Acts – Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 12
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|Let me set the stage for what we are going to be talking about. As a Christian you are learning, as we all are learning, to walk in your journey with Him. How exciting and what an adventure it is. We must be willing to be led, though. God has a direction, a purpose for each of our lives. He has a direction and a purpose for churches, just like He has a direction and purpose for individual’s lives. As we are willing to be led, as we are willing to surrender to Him, then God uses us.|
Ephesians 1:1; Acts 21:1-14
Paul: The Missionary – Part 11
We have been looking now for several studies at Paul, the missionary. In this study we will see his Third Missionary Journey come to an end. Of course, a brand new adventure begins in Paul’s life. We are going to be looking at Acts 21:1-14. I guess you could call this study, “Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go.” We often sing the song, but there is a lot more to it than just singing the song.
In verses 1-3, he is leaving Miletus. Look at your map. When you come to Asia Minor, down to the left on the western coast is Ephesus, and 36 miles below it is Miletus. That is where Paul has been now for the last couple of studies as we’ve been looking at his life in Acts 20. Now he is leaving Miletus on his way to Jerusalem. Everything he does now is just simply going south.
Verse 1, “And when it came about that we had parted from them [at Miletus] and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos.” Cos was an island between Miletus and the island of Rhodes. It says, “we ran a straight course to Cos and the next day to Rhodes.” I had the privilege of being there. It is just so interesting to be where these places are mentioned. “And from there to Patara.” Patara was a seaport city in the province of Lycia in Asia Minor. He’s still on the coast of Turkey. Then verse 2 continues, “and having found a ship [they changed ships] crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.” Phoenicia was on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We are getting closer now as he has made the curve. He is coming on down to Jerusalem.
“And when we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre,” Tyre was a Phoenician city, a seaport city on the land which today we call Lebanon, “for there the ship was to unload its cargo.” While they were in Tyre, they stayed there seven days and ministered to the disciples who were in the area.
Before we go on through verse 14, we are going to look at that verse. Let me set the stage for what we are going to be talking about. As a Christian you are learning, as we all are learning, to walk in your journey with Him. How exciting and what an adventure it is. We must be willing to be led, though. God has a direction, a purpose for each of our lives. He has a direction and a purpose for churches, just like He has a direction and purpose for individual’s lives. As we are willing to be led, as we are willing to surrender to Him, then God uses us. Our lives are like conduits. He does through us and in us what we could never have done for Him. He does it through our lives. However, in order to continue walking with Him, in order to continue the journey, we’ve got to learn to accommodate ourselves to what God says to us. Those accommodations are where the challenge really comes. We have to bend to Him. God never bends to us in the sense of changing His mind. We bend to Him. As we bend to Him, then we begin to make sacrifices in our life. We begin to pay a price in our life. We find out who really wants to walk with Jesus when it comes down to having to make a choice, when it comes down to something that costs us. If we are going to accommodate ourselves to the Lord Jesus in His leading us, we’ve got to come to the attitude, “Lord, it doesn’t matter to me what may or may not happen to me. I just want to be a part of what You are up to.” If you haven’t made that decision, then fear will literally paralyze your life.
You may want to go on with God. You love talking about Him. You love being around people who are going on with God, but God has laid something in front of you that now you don’t want to make the choice in order to proceed; something that has caused you to fear. You see, faith is not sight. When you step out on faith to do what God has said, you don’t get the luxury of all the feelings and all the joy of it happening the way you want it to happen.
I remember in a church which I served in another place, there was a lady there whose son was very surrendered to the Lord Jesus. As a matter of fact, he was one of the finest kids you would ever want to be around. Well, coming back one night from a meeting he was killed tragically in a car wreck. His younger brother saw that. His younger brother made a drastic turn in his life and began to live for his own self for years. He turned away from the Lord, just turned his back to Him. Come to find out what had happened to him was, he saw what happened to his brother and wrongly concluded that if he surrendered his life to Jesus, he would have to be killed tragically. He didn’t want to pay that kind of price, so he turned and went the other way. So often fear of what will happen to us, fear of what it will cost us, paralyzes us and freezes us in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
No wonder people say there is no specific will of God. You start getting specific and, folks, it takes you to the cross. You die to the flesh, and you have to do things you ordinarily would have never set as an agenda before yourself. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where you find the people who really love the Lord Jesus. Are you willing to say, “Lord, it doesn’t matter to me what happens. It doesn’t matter what it costs. I am going to follow You. Wherever You lead, I will go”?
