The fall is my favorite time of the year. I love it. It's so beautiful. The leaves are so pretty. I like them a lot when they are up on the tree but when they fall down they look more like work to me. But, you know what, I discovered a new easy method of raking leaves! I don't know why, I've been around a long time. The other day, Thursday, a cold wind came up. Did you feel it? It came straight out of t Yukon, right off the glaciers. I opened my garage door to go out and forgot to shut it. Those leaves like me because an hour later hundreds if not thousands of those leaves had moved into my garage! Leaves are friendly. They're loving. They came right in. Wouldn't it be neat if winning souls was like that? It is harvest time. We're told that. The harvest is ripe. Just open the doors of the church, and in come the lost people until the church is just filled with people seeking the warmth of the church. Well, it's not quite like that. Paul and Barnabas found that out. They actually had to go out and seek the lost. I wish it was that way with the leaves. They had to go out and seek the lost, and they had to go our an become missionaries and find them.
Have you ever been on a mission trip? Have you had mission experience? It changes your life, doesn't it It changed mine. I remember when I first came to McDonald Road back in 1987, everybody was organizing a mission trip Roatan Island near Honduras. And I went. What an experience! It just changed my whole life. I went back again, and I'm going to go back. These mission trips are wonderful It's sort of like potato chips; nobody can eat just one. You can't do it just once. You've got to repeat it and do it again and again. The apostle Paul went on an exciting missionary journey. It's called his first missionary trip, because you can't just do one. It got into his blood. It almost killed him. They went to Lystra and then Derbe. Finally it came time to go home.
They were exhilarated but tired. They had had a large success, but it was time to go home. Good Preaching takes a lot out of you. Paul and Barnabas preached the good news of Jesus and His Righteousness in Derby. Acts 14:21, They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,
Now, when you preach the Good news you will see large numbers of converts and disciples. Notice what Paul did for the growing church:
Acts 14:22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. Great leadership strengthens the church. It builds the church up. A true shepherd not only multiplies the flock but he minds the flock. He is willing to spend and be spent., The world is a better place as a result of Michelangelo not having said, 'I don't do ceilings'.(Edward McCabe) He was willing to spend and be spent. The church would be a better place if more members were willing to climb a few scaffolds and be involved!
Encouragement was a hallmark of their ministry. They encouraged the church to remain true. I want to be an encourager, don't you. I don't want to be the opposite of an encourager, I want to affirm others, I want to affirm my children, affirm my wife in her career, and complement my wife. Are you an encourager?
It is easy to pick apart and criticize others. It is easier to burn food than cook it to perfection. Typos are far easier than proofreading. It is easier to go into the ditch than to stay on the road. Putting a 1000 piece puzzle back in the box is far easier than putting it together.
Building, on the other hand, is hard work. Building up a church is very hard work.
I watched them tear a building down; A band of men in a busy town. With a `HO-HEAVE-HO' and a lusty yell; They swung a beam and a sidewall fell. I asked the foreman, `Are these men skilled? And the men you'd hire if you had to build?' He gave a laugh and said, `No indeed! Common labor is all I need. I can easily wreck in a day or two, What builders have taken a year to do.'
And I thought to myself as I went on my way, Which of these roles have I tried to play? Am I a builder who works with care? Measuring life by the rule and square? Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan, Patiently doing the best I can? Or am I a wrecker who walks the town, Content with the labor of tearing down?
You know, there are builders and there are wreckers, and they're in every church. They go home and criticize .Are you a builder or are you a part of the devil's wrecking gang? Don't criticize God's church, or they go home and build the church up. Don't criticize God's church. Build it up.
During the American Revolutionary War one-third of the people living in this country were loyal to the British. Another one-third were not interested in getting involved. If it were not for the final one-third who were willing to fight and die for a cause they believed in, we would not have America as we know it today. One-third were willing to roll up their sleeves and give their all for what they believed in. The freedom we enjoy today in America was earned by their blood. They were nation builders. Praise the Lord for builders!
Today the church is supported by about a third of the members. One-third carry the load and pay the bills and do the work. Imagine what could be accomplished if the other two-thirds got involved and prayed, paid and plowed to build God's church. If I must die, let me be a part of the one-third who were involved in building up the work of God, building something worth while, building up a church instead of tearing it down. The first thing some people do when they enter the doors of the church is to criticize or complain about this, or complain about that.
