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Great Expectations for God's Church

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Great expectations for God's Church: 1. Expect new strength (vs. 32). 2. Expect new support (vs. 33-34). 3. Expect new service (vs. 35-36; 39-41). 4. Expect new starts (vs. 37-39). 5. Expect new struggles (vs. 37-40). 6. Expect new success (vs. 37-41).

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Great Expectations for God's Church

The Book of Acts - Part 51

Acts 15:32-41

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - August 3, 2014

"Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." You've probably heard that quote before. It's one of my favorites. Mary cross-stitched it for me years ago, and it's hanging on the wall in my office.

"Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." William Carey said that in a sermon in Nottingham, England on May 31st, 1792. Then he lived it for over 40 years as the father of modern missions in India.

*What are you expecting for our church? What should we expect the Lord to do here? Let's look at the early church to find some great expectations for our church.

1. First of all, expect new strength.

*Church, we can find new strength! We can find the kind of strength we see in vs. 32, where the prophets Judas and Silas "exhorted the brethren with many words and strengthened them."

*The KJV says they "confirmed" them. Some Protestant churches offer formal "confirmation classes" to children when they turn 12. I went through classes like in the Presbyterian Church we attended back in Georgia. But the word "confirmed" in vs. 32 isn't talking about anything like that. The original word here simply means "support, establish, strengthen."

*It reminds us that God will give us all the strength we need! And we need it! David White compared us to weightlifters and said, "The weight lifter who regularly picks up 500 pounds cannot pick up his own 250 pounds. You cannot lift yourself. That's true both physically and spiritually." (1)

*We need strength from above. And there is a lifetime supply of strength for us here in the Word of God. But we have to seek His strength. Most every Christian knows this but knowing it is not enough. We actually have to do it. We have to seek God's strength.

*James Wilson put it this way: "If you ask the young children in our Sunday School, 'How can I be a better Christian?' They are likely to respond, 'Go to church, read your Bible, and pray.' Even the youngest among us know the value of doing these things." Yet, he says, "Every week there are empty pews at the church, and dusty, unread Bibles in our homes." (2)

*There is a lifetime supply of new strength for us in the Word of God. And when we seek it, we can expect new strength.

2. We can also expect new support.

*In vs. 32-34, Silas stayed in Antioch to give more support to the church:

32. Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted the brethren with many words and strengthened them.

33. And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.

34. However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.

*Silas was a great guy. Back in vs. 22, the Jerusalem church sent Silas to Antioch. They trusted him to help clear up the terrible confusion about salvation that the legalists had created. Those false teachers claimed that you had to be circumcised and keep the Old Testament religious laws in order to be saved.

*But the truth of God's salvation is summed up in Ephesians 2:8-9. There Paul tells all Christians:

8. . . by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9. not of works, lest anyone should boast.

*Silas was sent to Antioch to help clear up the confusion about how we are saved. And the Jerusalem church chose him, because as vs. 22 says, Silas was one of the "leading men" in that church. Then in vs. 32, Silas helped strengthen the church in Antioch. And when Paul needed a new partner, in vs. 40 Silas stepped up to help.

*God sent Silas to help with His church. And He will give us new partners too. I cannot begin to count all the people God has sent into my life to bless me. Just one example is a guy named Richard Mencer. In the mid-1990's Rich owned a kiosk Christian Bookstore at the mall in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He also served on staff in a church up there.

*I got to know Richard through his in-laws at Emmanuel Baptist Church. In early 1997, I was going through one of the lowest points in my ministry. Looking back, I can't even remember why, but I was really discouraged. Then one day Richard called out of the blue. He told me he was going on a mission trip to Ukraine that summer with David Guinn. He said they needed another pastor to go with them, that they had prayed about it, and felt like the Lord was leading them to ask me. Then he told me he had shared all of this with the city-wide singles group he was leading, and they had volunteered to pay the $3,000 cost for the trip. I couldn't believe it!

*God did a lot of great things on that trip. But on top of everything else, He used that trip to give me a new burst of encouragement. It was like a brand-new birth to my ministry, and I will always be grateful for that.

*God gave Silas to help Paul. He gave Richard Mencer and David Guinn to help me. And He will keep giving us new partners for His work. You still haven't met some of the favorite people you will ever know! We can expect new support.

3. We can also expect new opportunities for service.

*We can expect new projects, new places to go, new things to do for the Kingdom of God. We see this happening in vs. 35-36, where:

35. Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

36. Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.''

*But then because of the disagreement on taking Mark, we see in vs. 39-41 that:

39. . . Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;

40. but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

41. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

*As long as we are in this world, God will have new things for us to do. Years ago, I never thought I would go overseas for the Lord. But then in February of 1994, I went to the mailbox and found this letter about evangelism in Russia. The Communist Iron Curtain had fallen, and for the first time in 70 years, the door was wide open to share the gospel in the old Soviet Union.

*The letter I got that day wasn't even a personal letter. It was basically an advertisement for mission trips to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. But amazing things were happening as many thousands of gospel-starved people were turning to the Lord. And God used that letter to set my heart on fire to be a part of that work. The Lord even moved a generous church member to pay the total cost for the trip. I will be eternally grateful that God allowed me to go on mission trips like that.

*And as long as we are in this world, God will have new things for us to do. It doesn't have to be across the ocean. Most of the time it will be across the street, or even across the room. As long as we are in this world, God will have new things for us to do. We can expect new opportunities for service.