Well, we have a man by the name of Paul who was single-mindedly a servant of the Lord Jesus. What he did was an absolute abandonment to the will of God in his life. The thing that impresses me about him, though, was that Paul did not have one single thing that I don’t have and that you don’t have. He was gifted differently, yes. Maybe he had some training, yes. But as far as what it took to walk this Christian life, he had the same package you and I got when we received the Lord Jesus Christ. Even Paul’s buddy, Simon Peter, made the statement in his epistle, “You who have received a like faith such as ours.” There is no difference. The key is how we respond to that which God has given to us.
Well, three times Paul had been told by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem. We will see that later on in our text. Three times the Holy Spirit witnesses to his spirit through others and also privately that when he gets to Jerusalem, it is going to be bad. Bad things lay ahead in Jerusalem for Paul. Well, he already sensed that, because when Jesus went to Jerusalem it was bad. That’s where law and grace will always conflict. Jesus went to the cross because of what went on in Jerusalem. Paul sensed in his spirit something bad was going to happen. The Holy Spirit affirmed, “Yes, you are right. It is going to be bad.”
This is difficult. When you know what God says and you want to know His will, then you begin to sense that what is going to happen is going to cost you if you do it. The Holy Spirit, through others and through His own witness to you, affirms, “Yes, it’s going to cost you if you obey what God has told you to do.” That’s where it becomes very difficult.
I hope we can learn from Paul as he passes the test. Every time he was witnessed to by the Spirit that things would be bad, he kept his face, like a flint, right towards Jerusalem. It reminds me of Jesus in Luke 9:51 when it says, “He set his face towards Jerusalem.” He knew what He had come to do. He knew the cost that was going to be His to pay.
Well, first of all we’ve got to go back to chapter 20. We are going to see the first time that the Holy Spirit spoke to Paul. It said the Holy Spirit witnessed to his spirit. That’s the first point. The Holy Spirit witnessed to his own individual spirit. Look at verses 22 and 23 of Acts 20. Remember, he is in Ephesus. Verse 22 says, “And now, behold, bound in spirit.” The word “bound in spirit” means “I am compelled by the Spirit of God.” Paul was being led. Paul was compelled. Paul was on a course that was charted by God Himself: “bound in the spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” He didn’t know everything, but he knew something. Look at verse 23, “except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.”
Now, I wondered as I studied this, why would he go to Jerusalem to begin with? I mean, anybody with any common sense,… Paul grew up in Jerusalem. Paul was trained under the Law. Paul’s message was totally different, and now he was going back. He knew what was ahead of him. Now the Holy Spirit told him what was ahead of him. Why would he even want to go to Jerusalem?
Go back to Acts 19:21. If you read this very carelessly, you are going to come up with the idea that Paul planned his own agenda. But if you will take a little time and look at it, take other texts and put it together, you will realize that he was on God’s agenda. Verse 21 reads, “Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit.” Now, that word “purposed” caught my attention. It is not the word that I thought it would be which means “being determined and made up his mind.” It is sort of synonymous. It is the word tithemi, which means “to set something in place, to appoint something.” It is setting a direction. It is putting something deep down inside of yourself that God wants to be there.
Now look at the second phrase there, “in the spirit.” You see, the Spirit of God is speaking to him. There are two places God wants Paul to go. He has very clearly told Paul this. First of all, it says, “go to Jerusalem.” That’s number one, but that’s not the only place; “after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome.’” Now it sounds like Paul is sitting there thinking, “You know, this is fun. I like this missionary stuff. I think I’ll plan me a good trip. I’ve never seen Rome. I think I want to see Rome. I’ve never seen it. I think I’ll put Jerusalem on the agenda, too. God, are you okay with that? Fine. Good. I am going to do it.” He gets a travel agent and gets on the plane and goes and asks God to bless his efforts.
That is not what he was saying. He is saying he purposed in his spirit; God spoke to his heart. He took what God had said and put it deep down inside of him. That began to frame his direction and determination. He wanted to see the ministry God had begun completed in his life. That was the heart cry that Paul had. God willed for Paul to go to Jerusalem and Rome, so Paul put it deep in his heart and determined, “Yes, I am going to do exactly what God has said.”
The term “solemnly testified” means “to witness or to affirm something.” The Spirit solemnly testified to me in every city. He affirmed something in my spirit. Now, since it doesn’t say how, we don’t know if he used other people to do it, because he talks about that later on. I believe by implication he means, “he bore witness in my spirit”.