There are three types of modern Christians today: Yawners, Maimers, and Killers. You've met these groups. All are soldiers of the Cross. Some yawn at the job and can never be counted on to advance the cause of Christ. They could care less. They just relax and enjoy whatever they can get out of it. Other Christians occasionally rise up and occasionally maim the enemy. But they don't do much. The final group is the Killers. They are zealous, they're unflinching, they're dedicated, they're victorious for Christ. The Killers are like Gideon, they're like David with Goliath. Paul was a Killer. When he was Saul he was definitely a killer and he was a Killer Christian. He went out there and actually did the work. He stirred up things. He accomplished things. You know, a tiny group, one-third are the Killers. They are willing to spend, they are willing to build a Killer church. If you've been a Yawner or Maimer in the past you can change and become dynamic for God. (Bill Hybels) You can do it. Jesus wants you to be involved.
Paul was a builder of churches. He went around. He could have just stayed there in Antioch, but he went and did something for the Lord. He was not content to simply establish a church, but went back to those same churches and tried to build them up. He was quick to return to make sure it was strong and growing.
EXPECT TROUBLE: Acts 14:22 - Paul warned: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,"
I love Paul's honesty. If you listen to modern preaching today, they will tell you that
The Greek word for tribulation here is Thlipsis. The root of this word comes from the ancient threshing operation which separated the wheat from the chaff. If you want the bad in your life separated out, then you must endure trouble. You've got to endure that black cloud. You've got to recognize that hardship is going to be your companion. Paul says, "Expect it."
The next thing he talks about is LEADERSHIP: Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. They appointed leaders in each church, good leaders, leaders that were trustworthy.
Good Leadership is vital to any church or enterprise. God's church needs the best leaders. Paul and Barnabas placed Elders in each church. These men had the qualifications that Paul later listed in I Timothy 3. Why would he put elders in churches? Proverbs 27:17 New (Century Version) As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other. That's interesting. People are improved by people. Hermits are hard to improve because they don't associate with other people. Iron sharpens iron; people sharpen people.
We need noble Godly leaders. We must look only to Jesus; that's true. But somehow humans need to see other humans who have done it right. People look to people. We need someone to imitate. Hebrews 13:7 (God's Word Translation). Remember your leaders who have spoken God's word to you. Think about how their lives turned out, and imitate their faith. We need heros. When a hero falls, it makes the news because we're all looking at these heros. You look at these evangelical pastor. Did you hear about him on the news this week? Ted Haggard, accused of having all kinds of problems and doing drugs. A senior pastor of a fourteen thousand member church out there in Colorado resigned. The hero fell, and this is hurting everybody because we all look to heros. Hebrews says we should imitate their faith. We deliberately look to people, and we need godly leaders. And that's why they appointed these godly leaders.
We Christians are like sheep. Sheep innately look for someone to follow. They need a trustworthy shepherd. Someone who is not looking to build up himself but is looking to build others into the image of Jesus. Every church needs strong godly leaders who, like Paul, give God the credit and who connect his sheep with God's mighty power. That's the duty of a shepherd; it's to take the sheep out into the pasture to connect them with the right food and water so they will grow.
PUT GOD'S WORK FIRST: Acts 14:26, From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, That is exciting when you look at a map, and when you think about this. You think, 'Now let's see. Saul is from Tarsus. When you sail from Attilia to Antioch what city do you go past?' You go right past Tarsus. Saul or Paul is from Tarsus. Paul bypasses his home town and his family and Aunts and Uncles and cousins to go back to Antioch. That tells me that Paul esteemed his Christian brothers and sisters in the church more than his own biological family. God's church was first in Paul's life. When he got to Antioch he spent considerable time there doing God's work. (Editor's note: Tarsus was inland somewhat and was off the beaten track between Atallia and Antioch)
Acts 14:26. They sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
Paul and Barnabas were extremely valuable instruments in God's hands. When I was on Roatan Island I went to an are called 'Coxswain Hole.' There in Coxswain Hole I saw a carpenter. And I watched him for a while, and he was working with a piece of wood. He had a very wide board. They have very big boards there in Roatan Island. He had been working almost all day with that one board. He had a metal scraper and he was trying to bet it smooth, square and flat. He was doing it by hand, rubbing it, scraping it, getting the humps out of it, getting it perfectly flat. Among his other tools he had a hammer, some glue, and a machete. That was it. He was going to make some beautiful furniture. I saw some of the other furniture that was there. It was very beautiful. I thought about my own tools back home. I had a whole garage full of tools, and here's this man making beautiful furniture with hardly anything. He was severely limited by his lack of tools. God's power to accomplish is either enhanced or limited by the number and quality of His tools. What are God's tools? You are one of God's tools. Be a good one. Be a quality tool in His hands. Be a willing tool. Be a sharp tool.
