GOD ESTABLISHES HIS CHURCH IN THE WORLD
Do you need to be encouraged?
Jerry A Collins
We often find ourselves in need of strength and encouragement to keep doing the right things. It is just not that easy to keep doing the right thing. To strengthen your marriage is the right thing to do but you will also need strength and encouragement along the way to keep doing that. To stay out of debt; to fulfill your ministry; to keep your word; to parent your children; to grow up spiritually; to obey your parents; to stay clean morally are right things to do and become but will also require a certain amount of strength and encouragement along the way to do so. Some of Godís choicest servants have undergone times of severe despair and fear. Moses was burdened with the weight of a rebellious, grumbling nation of people and cried out to the Lord about it (Num 11:11-15); Joshua did the same when Israel was defeated at Ai (Josh 7:7; Elijah was plunged into despair following dramatic victory on Mt Carmel (1 Kgs 19:4); Hezekiah wept and pleaded with God to spare his life (Isa 38); Job cursed the day he was born after his world collapsed (Job 3:1); Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet and even Jesus known as a man of sorrows acquainted with grief (Isa 53). Paul did not escape fear and discouragement either. It is in this chapter that we find him at a low point in his grueling ministry. He has been strengthening churches now for nearly 5 chapters; traveled hundreds of miles by land and sea; beaten and thrown into prison; forced to leave cities; forced to escape more danger; left for dead; and as he arrives in the city of Corinth he is alone. Reflecting on his state of mind then, he later wrote to the Corinthians I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling (1 Cor 2:3). The fact that he came to Corinth alone after the difficulties he had faced since coming to this region had evidently filled him with apprehension. It is at times like these that the Lord often delivers the encouragement we badly need to persevere in doing the right things He desires from us. How does God deliver that encouragement and strength to us?
1. SOMETIMES GOD DELIVERS ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE FORM OF THE COMPANIONSHIP OF FRIENDS 1-5
His struggles were compounded because he had to bear it alone. His comrades, Silas and Timothy were not with him vs. 5. Lodging and companionship was provided by the Lord thru Aquila and Priscilla. Having been forced to leave Rome they moved their business to Corinth. First, it was a recent move and in Godís divine timetable, they are just in time for the Apostle himself to arrive. Behind the decree of Claudius, of course, was a decree of the King of Kings who was providing for the gospel in that city. You can compare this with the decree of Caesar Augustus at the birth of Christ. That, too, had behind it the decree of God. Second, they also did the same kind of work that Paul did and was a reason why they connected with each other vs 3. In Godís sovereignty, He provided a companionship right on time and based in common interests encouraging him in the work of the gospel as he was reasoning and persuading people to believe the gospel. God delivered encouragement not only in the form of new friends but also by bringing back familiar ones vs 5. Now he could devote himself exclusively to the gospel ministry most likely because he had received financial aid from Macedonian gifts (cp. 2 Cor 11:9; Phil 4:15) making it no longer necessary to work his trade. While we were serving in London, God encouraged us with a string of friendships at just the right time with common interests to keep us doing the right things. We just had one of those couples living in New York take the time to stop and visit with us this past week after not seeing each other for over four years.
2. SOMETIMES GOD DELIVERS ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE FORM OF MINISTRY RESULTS 6-8
One of those results can be a rejection of the testimony of Jesus Christ as was the case here vs 6. They both Ďresistedí and Ďblasphemedí the message he delivered to them. So, Paulís act symbolized his rejection of the Jews and his statement indicated that his opponents were now fully responsible for what they were doing. His would become a ministry to the gentiles. He then occupies a house right next door to the synagogue and no less a person
than the ruler of the synagogue defects to the Christian faith. It says many of the Corinthians were believing and were being baptized. A father and pastor testified this week at a conference I was at that his son who he had not heard from for 14 months called him at 5:30am and said I want to come home. He is now home and recently married is getting his life back in order. The results of his parenting ministry brot tremendous encouragement to him.
3. SOMETIMES GOD DELIVERS ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE FORM INSIGHT FROM HIS WORD 9-11
Everything seems to be at a point where he can expect an uprising based on past experiences. But, instead, he receives a vision from the Lord to encourage him to keep on doing the right thing. He received 5 other visions in Acts (9:12; 16:9-10; 22:17-20; 23:11; 27:23-24). This vision encouraged him to keep on ministering (1) Donít let your fear make you lapse into silence. (2) The Lord will stand by him and did so until the very end of his ministry (2 Tim 4:16-18). (3) God promised that no one will attack him to harm him. (4) God has many people in that city. The encouragement he received from this word resulted in an extended ministry for a year and 6 months. God often encourages and strengthens us from insights we gather from the Word of God. One of those insites came from Ephesians 5 while I was in seminary. Prof made the statement to those of us married at the time you took vows to your mate that you never took to your ministry. That insite based on teaching from Ephesians 5 shaped much of my thinking about family life and ministry and has guided me in much of my decision-making in these areas.
4. SOMETIMES GOD DELIVERS ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE FORM OF FRUSTRATING ENEMIES
Paulís faith is tested and Godís faithfulness is proven. God has promised no harm, not no danger. Paul is about to open his mouth but the mouth of Gallio becomes the instrument of Godís deliverance vs 14. His judgment is that Christianity and Judaism are not legally distinguishable and leaves the door open for the gospel to continue to spread. The Lord can bend a Caesarís decree (vs 3) and a proconsulís ruling ( 14-15) to His sovereign purposes. The angry mob vented their frustration on one of their own instead! Sometimes God may choose to frustrate the opposition you have been having doing the right thing. It will encourage you when He does.
(1) Sometimes we will need encouragement and strength to keep doing the rite thing.
(2) God will supply it fully.
How does God deliver that encourageH