You know, sometimes that happens. We can’t explain it to anybody. It is just the Holy Spirit bearing witness in your spirit that something is about to take place. How the world do you explain that to anybody? Somehow, Paul sensed in his inner spirit that God was speaking to him, not only to go to Jerusalem, but then when he got there, things would be bad.
Again, I bring up the situation. This is when the going gets tough. “What are you going to do, Paul? You know God has told you to go to Jerusalem. You say you are compelled by the Spirit. Now, to cast even more shadows on it, the Holy Spirit says when you get there, it is going to be bonds and afflictions.” The word “bonds” in the plural means “imprisonment;” the word “affliction” means “to be squeezed to where it’s very, very painful.”
Paul talks in Galatians about a struggle of the flesh and the spirit. He says in Romans 7, “The things I want to do, I can’t do. The things I want to say, I don’t say.” When he tries it himself that Law just continues to hover over him. There has been a struggle in Paul. We’ve got to understand that. It doesn’t talk about it in Acts 20, but you know he went through one. You know good and well. He was a man, a person just like you and me. All of us wrestle with that.
What is God saying to you? What has God clearly spoken through His Word to you as regarding His will? What is it that has just literally caused you to be paralyzed with fear and stopped you from going on and doing what God has said? Well, we are in some good company because some pretty good folks have gone through the same battles.
Look back in John 11:7. This is my favorite text to talk about this. I have mentioned it many times. This is when Jesus has been in Judea. What are they doing to Him in Judea? John 10:39 says they were seeking to seize Him. He eludes their grasp because the time is not right. He goes to the other side of the Jordan River, a whole day’s journey away, and here He is with His disciples. He has gone a whole day’s journey, on the other side of the Jordan River, to a different Bethany, and He is there with His disciples. He gets the message that Lazarus, His friend, is sick. Of course, Martha and Mary are just absolutely about to have a spell. They can’t stand it. They can’t understand why Jesus is not there. They are upset with Him. Now you say, “You don’t know that.” Yes, I do. Because when He gets there, what does Martha say? “Where have you been? If you had been here, he would not have died.” What does Mary say? “Where have you been? If you had been here he wouldn’t have died. You can’t do anything now. You can’t do anything here.” They were very upset with Jesus because He had gone over to the other side of the Jordan.
Jesus knew that this miracle with Lazarus, his resurrection, was going to be the miracle that would pull the trigger on the plot to put Him on the cross. All through John He says, “The time has not yet come.” In chapter 12, after He is there and has raised Lazarus, He says, “The time has now come for the Son of Man to be gloried.” Now, what does He mean? He had to go to the cross to accomplish what He came to do. That is perfectly okay with Jesus, but it wasn’t with the disciples.
Look at verse 7. These guys remind me of me and you. “Then after this, He said to the disciples [Now watch carefully the words], ‘Let me go to Judea again.’” Is that what your Bible says? No, “Let us go to Judea again.” Now, that’s fine for Jesus. He walks in perfect harmony with the Father. What He sees the Father do, He does. What He hears the Father say, He says. He walks in that divine reflex of whatever the Father wants. But that’s not too cool for the disciples. They are not excited about this at all. As a matter of fact, look at verse 8: “The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?’” They hadn’t even thought about going with Him. They are trying to figure out why He would want to go over there.
It is kind of like Tonto and the Lone Ranger. They came up to the edge of a cliff. There were a million Indians in front of them and a million Indians behind them. The Lone Ranger, the white man, looked at the Indian, Tonto, and said, “Well, Tonto, I guess that’s it for us.” Tonto said, “What do you mean, pale face?”
That is exactly what is going on. They are thinking, “We’re not going! Are You going over there? Are you crazy? They were just seeking to stone you. Are you going there again?” What was their problem? Fear, the same thing you and I have. The Lord Jesus puts His will in front of you and says, “I want you to start giving.” Hey, isn’t that the one we don’t want me to get on? Why don’t we get on it for a minute? You say, “Well, Lord, I can’t give. I mean, come on, get off my case.” Then all of a sudden one day you decide you are going to do it and what happens? Fear sets in. “If I do that, then I’m acting irresponsibly, and I can’t pay my bills, and I can’t take care of other things. I can’t afford to give.” Have you ever heard that before?
