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49. Acts 14: “…through much tribulation”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 3/19/2015
(edited August 2020)
[note: This was my first night back for nursing home ministry after a 6-month hiatus for illness. I had needed knee replacement surgery, Lyme Disease treatments, and some physical rehabilitation to get back on my feet. It all turned out OK, but this led to my final retirement from Public School Teaching. That would leave me with much more time and energy for volunteer work like this!]
So nice to be with you tonight after my recovery from the problems I know that Mr. and Mrs. Ashton and Patty have mentioned to you. [That would be Patty Allen and her parents, The Ashtons. They were the founders of this Nursing Home Ministry and dear friends and ministry mentors to me for over 20 years at this point.] Your prayers and concern for me have been appreciated very much in these past months. I think I took being able to come here somewhat for granted in the past, but when I got sick I sure did miss it and being with you all.
Tonight as always, we will base the message on my personal Bible study for the week. We will be looking into Acts chapter 14:
Verse 1: “And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.”
Dr. Luke, the physician and Gospel writer, also authored this Book of The Acts of the Apostles. A whole lot of this book is devoted to the testimony and missionary work of the Apostle Paul. Right now, Paul and one of his ministry partners, Barnabas, have left Palestine and are going around preaching the Gospel in an area which today we call the country of “Turkey.” And their message of salvation and freedom in Jesus Christ was changing lives for the BETTER in the Gentile world just as it had been doing in Israel since the resurrection of Christ.
Verses 2-3: “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
With no completely written New Testament or Bible to refer anyone to, the Apostles were granted the ability to do special miracles to directly reveal God’s power and authenticate the message of salvation to unbelievers! But, as is still true today, there was opposition to the Gospel in Paul’s time.
Verses 4-7: “But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: And there they preached the gospel.”
What a ministry these men had! When things would get “overheated” in one city they would flee to another area. But I don’t think it was totally out of panic or to hideout. They would continue to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to new people with whom to share the Word of God. And even without a completed New Testament, they knew how to do that!
Verses 8-10: “And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.”
They had no Sunday School curriculum, church buildings, and probably limited worship music, yet it was said of them that they were turning their world upside down with the Gospel! God occasionally granted them very public miracles of healing to reinforce the message of grace through faith in Christ. Some of the original Apostles had been with Jesus personally when He healed the sick and even raised the dead.
If we receive a miraculous healing today, it also should reinforce the message of the Gospel. It also needs to occur in a way that allows ALL the Glory to go to God alone! Otherwise, we may be just trying to use the Lord as our own personal from of health insurance.
I struggled at times to fully understand my own recent illness. A month before my surgery, I was standing on crutches in a shopping mall waiting for my wife as she ran some errands. A young man approached me and inquired about my condition and asked if he could pray for me to be healed. I was a little wary of the situation, but I said OK. Well, the next thing I knew he was down on his knees with a Bible in one hand and part of my leg in the other. Now I was already at peace with my condition and the fact that if surgery was required and was God’s will for me, I would trust Him to get me through it. But I allowed this young man to go ahead and pray that God heal me right on the spot. Well, that isn’t what happened.
As I spoke more with this young man, I realized that he was very sincere, but also upset. The mall was crowded that evening and he been approaching several people and asking to pray for them to be helped with their problems or healed of illness. Well, he told me that he had been rejected in almost every case and even cursed at more than once. God opened my heart to this young man for a brief moment as I continued to speak to him about my faith in Christ and my appreciation for his concern for me and his desire to serve God. His whole countenance began to change a bit. As we said our farewell and he departed, I wondered if maybe, even though I could see my leg was not healed, maybe there was a little bit of healing at that time inside that young man’s heart, as I was able to encourage him. And as I stood there, I began to pray for him!
My point is, just because there is no miraculous physical healing in a given situation today, that doesn’t mean that God is not present or at work in people’s lives. I, for instance, had a great opportunity, because I was ill, to show kindness and respect to my doctor, nurses, family and others in a way I never would have if I was healthy. At least I did when I allowed the Lord to lead me. The Lord is ALWAYS at work in our lives, no matter what happens. We should be careful when we say that someone wasn’t healed. There may be more healing going on than we are ever aware of. Jesus wasn’t “healed” at Calvary, was He? No, He wasn’t, but I was! Amen?
Verses 11-18: “ And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.”
This miraculous healing at Lystra was good for the man who was healed, but as a witnessing tool, it actually caused a lot of confusion and did not help bring much glory to God. Healing is still a source of controversy and confusion today in the Church. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in asking God for help and healing when you are sick. But then we must leave it in His hands and surrender to His will. Yes, I know that can be very difficult to do. Actually, I find it impossible to do in my own strength.
In Paul’s ministry he was faced with life and death decisions and circumstances:
Verses 19-22: “And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
Some scholars believe that Paul was miraculously healed after being stoned. That is really saying something because stoning is usually fatal. Actually, some believe Paul did die at this time and was raised from the dead here at Lystra! Serving Christ was never easy, and it never will be.
Verse 23: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Do you notice how seriously these men were taking their mission and ministry for Christ? We need to make sure we do that today also, or the Devil and our own sin will simply blow us away!
Verses 24-25: “And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:”
They are leaving this part of the world for now. The “Antioch” mentioned in verse 21 is in modern-day Turkey. The Antioch in the next verse is back in Palestine. They are heading home:
Verses 26-28: “And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples.”
I would say that Paul and the others had earned some rest and relaxation time, would you agree? They had done a lot of teaching but, as I think is always true in doing the Lord’s work, had learned a lot too.
“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” was the conclusion reached by these early missionaries. They carried the doctrine of faith in Christ to the places where it was needed most. And they did it with love and good will in their hearts, even when they were threatened or worse. Paul and those that followed him were prepared to Glorify God by living or by dying. Let’s ask the Lord, right now, to help us face the challenges of sharing our faith today.