Prepare for the Problems to Come (Acts 21:1-14) January 15, 2012
Today’s passage tells us that Paul who embarked on his way with the vision and dream of the Roman Evangelization did not just receive answers and blessings, but problems also awaited him. God’s people must prepare for two things at all times. First, you must prepare for answers and blessings God will provide in your life. Our vision has been already set; it is being the witnesses to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). For that reason, God must bless your work, skills, studies, and future. They are not just average blessings. They are the blessings of uniqueness that you can receive only through the unique Christ. They are the blessings of trampling down on the summit where those who do not have God or the Gospel are. That is how God is willing to use you. That is why He set you free through Christ, made you His child, and called you as the Remnant of this age. This is our root. What must we prepare now? We must prepare our basics and foundation. That is why we urge you to pray for the Five Strengths, study, and challenge. God will use you as much as you are prepared to receive glory and save others like you. Second, you must prepare for your way that is not always going to be all right and smooth. You must know in advance that you will face problems and conflicts as you stride forward towards blessings and answers, and prepare for them. The Bible, on one hand, tells us about God’s love, power, and plan He is willing to give us within Christ, and on the other hand, it warns us that there will be many conflicts, persecutions, and problems as God’s will is fulfilled and gives us the answer at the same time to prepare for them. It even prophesies specifically what problems await us as end times come near. What is the core? Foresee and always be prepared in order to avoid being deceived. What is so special about elites and successful companies? Of course they have visions that no one else has and they always prepare for their future. When they prepare for their future, however, they always prepare for in case of unexpected problems and urgent situations. Large enterprises have research facilities to predict and prepare for what will happen in the future both near and far. We are looking forward to seeing how God’s greatest answers and blessings will come upon each one of our church members and the church this year. On the other hand, however, we must foresee that there will be small and big problems and be prepared. In today’s passage, God tells Paul that different kinds of problems will come. This is a blessing. Even when you have an illness, you can prevent it if you know in advance. You can tell what kind of illnesses you can possibly acquire looking at your genetic map. What is God’s solution that we must hold onto in the midst of problems that will come in our life along blessings and answers?
1. Hold onto the conclusion of people of God who have the Gospel and the evangelists who will save the world. Do not waver.
1) Christ has clearly finished all problems (Jn.19:30). This is the solution. If we are indeed God’s people who accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, even if a problem comes, it is not a problem. You are the freed, man of God, and the Remnant who will stand as a witness before the world.
2) There is only one reason that problems come, or God allows them to come. They are opportunities.
a. They are opportunities through which you experience that Christ has finished all problems and God’s power above those problems. There is a fine line between and just knowing and experiencing Christ. When do you experience Christ? It is when you face problems. Do not stay discouraged by those problems and get deceived by Satan, but pray holding onto the conclusion and restore your faith.
b. They are opportunities through which God prepares you for the great works (great answers and blessings) that you do not know. You get smoothed and honed through problems, and acquire leisure and flexibility. That is why it says in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
c. Sometimes, completely unexpected doors open. This is the reason why we should pray in gratitude without falling into discouragement and resentment in the midst of problems. That is when you discover God’s hidden plan for you (Lam.33:1-3).
d. What is God trying to give us through all this? It is evidence. The evidence that piles up as you go through difficult times is the message of your life that saves others like you. God wants you to stand not as a persuader, but as a witness. Do you have personal, familial, physical, or financial problems? If you truly hold onto the conclusion and restore your faith, works will take place.
2. There is another important answer in today’s passage. There must be a prayer team whose members can pray for you consistently. Paul already knew that many different hardships awaited him before he embarked on his journey. In fact, he was not the only one who knew. He made sure those who prayed for him would be aware of those problems as well in order to make them pray.
1) Those who prayed for Paul were all evangelism disciples and lay leaders. In Acts 21:4-5, when Paul stayed in one region for disciples, he notified them of what he was about to face and asked them to pray. In Acts 21:8-11, Paul sent a prophet to the house of Philip the evangelist to tell him how Paul would run into hardships in Jerusalem. Having the servants of the Lord and lay leaders who know the mystery of prayer and evangelism around you and the fact that they can pray for you are tremendous blessings. This is what we are trying to form through Friday Praise and Prayer Night. We must keep opening ourselves and communicating with one another through meetings. How can we help one another if we do not know what one another is going through?
2) There is only one reason why you keep seeing weaknesses and problems of others. They are not for you to insult and criticize others, but for you to pray even more for them. This was in last week’s message; “We may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb.10:24).
3) Each and every department must form prayer, Word, and evangelism teams this year. Each department needs a prayer team. A church must have an intercessory prayer team. Teams with which you can have the Word forum, care for the weak and evangelize must be raised. Life is all about making teams. Why do you think God allowed you this church? Be a part of a team yourself, and be a team member for others.
3. When crises really do come that you feel like you just want to die, what must you do?
1) Paul’s confession in Acts 21:13 is the answer to that question; “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” First, stand before God with His motive. That is “for the name of the Lord Jesus”. Have you really persevered, sacrificed yourself, or endeavored and performed good deeds for the sake of Jesus’ name (in order to not embarrass that name or for the sake of saving souls)? God will absolutely remember them (1Cor.15:58, Gal.6:9).
2) Resolve to entrust everything to God’s hands and go. Our lives are in His hands, and so are the conclusions to all problems. If you make a resolution and say “I life one life and one life only, and I entrust it to God’s hands,” there is nothing to fear. It is a death-daring determination.
God has prepared problems along with blessings, and crises along with answers before evangelists’ way. In all circumstances, I hope you stride forward holding onto the conclusion of a person who has the Gospel. Be a part of a prayer team. I bless and hope that you may triumph with a death-daring determination.