Now what was it that paralyzed you from doing what God said? Fear of what will happen to you if you did! You want to live by sight. You’re saying, “Lord, show me something, and I’ll believe you.” You’re acting just like the Jews all the way through the Old Testament. We as Christians don’t live that way. We walk by faith. When God says it, we stand on it, and that’s enough. The key is, are we willing to step out on what God has said in any area of your life?
What are you dealing with? What is challenging you? What is causing you to be afraid? Here is the situation. You’ve got to go to school and make a stand for Jesus Christ. The first thing that hits you is, “What are they going to say about me? I don’t want to be laughed at. I don’t want to be humiliated.” All of a sudden, fear paralyzes you from going on and being what God wants you to be.
Well, Paul shows how he conquered the fear. Go back to Acts 20:24. He has just us that the Holy Spirit has borne witness to him. Look at verse 24: “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” Let me paraphrase that for you. “I don’t care what happens to me. I only want God to accomplish His will and ministry in my life that it may be a testimony of the gospel of grace in me. I want it to be a testimony to others of what God’s grace can do in a man’s life.” Are you there right now? Are you willing to take a step out on what God has said and say, “God, you just show others that the reason I am able to do this is because of your work of grace in my life.” First John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” The word “perfect” means “that which accomplishes its goal.” When my love for Jesus is accomplishing its fullest goal, then that fullest goal is obeying Him. When I am fully obeying Him, surrendered to Him, that in itself casts aside all fear. How do you deal with fear? You turn towards Him, and you surrender yourself to Him. You step out on that which He has said. Then fear will fall away. You don’t know that yet because you haven’t made the step yet. What has God said? Where are we afraid?
Well, the Holy Spirit witnessed to his spirit, “Things are going to be bad, Paul.” Paul kept right on going. That shows you his resolve to do what God had said.
Well, here he is at Tyre, the seaport city there north of Jerusalem. It says in 21:4, “And after looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days.” Paul looks up the disciples, and they stay there for seven days. Look at what they do: “and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.” First of all, we see the Holy Spirit bearing witness to Paul’s spirit. Secondly, we see that the disciples were worried about his safety.
You really need to see this. When it says, “they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem” that could cause you to think the Holy Spirit told them to tell him not to go. They are just communicating that to him. That is not what it is saying. The Holy Spirit wouldn’t contradict Himself. The Holy Spirit has already told him to go to Jerusalem. What are they saying? Here is what I believe they are saying, by implication. The Holy Spirit has told them the same thing He has told Paul. “It is going to be bad when you get to Jerusalem.” They don’t really mean this to be bad, but they come to Paul and start begging him or telling him, “through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.”
Many times when God has used His Spirit to bear witness to us that it is going to be bad, the people closest to us, the people who around us who love us, try without realizing what they are doing to talk us out of doing that which God has put before us. “Don’t go to Jerusalem. The Spirit has told us the same thing.” Without realizing it, they are throwing up a barrier. They should never do that.
I am going to encourage you. That is the barrel which God shot me out of. When you come to me and you say, “I’m going to do this,” I can look at it. You see it, and I see it, and we both realize it is going to be bad. Immediately, somehow I want to talk you out of it. I don’t want anything bad to happen to anybody. That is just the way I am. That is why I am a lousy counselor. If you come to me I am going to help you out. Maybe you don’t need to be helped out. Maybe you need to be nailed to the wall by somebody that will confront you. That is not me. I don’t like to confront anybody. I’d rather go around the block. I want everybody to be happy. I don’t want anybody to ever be upset. So, therefore, I may do the same thing these disciples did. You come to me and say, “Oh, I believe God is calling me over here.” I look at it and sense that God really is calling you there, but in my mind, I know just by common sense, it’s going to be bad. Then the Holy Spirit begins to quicken my spirit, “Yes, it’s going to be bad.” I say, “Are you sure you’ve heard from God? There is a place over here that you can go that will be a lot more comfortable.” I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.
It might be your wife. The Lord told us one time to tithe when we owed a bill of $188.55. I was committed to going ahead and tithing, even though I knew if I wrote a check for $12 it would bounce. I was going to go on and do it because God said it. My wife cried for three days. Now, look out ladies. Quit it. You may by good intentions be trying to save somebody from the price they may have to pay, but don’t ever get in the way of them doing what God has told them to do. The disciples did not mean bad, but by implication, they were saying, “Don’t do it.” They were trying to talk him out of doing what God had said.