Paul was indeed a quality tool in the hands of God. That's why the early church grew like it did. He was willing to be involved. God used Paul in a mighty way to establish the Christianity. Like Paul, you can present yourself as a sharp zealous tool in God's hands. If each of us would dedicate our talents to God's work a lot more work would be done. Maybe many more souls could be brought into the church. Maybe the coming of Jesus would be hastened. Paul started the work. Let's finish it and go home.
Paul and Barnabas had been gone about a year. They had been on the prayer list in the Antioch church bulletin for a long time. Now they returned.
HUMILITY AND ENTHUSIASM: Acts 14:27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
When you finally come home after a long and harrowing mission trip what do you tell about your trip? You might say: "You are not going to believe this. It was the most dangerous thing I ever did. I preached, I did this, I did that. I was almost stoned to death. It was hard. Would you like to see my scars?
Paul reported "All that God had Done!" Do you see a difference here? Paul was humble, positive and upbeat! I went to visit an older member of my church up in Michigan. I made a mistake from the very beginning. I said, "How are you today?" You never ask that question of some people. She proceeded for the next hour and a half and told each detail of her many surgeries and all about each ache and pain. Did I appreciate that visit? I remember that visit. I remember the lady's name.
Let's be positive. Tell what God has done in your life. Don't tell what the Devil has done. Uplift Jesus in every conversation, in every presentation.
Acts 14:28. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples. Almost a year was spent on furlough. They needed this rest. Their batteries needed recharging. Hundreds of new Christians up in the northern regions were firmly established. God had blessed. Antioch was their home turf. They could say: mission accomplished! When you go on a Maranatha mission trip you want desperately to complete your project. Paul and Barnabas had established a successful beachhead in the heathen lands. Their mission was accomplished. When yiou go on a Maranatha mission you like to finish your project, don't you. You work hard so you can finish the project because you want desperately to complete your task.
Act 14:26 says, they completed their work. Paul and Barnabas had completed their work. How wonderful to do that. Once a task is begun, never leave 'til it's done. Be it great or be it small, do it well, or not at all. Complete the task that you're assigned to. High honors go not to those who begin, but to those who finish the project. Some projects are very hard. You look at them and you work on them a while and you stand back and you're tired of working on that project. But you press forward, you complete that project. You complete your task.
Paul and Barnabas established Christianity without television, without radio, without all the modern media that we have. ' They did so much with so little and we do so little with so much for Jesus.' (Warren Wiersbe)
Let's give full credit to the person who stays in the field to finish the work. His face is traced with wrinkles, with dirt and sweat. His energy is spent and he is tired, but he has spent himself in a worthy cause and has built up the work of God where he is. To him belongs the true crown.
The Indians have a wonderful saying: "When you were born, you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries, and you rejoice." At a job well done.
2 Timothy 4:7,8 (New Living Translation), I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me--the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return. Praise God for Paul. He finished the course, he fought the fight, he completed his work. He was a finisher, a builder who finished, a builder who could stand back and look at what he had accomplished. And he did well for the Lord. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" will be said to Paul and to Barnabas when they walk into those heavenly gates. And I want that same thing said of me.
Hymn of Praise: #6, O Worship the Lord Scripture: Acts 14:21-25 Hymn of Response: #367, Rescue the Perishing 061104#570 Acts 14:21-28
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last updated 06/11/06 by Bob Beckett.