies, the prayers, the faith, the unity, the presence of God, and the cross were wonderful. Then a beautiful rainbow appeared right over the stadium in the hazy sky above. It was marvelous, wonderful, amazing!
*After the rally I walked through the joyous crowd of 15,000 to look for my wife Mary. Every few seconds I would see another friend. We would greet each other and praise the Lord for the amazing blessings of the day. And I thought, "This is a little taste of what it's going to be like when we get to Heaven."
2. And Church, we can rejoice, because God gives us joyful reunions. But we can also rejoice, because He gives us good results.
*How can we sum up this first mission trip by Paul and Barnabas? Well, there were certainly some hardships, setbacks and disappointments. In Acts 13, the false prophet Bar-Jesus opposed the gospel, before the Lord struck him with temporary blindness. In Acts 13:13, John Mark bailed out on the team and came home early.
*Then they faced some kind of opposition everywhere they went:
-In Acts 13:45, "When the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul."
-In Acts 14:2, "The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren."
-In Acts 14:5, "A violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them."
-And in Acts 14:19, they did stone "Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead." But in vs. 20, Paul "rose up and went (back) into the city."
*Now on the good side: In Acts 13:42, "The Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath."
*On the good side.
-Acts 13:48-49 tells us that when the Gentiles heard that the gospel was for them too:
48. . . they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
49. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region.
*On the good side.
-In Acts 14:1, "a great multitude both of the Jews and the Greeks believed."
*And on the good side.
-In Acts 14:3, Paul and Barnabas spoke "boldly in the Lord." And God was "bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands."
*There were some tremendous results from this mission trip. But why? Why did Paul and Barnabas have such good results?
 One reason why is because they "preached the word."
*Verse 25 says: "When they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia." Paul and Barnabas firmly stood by the Word of God. And we must stand by the Word of God, if we want to see real spiritual fruit.
*God promised a great result in Isaiah 55:10-11. There the Lord said:
10. . . "As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11. So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
*Church: We will always be able to rejoice over the way God's Word can work in people's lives. Here's part of a testimony from Pastor Randall Deal:
*"I remember being overjoyed at seven years old when at a Child Evangelism Good News Club led by my Cub Scout leader in a park, I asked Jesus into my heart! I remember being overjoyed when the next day my older brother Richard and my younger brother Ronnie both accepted Christ too! I remember being overjoyed when my mom would walk my two brothers and me to church every Sunday! I remember being overjoyed when, after begging him and begging him, week after week, and praying that his boss would give him Sundays off, my Dad was finally able to go to church with us! I remember being overjoyed a few months later as I watched my Mom and Dad go forward in church one Sunday morning and give their lives to Christ! I remember being overjoyed when my whole family got baptized together the same Sunday morning!
*I remember being overjoyed at 12 when my Pastor's Wife trained me to be a Vacation Bible School teacher of young children! I remember being overjoyed at 20 when the Lord used me for the first time to lead someone to the Lord and put a calling on my life for His ministry. And I remember being overjoyed at 35 when my sister-in-law Roseanne came forward and accepted Christ at Saturday Night Church at First Baptist in Stockton, while Dena and I were leading worship." (1)
*Church: Every bit of that joy came from God's Word at work in our world.
 Why did Paul and Barnabas have such good results? Because they "preached the word," and because they were persistent.
*In vs. 26, they "completed" or "fulfilled" all the work God sent them to do. They were persistent. Paul and Barnabas didn't let any hardship or opposition keep them from doing what God sent them to do.
*Robert Morgan told the great story of a servant like that: Dr. Charles McCoy. Charles was a single man who devoted his years to pastoring a church and pursuing an abundance of educational goals. At age 72, when his denomination required that he retire from ministry, he reluctantly left his Baptist church in Oyster Bay, New York.
*At first Dr. McCoy wasn't sure what to do with himself. Over the years, he had earned seven different college degrees, but now they all seemed futile. At the time, he wrote: "I just lie on my bed thinking that my life's over, and I haven't really done anything yet. I've been pastor of this church for so many years, and nobody really wants me much -- and what have I done for Christ? I've spent an awful lot of time working for degrees, but I haven't won very many people to the Lord."
*Then, just a week after his retirement, Charles met a missionary who invited him to come to India to preach. Dr. McCoy turned him down, because of his age. He had never been overseas, never traveled across America, never even flown in a plane.
*Charles couldn't imagine traveling to India, and he didn't have the money. But he couldn't get the invitation out of his mind, so the white-haired preacher announced that he was going to India. He sold his car and few possessions, and bought a one-way plane ticket. "By yourself?" asked his horrified friends, "To India? What if you get sick? What if you die in India?" Dr. McCoy replied: "It's just as close to heaven from there as it is from here."