Years ago when I first came to this church, we outgrew everything. We are still doing it. That’s wonderful. I don’t understand all that except that God keeps us on the edge trusting Him because of it. We got to the point that we had to do something about Sunday School and nursery space. We had none at all. Well, to do what we wanted to do, we had to get rid of adult Sunday School. What? That’s a sacred cow! You can’t build a church without Sunday School! It’s written on every staunch Southern Baptist that was ever born. It is absolutely tattooed on their body when they become Southern Baptists. They believe if you don’t have Sunday School, you can’t build a church. Well, first of all, I am not trying to build a church. Jesus has done a fine job with His own Church for a long time. You just have to cooperate with Him. Sunday School works for some. It may not work the same with others.
Well, we had to get rid of the adult Sunday School. We had some adult Sunday School classes that were more loyal to their class than they were to Jesus. I mean, after all, they were not about to move out of that class! There were some real decisions we had to make.
Somebody called the “Gestapo!” The Associational Missionary came out and took me to lunch. Right there, in the middle of the meal, he looked over at me and said, “Young man.” I said, “Sir.” He said, “Don’t you understand what you are about to do?” I said, “Yes, sir.” I told him how we had prayed about it, but I didn’t catch the drift of his question. He said, “You are about to wreck that church.” I said, “Well, first of all, it is not my church. We are trying to do what the Lord Jesus wants to do. It is His church. If He wants to wreck it, that’s His business. This is what we believe He has told us to do.” He saw he couldn’t convince me that you don’t get rid of your adult Sunday School.
Well, we left the conversation, and I went back to my house. I thought, “You know, I don’t want to wreck this church.” This is the fear that gets in all of us. Well-meaning people will come alongside you. You’ve heard from God. God’s Spirit has born witness in your spirit. You know where you are headed, but there are well-meaning people who realize that it is not going to make you popular or it is going to cost you something. They come alongside and try to give you advice to cause you to pull away from what God has set before you.
We finally came to the conclusion that this wasn’t my idea. Many of us had prayed about it. This is what we believed God had told us to do, so we went ahead and did it. Boy, it really wrecked our Sunday School! We grew 300 stronger that summer than we had ever been before. It was like God smiled. You know, some people come to me now and say, “How many do you all have in services?” I don’t know. I’ve never counted them. “Well, how many do you have in Sunday School?” I think we have reached 1,050. You don’t have any more than that in Sunday School. Well, we are using broom closets twice every Sunday. What else are we supposed to do? God knows all of that. You just have to go the way He guides and the way He provides. What makes us unique is just being those who follow Him. We don’t have some program pulling us down the road. We’ve got the Lord, and we are trying to be compelled by His spirit to be on His agenda. When folks come alongside and say, “Oh, it is going to hurt things.” Yeah, it does, but that’s alright. Be careful of that in your life.
Who is it right now that is trying to talk you out of doing what God has told you to do, because they are scared to death of what it is going to cost you or what it is going to make you look like, or the pain you may have to endure if you make that decision? You’ve got to make up your mind. Are you going to please the Lord, or are you going to please man?
After they said, “Don’t, don’t, don’t go to Jerusalem,” verse 5 says, “And when it came about that our days there were ended, we departed.” Well, Paul really let it bother him, didn’t he? He just got right on the boat and said, “See you later.” He had his face set toward Jerusalem: “and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. And after kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.” It didn’t hurt him a bit. He is right on the course God had set him on.
The third time that he is witnessed to that it is going to be bad in Jerusalem comes up in verses 7-14. Verse 7 says, “And when we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais [that is right above Caesarea on the coast] and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. And on the next day we departed and came to Caesarea.” That is where he is going to lodge for a while, “and entering the house of Philip the evangelist;” remember back in Acts 6:5 when they picked those men who were full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit to be helpers to the apostles? Philip was one of those men. In 8:5 we see him preaching and becoming the evangelist of that day. I don’t know if that blessed you or not, but it just kind of tickled me that Paul stopped at Philip’s house.
Okay, I will move on. Well, look at verses 9-11. Now watch this: “Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses.” What is a prophetess? I don’t have the slightest idea. They had these people in the beginning of the church. The Bible was not even put together up until about AD 60. They didn’t have anything but letters that were written by Paul and some pieces of the Gospels. They did not have the Scripture. So these prophetesses and prophets were there in the New Testament. Very clearly, they did as the Old Testament prophets would do, up until a point. We don’t need them anymore because we have got the Word right here.
