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Tune in to God's Will for Your Life

The Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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It is God's will: 1. To work through our limitations (vs. 1-3). 2. For us to link-up with other Christians (vs. 3-6). 3. For us to listen to wise council (vs. 4 & 7-13). 4. For us to love the Lord supremely (vs. 13). 5. For us to lean on the Lord completely (vs. 14).

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Tune in to God's Will for Your Life

The Book of Acts - Part 75

Acts 21:1-14

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 22, 2015

*If you are my age or older, you probably watched a TV with rabbit ears on top. That was the shiny metal, indoor antenna that looked like two short fishing poles stuck together in a V shape. This was long before the days of Cable TV or DISH, and you had to position those rabbit ears just right to get a half-way decent picture on the three channels we had. Some people put aluminum foil on the rabbit ears to help them pick up the signal better. But we weren't that high-tech in my family.

*Back then, people were trying their best to tune in to the TV show they wanted to watch. But tonight in God's Word, we can tune in to something a whole lot more important. Here we can actually tune in to God's will for our lives.

1. First we see that it's God's will to work through our limitations.

*In other words: God has chosen to do His extraordinary work through ordinary people like us. Verses 1-3 remind us of this important truth, so please listen again to Luke's report:

1. Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.

2. And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.

3. When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo.

*I am a little surprised that God bothered to put these verses in His Word. They almost read like a bus schedule. Listen to vs. 1-3 again from the NLT:

1. After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara.

2. There we boarded a ship sailing for the Syrian province of Phoenicia.

3. We sighted the island of Cyprus, passed it on our left, and landed at the harbor of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload.

*Nothing could be more routine than Luke's list of their hops and skips toward Jerusalem. But God's work has always been a mixture of the mundane and the miraculous. In our church, we want to see souls saved, but we also want to save money on the electric bill. We want to see hearts cleansed, but we also want clean bathrooms.

*God's work has always been a mixture of the mundane and the miraculous. This is important for us to see, because we have a tendency to turn our Bible heroes into super men and women. And that can be intimidating, because we think we can't possibly serve the Lord like they did.

*But these verses remind us that they were men and women just like us. They lived in the real world and had to take care of basic needs just like us. God worked through their limitations and He can do the same thing in our lives.

*This was His careful plan all along, so that all the glory will go where it belongs: To God! Paul talked about this truth in 2 Corinthians 4:5-7, where he said:

5. . . We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

6. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

7. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

*God wants to work through our limitations. One of the great Christian leaders of the last 30 years is Chuck Swindoll. Listen to Dr. Swindoll's testimony about some of the limitations he and his wife faced at the very beginning of their ministry:

*"When my wife, Cynthia, and I were first led by God to change careers and enter seminary and to begin ministry, which was something I had resisted for the longest time, we changed our whole life. In fact, we sold our house on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, and moved to Dallas. And we knew, really, no one.

*We set up housekeeping in a little, tiny apartment. It was really a dump. I mean, it was one of those places with hot and cold running rats, you know, those places they finally just condemned." Chuck also said he heard a friend say: "'When we lived there, there wasn't a single roach in the place. They were all married and had a litter of roaches.' I mean, there were roaches everywhere. I'm glad to say it's all been torn down.

*But we didn't know anybody. We didn't have any money. In fact, we had a little debt we had to deal with." But God worked through all of those limitations in a marvelous way. (1)

2. And it is God's will to work through our limitations. It is also His will for us to link-up with other Christians.

*God wants us to link our lives together with other believers, just as Paul's mission team did here. In vs. 3-6, Luke tells us:

3. When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo.

4. And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.

5. When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.

6. When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home.

*When the team got to Tyre, they were less than 100 miles from Jerusalem. John Phillips tells us that there was a church in this city. It was probably established during the great persecution that followed the death of Stephen. The missionaries knew about the church and hunted it up.

*The word for "finding disciples" in vs. 4 occurs one other time in the New Testament. Luke also used it in his Gospel when the shepherds 'came with haste and FOUND Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.' So here, Paul and the mission team went out searching for these fellow believers." (2)

*And the lesson for us is that we ought to be, we need to be seeking godly influence and support in our lives. The Christian life was never designed to be lived in isolation from other believers. We need godly people in our lives to encourage us and challenge us to live for Jesus.

