Persecution Turning Into the Blessing to Save the World (Acts 18:5-17) November 13, 2011
In your walk of faith, there are two spiritual realities you must absolutely predict. When you go holding onto the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy Spirit definitely works on one hand. Once you begin to experience the Holy Spirit's working upon your life, you have nothing to fear. On the other hand, however, strange hindrances, persecutions, and hardships can come. Sometimes they may seem as very serious problems. All of them are the work of the devil who writhe to deceive us. It may be trying so very desperately. This person I met in the field last week asked me Why God had to completely destroy the Egyptian armies when He could have just saved the Israelites without harming anyone. He thought that God was being to harsh on the Egyptian soldiers when all the did was follow the Pharaoh's order. I could understand where he was coming from. God, however, withstood the humiliation of His people under the enslavement for four hundred years. Through the Ten Plagues (perfect number of the world), God warned everyone what can happen to those who trample upon His people and stand in His way. God expresses His love by waiting patiently for a long time and giving chances over and over, but He judges by His righteousness when they cross the line. They let go of the Israelites, but they chased after them again. It would have been devastating for the Israelites. At that time, However, God intervened. When the Egyptians saw the Red Sea split, they had to give up there, but they still went after them and eventually faced complete destruction. This is the level of the devil's work. It can never destroy God's chosen people, but it still does these works. To some people, it works through financial and familial problems or incurable diseases like Job's case. In today's passage, Paul was evangelizing to the Jews, but the devil blocked the Gospel through manipulating another group of Jews to do evil deeds. Today's passage records how Paul received answers at that time and how the persecution he faced turned into the blessing to save the world. It says in Acts 18:5-6 that when Paul, held by God's Word, preached and testified that Jesus is the Christ, the Jews opposed him and became abusive. Do persecutions come when you believe in Jesus? You must realize that is the way for tremendous blessings. Many people say that Christ finished all problems, but whey do hardships come? When that happens, we get deceived. We fall into discouragement and temptations, and at last give up. This is exactly what the devil is waiting for. Why would you ever be deceived if you knew that this is just a passing process and eventually a blessing?
1. In times of momentary persecution, you must confirm your faith.
1) In Jn.15:19-20 it says, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." In Mt.5:10-12 it says, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you," It also says in Mt.7:13-14, "Enter through the narrow gate." For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
2) This is our identity. We are not like the world. We live in it, but we are not meant to be dragged around in the world. We must save the world, bless the world, and shine the light in the world. That is why the blessings we will enjoy are different. It says in the Bible that we will be blessed whether we come in or go out. The fact that persecutions temporarily come along the way proves that we are indeed chosen out of the world. People get along with one another, but when one of them believes in Jesus and begins to receive grace, things strangely get distorted and persecutions come.
3) At that time, you must really confirm your faith. You must rejoice thinking 'The world acknowledges me, and even the devil acknowledges me.' To each and every one of us, there will come a time according to our spiritual levels when we must be acknowledged of our faith. New believers, church lay leaders, and pastors will have to face that time to get acknowledged of their faith according to their spiritual levels. As much as you confirm your faith as you pass through that time will true answers and blessings begin (Gen.22:12-18).
2. You must hold onto the fact that persecution is the time in which you stand as a disciple.
1) God is not interested in seeing you live your Christian life as just a churchgoer. He wants you to really believe in Him, follow Him, and do what He desires. That is the life of a disciple. It says in Jn.14:12, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. The disciples who were raised like this were the 120 disciples of Mark's Upper Room.
2) But there are persecutions like these on the way of discipleship. That is why Jesus emphasized a few things when He chose twelve disciples in Mt.10 and sent them out to the world with the authority to heal and drive out impure spirits. One of the things He emphasized was expect to be persecuted. He told His disciples if anyone refuses the Gospel, brush off the dust and set for evidence. If there is persecution in one region, move to the next and let the entire world hear the Gospel. Even before the verge of death, do not fear. He said, "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” Paul in today’s passage exactly followed what Jesus said.
3) It says in Mark 10:28-31 that if there is anything you lost for the Gospel, you will receive a hundred times as much in this present age. It is a hundred times as much you get insulted and lost because of the Gospel. I hope you become the main figure for this blessing. There is no one in the Bible who walked the path of disciples and evangelists who did not go through any persecutions. Do you think the devil will happily look at you when you embark on the journey of blessings? Therefore, you must realize you are in the ranks of history.
3. You must go knowing that the time of persecution is the way of answers to save the world.
1) In today’s passage, God has prepared historical blessings of meetings for Paul who was persecuted and hindered. He met a person named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God in verse 7 and disciples named Crispus Sosthenes, the synagogue leaders in verses 8 and 17. The Bible has many records of important meetings in the midst of the most grave hardships. When King David was facing the most difficult situation in 1Sam.22:2, he met four hundred soldiers with whom he would be together for the rest of his life. That is the case for those whom God uses for His great works in each age.
2) At that time, God came down Himself and gave the Word. It says in Acts 18:9, “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision.” He told him not to fear in any circumstances. God prepared many of His people to be saved. He made sure that He would be with Paul and no one would harm him. Paul ended up staying there for 18 months and found many disciples. This is the reason why we must really pray (worship prayer, scheduled prayer, continuous prayer, 24-hour prayer, and intercessory prayer). God has preapred everything. Look at God’s plan, receive strength, and enjoy all blessings throuhg prayer.
If you are really God’s saved people, I hope you can be happy and joyful even in the midst of persecutions and hardships. They are not problems, but rather times of getting acknowledged of your faith. They are not some unfair episodes, but proof that you are walking the way of discipleship. They do not just come. They will contribute to your standing as a person who receives answers to save the world. I hope you hold onto this blessing.