Verse 10 says, “And as we were staying there for some days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.” Now what’s this guy going to say? “And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: “In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”’”
You see, the Holy Spirit witnessed to his spirit, “It is going to be bad.” The disciples were worried about his safety, and they tried to talk him out of it. Thirdly, the prophet of God warned him about the seizure that was to take place when he got to Jerusalem. This was the third time the Spirit bore witness to Paul. This time it is a prophet coming to him by the name of Agabus.
Now watch, “And when we had heard this,” who is the we? Luke is writing this. Are you kidding me? You mean Luke joined in on this? Well, that is what it says, “when we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.” Now how much can a man take? He goes to Tyre, and the disciples get around him and say, “Oh, the Spirit has told us that it is going to be bad in Jerusalem.” Paul says, “Yeah, I know. He told me too.” “Don’t go. Don’t go.” He gets on a boat and says, “See you later.” He gets over here to Caesarea. Here comes a prophet. “Oh, no; let’s all get in a corner because he has got a word from God.” The prophet says, “Paul, they are going to bind you, and they are going to put you in prison.” What is he supposed to do? Here is a man who was constantly warned about how bad it was going to be. He knew what God’s will was, but he also knew that it was not going to be good. What is this man going to say and what is he going to do?
Well, look at verse 13: “Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Now you see his resolve. “Quit trying to talk me out of doing what I know God has put before me. I am going to do it if it costs me my life. I’m going to go where God has told me to go.” That has got to be our resolve. If we are going to accommodate ourselves to God, we have got to get rid of the thought of what is going to happen to me or what it may cost me. Now you say, “I appreciate the message. Ho-hum. It’s time to eat. Let’s go home.” I hope you don’t say that because, folks, God has pushed us as a church into a situation that we are going to have to start accommodating ourselves to what He is saying.
You know, we have a missionary outreach. That’s what we are. Missions is where we are. We have 20 mission boards that we help support. We’ve got to take care of these people who are out there. “Well, if you had asked me, I would have told you. Don’t do it. Do it the way we have always done it. Then you can take a percentage of the budget. You don’t ever have to worry about it. It is all somebody else’s problem. You shouldn’t have started it.”
Then I hear people say, “This church is just too big.” You know what they are really saying? “It is going to cost me if I stay here.” “I like little churches. In little churches, you can help them out more.” That’s right, and you don’t need as much money to run them. I remember back when we were small, it was great. Everybody loved us. Man, it was crowded. “Let’s pray that God will grow us.” Well, we started growing, then certain people got a little edgy. “Uh-oh. We are out of space. That means we will have to build a building. Let’s check out for five years until they build the building. Then we will come back and say God led us away and now He has led us back. It was fun. For five years, we will let them pay for it, then we will come back and be part of it.” That’s just the mentality. That is where it’s at. I’ve had it. A lot of us have gone through that. It’s going to cost us. You’ve got to start accommodating.
Why do we have our missions outreach like it is? Because we have people who have the same doctrines we have. I don’t believe when we get to heaven God is going to honor Southern Baptists; I believe God is going to honor His Word and the people who were responsive to it. If people agree doctrinally with us, we are going to join hands with them, and we are going to reach the world for Christ. What does that mean? That means if you are here to stay with us and not just a spectator, God has got you up against the wall. Are you going to accommodate yourself to what He has led us as a church to do? Well, you see, you can’t do that if you are not doing it individually day by day. If you are not walking that way right now, no wonder it scares you to death when we talk about something bigger than that.
Things are happening right now that has been a dream of mine for over 12 years. Now God is working it out. Are we going to accommodate ourselves to it? Or are we going to say, “These elders don’t know what they are doing. They are just a bunch of men who sit in there and they try to tax us all with our money. We don’t believe God is in that whatsoever”? You see, you have to make a choice somewhere. I’ve got to make one. You’ve got to make one. Is God in it? If He is in it, if we trust His system, if God gives wisdom to the people He has appointed to lead, then let’s do what He says. Let’s accommodate ourselves to it. In the name of the Lord Jesus, for His reputation, for His dignity and His character, we will do what He tells us to do regardless of what it costs us. That’s the bottom line. What has paralyzed most of us, myself is included, is the fear of what will happen to us.
Paul said, “What in the world are you guys doing, weeping and breaking my heart?” He says, “Man, I’ll die if need be, and I am going to Jerusalem. God has told me to go, and I will pay whatever price.”