*He arrived in Bombay with his billfold, his Bible, and his passport, all of which were quickly stolen by pickpockets. Dr. McCoy was left with only the clothes on his back, and the address of some missionaries that he had clipped from a magazine. The man who had originally invited him to India had stayed in America. And when Dr. McCoy showed up on the other missionaries' doorstep, they weren't sure what to do with him.
*After a day or so, Dr. McCoy told them he was going to visit the mayor of Bombay. "Don't waste your time," said his new friends. After several years of trying, they had never been able to see the mayor. Dr. McCoy prayed about it and went anyway. He presented his calling card to the receptionist. She looked at it carefully, disappeared through a door, and returned telling him to come back at 3 o'clock.
*Dr. McCoy did go back that afternoon to find a reception in his honor attended by the most important civic leaders in Bombay. The city fathers had been greatly impressed by Dr. McCoy's 6'4" height, and his distinguished white hair. But they were especially impressed by the long string of degrees after his name on his calling card. He must be a very important man, they thought, maybe even a representative of the American President.
*Dr. McCoy spoke for a half-hour, giving his testimony about Jesus Christ. At the end, he was politely applauded by the crowd, and approached by a man in an impressive military uniform. He invited Dr. McCoy to speak to the students of his school, which turned out to be India's version of West Point.
*After his first address, Dr. McCoy was invited back many times. Invitations soon poured in from all over India. And he began a traveling ministry of preaching the gospel and starting churches. His evangelistic ministry stretched to sixteen years, and Dr. McCoy saw great results. Why? -- Because he was persistent about preaching the Word of God. (2)
3. And Church, we can rejoice, because God will give us good results. But we can also rejoice, because He lets us hear good reports.
*Paul and Barnabas gave a good report in vs. 27. There God's Word says: "And when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles."
 Notice two great things about their report. First: Paul and Barnabas gave all the glory to God.
*"They reported all that GOD had done with them . . ." Paul and Barnabas gave all the glory to God, because all the glory belongs to God. God created us, He loves us, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us. Jesus rose from the dead! And He will save us, if we will put our trust in Him.
*Thinking about these things, Pastor Brad Bailey gave glory to God with this good report: "God's living Son is our living hope!" Hebrews 6:19-20 says this in the NIV:
19. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
20. where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. . .
*And Brad said, "In the resurrection of Jesus, God gave us an anchor of hope that is strong enough to withstand any hurricane. This hope is the anchor that declares: 'God can overcome my past. God can be with me in the present each and every day. And God has a future for me, to be with Him forever.'" Glory to God! (3)
 Paul and Barnabas' report was great, because it gave all the glory to God. But it was also great, because it confirmed that God "had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles."
*Now that is an especially good report for us, because we are Gentiles! Aren't you glad that the good news is for everyone who will receive it? Aren't you glad that the door of salvation is open for all who believe?
4. Church: We can rejoice, because God lets us hear good reports. But we can also rejoice, because God gives us rest.
*In vs. 28 Paul and Barnabas "stayed there a long time with the disciples." One of the most important reasons why they stayed is because they needed rest. And no doubt they did rest. God know we need rest: Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual rest. That's why in Matthew 11:28, Jesus said. "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
*Melvin Cheatham talked about the rest that President Dwight Eisenhower was able to find, even while he led the armed forces in World War II. Of course, every decision during that awful war had monumental consequences. How did Ike deal with the pressure?
*He later told his pastor, Dean Miller, that he didn't try to carry his burden alone. Eisenhower put 1 Peter 5:7 into practice. There Peter tells Christians that we should cast all our cares on God, because He cares for us. And some nights when the strain became too great, Ike would simply pray: "Lord, I've done the best I can. You take over until morning." And then he would go to sleep. (4)
*It is always best to let the Lord take charge. He will give us the rest we need.
*Life gets hard, but God gives us great reasons to rejoice! So seek out those joyful reunions. Follow His Word and His will for good results. Glorify Him in every good report. And let Jesus Christ give you the rest you need.
*Would you please bow for prayer
(1) SermonCentral sermon "The Joyful Jesus" by Randall Deal - John 15:11 - 09012002
(2) Adapted from Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes - Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers 2000
(3) SermonCentral sermon "The Hope that Changes Life" by Brad Bailey - John 20:1-18
(4) Cheatham, Melvin, M.D. LIVING A LIFE THAT COUNTS - Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 - pp. 96-97 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Living in Sin or Synergy" by King Duncan - Matthew 11:28-30