*Thank God we already have a built-in relationship with every believer we will ever meet in this world! Godly Christian strangers won't be strangers for long. And just like Paul, we will find Christian hospitality wherever we find other Christians.

*John Phillips explained: "Such is the fellowship of the church. Paul was not personally known to many at Tyre, and his companions were complete strangers. But by the end of the week, links of Christian love had been forged. And the believers felt as though they had known one another for years. The world knows nothing like it. No club or fraternity offers anything to compare with the fellowship of the saints. A child of God is a member of a family, a real family, and one in which the ties are often more binding than those in one's human family." (2)

*Listen to the rest of Chuck Swindoll's testimony: "We didn't know anybody. We didn't have any money. In fact, we had a little debt we had to deal with. But unknown to us when we came, there was a man in our home church who took an interest in our lives, and he's one of the great heroes of my past.

*You wouldn't know him if I called his name. He'd be embarrassed if I named him publicly, and so I won't. But year after year, he paid our tuition, not only ours, but 12 or 14 other fellas who were there from the same church. In fact, one year he bought us all new sports coats for Christmas. Never once did I have to write him and ask for help. He saw the need and filled it." (1)

*All of those couples were blessed beyond measure by another believer. They were helped, taught, inspired and encouraged. We need to seek that kind of godly influence in our lives. Of course, the flip side is that we also need to be a godly influence on other people. What kind of influence are we having on people around us?

3. It is God's will for us to link-up with other Christians. It is also His will for us to listen to wise council.

*In vs. 4, God was trying to get Paul to listen to the believers in Tyre: "And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem."

*Two days later down in Caesarea, then about 50 miles from Jerusalem, the believers again urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. We see this happen down in vs. 10-12, where God's Word says:

10. And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.

11. When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'''

12. And when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.

*There are some passages of Scripture that are open to different interpretations, and this is one of them. A lot of people see it another way, but the best I can understand, Paul was not in God's perfect will as he headed toward Jerusalem.

*Ray Stedman explained: "Many commentators have struggled with this passage. I suppose we are all reluctant to attribute any wrongful action to the Apostle Paul. These studies in Acts have endeared him to us. We recognize the strength of his character, the fervor of his spirit, and the love and compassion of this great-hearted man.

*We have come to love Paul, and it is hard to believe that he would ever deliberately disobey the Holy Spirit. And yet, taken at its face value, this sentence in vs. 4 indicates a command of the Holy Spirit which the apostle, for motives we shall examine, chose to ignore." (3)

*John Phillips explained that Paul had faced the issue long before coming this far. Back in Acts 20:22-24, Paul said:

22. "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

23. except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

24. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

*Here in Acts 21:4, the Holy Spirit was even stronger, as the disciples "told Paul through the Spirit NOT to go up to Jerusalem." John Phillips said: "This seems to be the strongest warning Paul had received." Greek scholar A.T. Robertson translated the expression "he should not go up to Jerusalem" as "he should not set foot in Jerusalem." C.I. Scofield said, "Paul was warned in Acts 20:23 not to go, but now he is commanded not to go to Jerusalem." (2)

*This makes sense to us when we understand that Paul was in Jerusalem less than two weeks when the whole city rose up against him. But Phillips gave a good explanation of Paul's determination to go:

"He knew that he was in for a rough time in Jerusalem, because the Holy Spirit had told him so plainly, and gave added confirmation in place after place. He would be arrested and afflicted if he went to Jerusalem. He knew it in his innermost soul; he knew it from God; but he was determined to go.

*He had done much harm to the Jerusalem church in his unconverted days, had made so many widows, so many orphans, so many beggars. Now he had a chance to relieve the sufferings and hardships of the poor saints in Jerusalem with a handsome gift collected from the churches he had planted in the Gentile world.

*Paul felt he had an obligation to go. He longed to see, with his own eyes, some of the damage repaired, and the Holy Spirit respected that. He allowed Paul to go, but He left Paul in no doubt as to what he could expect." (4)

*We can only speculate, but surely things would have been better if Paul had listened to the Lord as He spoke through wise believers. The question for us is: Are we willing to listen to the Lord?