Look at verse 14 and we will stop: “And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent.” The word “silent” there, doesn’t really mean it just got quiet. It means they gave up. They acquiesced. They said, “Well, alright.” Then look what they said, “remarking, ‘The will of the Lord be done!’” Now why did they say that last and not first? They came and said, “Don’t go. Don’t go. I beg you don’t go.” Then when they saw that he was going, “Well, the will of the Lord be done!” Well, what else could be done and God get any glory for it?
I don’t know where you are in this message. I just know where I am. I tell you what. Some of the direction which God has already put before me, I don’t like, but I have got to accommodate myself. I don’t like some of the decisions I have to make, nor do you like some of the decisions you have to make, but you’ve got to do what God tells you to do. That is the key.
The first key is know for sure He has spoken. Now I understand there is a risk of irresponsibility. Some people will walk up and say, “Well, God told me to do it.” Maybe He did, and maybe He didn’t. First of all, Paul had the credibility of living before others to the point that they realized that’s all that man was the will of God. His character spoke well. All he had in his life was the determination to do it. So, when he said that God told him to go to Jerusalem, they could understand it because they had watched him in every other area of his life. Just because you say God spoke doesn’t mean God spoke. We know that those that are willing to do the will of God can know what it is. John tells us that.
Here are some questions and then I am through. What has God put before you? A person came to me recently and blessed my heart. If for nobody else, it was worth it to me to hear his testimony. He said this is exactly where I am. He’s about to do something that God had put before him in the area of missions and already the in-laws have gotten involved because they are worried about what is going to happen to their children when they get over on the mission field. It has caused them great consternation. He said, “Thank you. I needed that this morning. I know what God said, and I am going to do what God has told me to do.”
What has God put before you? “Well, I can’t do what God has put before me. I can’t stop socially drinking with my business partners because if I do, I am going to lose my job. Do you know how much money I give to the church?” Well, if that is the way you are getting it, keep it. Folks, listen, you have got to do what God tells you to do. Quit worrying about what is going to happen to you. Quit worrying about your house and your job. Just do it. Let God take care of the rest of it. The Holy Spirit has confirmed to your spirit that it won’t satisfy men. They will speak evil of you, and they’ll seek to do you harm. The believers who love you are trying to keep you from going through with it because they are worried about your safety. God’s men and God’s Word, like the early prophets, have warned you that doing the will of God may not always mean that you are going to be well-liked. Now, what are you going to do? Are you going to obey? Are you going to back up?
One thing I like about Paul. He was a warrior, not a wimp. He was a warrior. He was not a wimp. You find out who the wimps are when the cost comes down to it. They won’t go on and do what God is telling them to do. You’ll find out who the warriors are because they will obey God at any cost, at any time, when God speaks to them.
Let me share a verse with you. Galatians 1:10 so clearly says it. “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” You can’t please both, folks.
Hebrews 11:6 says without what it is impossible to please God? Faith. You know what faith is? It is not believing that He can, it is hearing what He says and stepping out and obeying what He says. You can’t say you have faith, if there is no obedience. Without that, there is no way to please God. Are you pleasing self? Are you pleasing men or are you pleasing God? That is the key. If you are not pleasing God, what is it that is causing you to be paralyzed? It’s that fear. What casts out that fear? Turn and fully surrender afresh and say, “God, I can’t understand it. You said it, and I am going to do it. Thank you.” Then go on and do it. You will watch the fear just fall off of you. You don’t know that it can be cast away, because you haven’t done what He says yet. Go on and do it. Step out. That’s when you are going to discover what you have not known before.
Well, glory. I wish I could point a finger, but I can’t. There are three more pointing right back at me. My kids are going to college this year. I have never in my life been as overwhelmed financially as I have been lately. Does that ever bother you? “No, Wayne, the water is different at our house.” I want to tell you. I had just recently got to the point that I just doubted God. I lost my joy. My countenance fell. My wife asked me one night, “Good grief, Wayne. You preach it. Aren’t you going to live it?” Oh, don’t say that to me. I have had to regroup. I am so grateful that this is where we are in Acts because it just sort of kicked me right in the seat of the pants where I need to be kicked. If God said it, am I sure they are supposed to go where they are going. We have prayed this through many months ago. Then stand on it and go through with it, though I can’t see what it costs. I am just going to believe Him.