4. We can also expect new starts.

*Thank God that failure isn't always final! God gives second chances! Mark's story reminds us of this truth in vs. 37-39:

37. Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.

38. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

39. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;

*This problem started back in Acts 13:13, which is talking about the first missionary journey, and simply says: "Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem."

*John Mark went back home. Why did he do that? Maybe he was homesick. Have you ever been homesick? Maybe he was afraid of persecution or afraid that he had bitten off more than he could chew. Have you ever been afraid that you bit off more than you could chew in the Lord's work? Maybe the Lord led Mark to go back home, although Paul surely didn't think so.

*But thank God that failure isn't always final! I am so glad that God gave Mark a second chance! Paul would later see the wisdom of a second chance, as Mark proved himself to be a faithful and fruitful helper.

*In Colossians 4, Paul listed 8 men who were serving Christ, and here is part of what Paul said:

10. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him),

11. and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my ONLY fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.

*In Philemon 1:24, Paul called Mark "my fellow laborer." And in Paul's last letter, he wrote these words to Timothy:

9. Be diligent to come to me quickly;

10. for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica, Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

11. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. (2 Timothy 4:9-11)

*In 1 Peter 5:13, The Apostle Peter called Mark "my son," and of course Mark wrote the Gospel that carries his name. It is the oldest Gospel and is the source of much of the content in Matthew and Luke. That is why William Barclay said: "It would indeed be possible to argue that (Mark) is the most important book in the world, because it is agreed by nearly everyone that it is the earliest of all the gospels and therefore the first (story of the) life of Jesus that has come down to us." (3)

*But would there have even been a Gospel of Mark without this second chance? Maybe not. I am so glad that God gave Mark a second chance! Thank God that failure isn't always final, and that God is still in the business of giving second chances to people! So, don't give up on them yet. Church: We can expect new starts.

5. We can also expect new struggles.

*Uh oh. -- The church got relief (temporary relief) from the legalism problem. But almost immediately a new problem popped up. It was that personal problem between Paul and Barnabas, and of course it concerned Mark.

*Please listen to the Scripture again in vs. 37-40:

37. Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.

38. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

39. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;

40. but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

*That word "contention" means there was irritation and angry dispute. They were inciting each other, egging each other on. There will be disagreements in the church. Sometimes they are silly, and sometimes they are serious. But they are always sad. There must have been terrible heartache in the church at Antioch over the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas.

*Think about it: Barnabas and Paul fighting! Barnabas whose very name meant "the son of encouragement." Barnabas had introduced Paul to the Apostles and vouched for his salvation. Barnabas later went 100 miles to find Paul in Tarsus and bring him back to help lead the church in Antioch. Barnabas went with Paul on that first mission trip together and saw the Hand of God at work in amazing ways.

*Now they were fighting with each other. What a tragic mistake. I wonder if Paul was thinking back to this sad time when he later wrote these words in Philippians 2:

1. . . If there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,

2. fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

3. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

*The truth is that we will face struggles and heartaches in Christian life, setbacks, disappointments and problems. So, do all you can to be a peacemaker. And don't get derailed by disagreements. Don't drop out! Paul and Barnabas didn't quit. They went on with the work! How many people around us used to go to church, serve, teach, lead?

*We are blessed with great love and unity in our church, but we are not perfect. Paul and Barnabas couldn't always get along, and we won't either. So, don't get derailed by disagreements. We can expect new struggles.

6. But the great news is that we can also expect new success.

*Great things happened when the two teams went their separate ways. Surely God blessed them both, and many people were saved. Here is some wonderful news for us tonight: God still works in spite of our shortcomings! And glory to God, He can even work through our disagreements, just as He did here with Barnabas and Paul.

*Nothing can stop the gospel of Jesus Christ! Because He is the Son of God, because He died on the cross for our sins, because He rose again from the dead, and because He will give everlasting life to everyone who puts their trust in Him.

*Here's a great story from Jim Wilson that shows the Hand of God at work today: "For sixty years the members of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Mount Carmel, Tennessee prayed for Joe Arnott to come to Jesus. Even though Joe wasn't a Christian, he was a religious man. And he came to Sunday School and Church for all those years, but he never accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Several church members witnessed to Joe, but his answer was always the same, 'I'm not ready yet.'

*No one gave up, they kept praying for him, and on March 5th, 2000, their prayers were answered! Joe Arnott made a public profession of his faith. The congregation wept as they watched 60 years of prayers walk down the aisle to give his life to Jesus.

*Seeing what was happening, the men in his Sunday School class followed Joe down the aisle and stood with him as he made his decision. His pastor, Benny Keck said, 'I suppose fewer words will ever sound sweeter to my ears than hearing Joe say, "I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God."'" (4)

CONCLUSION:

*That's what God is doing in the world today. And that's what we can expect Him to do in our church! Let's pray for great expectations right now.

(1) SermonCentral sermon "Fathers: Words That Can Save Your Family" by David White - Joshua 24:14-24

(2) SermonCentral sermon "Prayer" by James Wilson - Matthew 7:7-12

(3) Adapted from BARCLAY'S DAILY STUDY BIBLE by William Barclay - The Westminster Press - Philadelphia - Revised Edition, Copyright 1975 - Introduction to the Gospel According to Saint Mark

(4) From Fresh Illustrations - www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html - Source: SermonCentral sermon "Prayer" by James Wilson - Matthew 7:7-12

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