4. It is God's will for us to listen to wise council. And it is His will for us to love the Lord supremely.

*Paul may have been out of God's perfect will as he headed toward Jerusalem. But there is no doubt that Paul loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. So in vs. 13, Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.''

*Today's shocking news is that Christians are being beheaded by Muslims over in the Middle East. However, the question for us tonight is not will we die for the Lord, but will we live for the Lord?

*Do we love Him that much? How can we not love the one who died on the cross for us? Shouldn't we love the one who created us, forgave us, blesses us and will save us forever? God help us to love Jesus with all our hearts!

*There is a legend from Bible days about a wealthy merchant traveling through the Mediterranean world, looking for the Apostle Paul. The rich man met Timothy, and he arranged a visit. Paul was, at the time, a prisoner in Rome. Stepping inside the cell, the merchant was surprised to find a rather old man. He was physically very frail, but his serenity and magnetism challenged the rich man greatly.

*They talked for hours. Finally, the merchant left with Paul's blessing. Outside the prison, the merchant asked Timothy, "What is the secret of this man's power? I have never seen anything like it before."

-"Didn't you guess?" replied Timothy. "Paul is in love."

-The merchant looked bewildered. "In love?"

-"Yes," Timothy answered. "Paul is in love with Jesus Christ."

*The merchant looked even more bewildered, and asked, "Is that all?"

-Smiling, Timothy replied, "Sir, that is everything." (5)

5. It is God's will for us to love the Lord supremely. And it is His will for us to lean on the Lord completely.

*That was Luke's attitude in vs. 14, when he said this about Paul: "So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, 'The will of the Lord be done.''' Not God's perfect will apparently, but His permissive will. John Phillips explained, "Paul's friends gave in. 'God's will be done' was all they could say. How often we are driven back on God like that when we are faced with a situation we cannot change." (2)

*We must learn to lean on the Lord in every situation in life.

CONCLUSION:

*Back in 2002, our Katie and I were pulling into Wal-Mart, when we saw the Jews for Jesus bus. They are a great group of Christian Jews who witness to other Jews all over the world. That day they had sung and presented the Gospel at the Senior Citizens Center in West Monroe, and afterward, they stopped at Wal-Mart on their way to Shreveport.

*I used to get their newsletter, so I pulled over to try to meet them. Katie was mortified when we went over to the bus, and I knocked on the door. But we had a tremendous visit with a beautiful young lady named Rivka. I asked her how she got saved, and she told me it was through the prayers and witness of other Jewish Christians. Rivka said she finally realized that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews, and she trusted in the Lord. Then she told me, "If you are praying for someone, don't give up! That man prayed for me for two years before I got saved."

*Rivka then told us about her plan to go back to Israel and start a Christian ministry with her fiancé. That was back during one of the times when there were bombs going off in Israel almost every week. So, I asked Rivka if she was nervous about going back and she said, "The safest place that we can ever be is right smack in the center of God's will."

*Here in God's Word, we have been tuning in to God's will for our lives. Church: It is God's will to work through the limitations of ordinary people like us. It's also God's will for us to link-up with other Christians, listen to wise council, love the Lord supremely, and to lean on the Lord completely.

*Let's seek to follow His will, as we go to God in prayer.

(1) Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, THE TALE OF THE TARDY OXCART AND 1,501 OTHER STORIES - Nashville: Word Publishing 2000, copyright 1998 - Source: Alan Redpath, "Victorious Christian Service: Studies in Nehemiah"

(2) Adapted from EXPLORING ACTS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Caesarea: Be Sure" - Acts 21:1-17

(3) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Paul's Mistake" by Ray C. Stedman - Series: The Prisoner of the Lord - Acts 21:1-26 - February 7, 1971

(4) Adapted from EXPLORING ACTS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Paul’s Future Prospects" - Acts 20:22-25

(5) G. Curtis Jones, "Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching" - Nashville: Broadman, 1986, p. 225 - Source: Sermonillustrations.com

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