INTRO.- ILL.- In New England, the long-standing custom was for a visiting preacher to have his room provided by one of the families in the church. On Sunday morning, the lady of the house had prepared a big breakfast of ham and eggs, biscuits and gravy, even pancakes, along with coffee and juice.
The preacher, however, apologized and said, "Oh, I’m sorry but I never eat the morning that I preach."
The mother and her young son attended the church service that morning and afterward, she asked her son, "How did you like the preacher’s sermon?" He said, "He should have et."
Admittedly, for some preachers, it doesn’t make any difference whether they eat breakfast or not the morning they preach. It’s all the same. That’s why I prefer ’to et.’ Fasting won’t help me much at all!
Of course, I’ve also heard it said that if you feed a preacher a lot of food he won’t preach as long!
We must admit that not every Christian is called into the ministry. And not every minister who has supposedly been called should be there!
ILL.- It’s like the article I read the other day about CEO’s, Chief Executive Officers. Many of them here in America are way overpaid for the work they do. I have often wondered, "What work?" I have, at times, wondered the same thing about some who are involved in the ministry.
Ray Sandy and his grandson, Spencer, were here at the church a couple of years ago to paint the front doors. As Ray and Spencer walked by my office, Spencer, asked grandpa, "What does he do in there?"
Not every Christian is called into the ministry or the service of Christ, but some are and many are excellent servants. I’ve known many of them and you have as well.
Why are some people called to serve as preachers, etc. and others are not? Is there a criteria that a person has to meet in order to be chosen by God? Or is it just a matter of coincidence? It is a matter of personal choice or what?
ILL.- After I was baptized when I was 20 years old a Christian friend with whom I worked at Safeway encouraged me to go to Ozark Bible College to get some Bible knowledge and Christian education. So I did. It wasn’t long before the excitement and spirit of Christianity began to grow on me. Of course, I was being bombarded with sermons and lessons from the professors, etc.
We had chapel services twice a week; every Tuesday and Thursday morning. We had a Wednesday night service at the college as well. And of course, there was always church on Sunday; both morning and night services. Going to church that much is bound to do one of two things: turn you on or turn you off. IT TURNED ME ON.
Eventually, I went forward at a missionary conference that the college sponsored and said I would be willing to do whatever the Lord wanted. And I am so glad that He didn’t want me in China or Timbuktu! By the way, it’s an actual place in Africa.
After going forward at that commitment time, I didn’t know what I was going to do until one day when someone asked me to preach for him while he was gone. I said "yes" and had no idea what I was getting into! Not everyone wants to get up and speak before the public and I really wasn’t too thrilled about the idea but I did say "yes." And I was very scared!
Regardless of the type of Christian service, preaching or otherwise, there will be some negatives to endure. But overall, it pays to serve Christ and that’s what we’re here to do!
PROP.- Let’s think about the importance of serving the Lord and how a person might get selected for specialized Christian service and serve in the midst of difficulty.
1- Realize that not everyone wants to serve
2- Remember God’s process for selection
3- Recognize evil and stand strong
I. REALIZE THAT NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO SERVE
ILL.- A new employee had been caught coming into work late three times and the fourth time the manager decided to find out what the problem was. He said, "Look here, don’t you know what time we start to work around here?"
The employee said, "No sir, I don’t. They’re always working when I get here."
Some people in the working world are not in a hurry to go to work because they don’t want to work! And the same is true for the church. Some people are not in a hurry to come to church for fear that someone will ask them to serve in some form or another.
This thought is not in our text, but it is true that not everyone wants to serve the Lord in a specialized way, such as: preaching, teaching, singing, leading, evangelizing, missionary work, etc.
John 6:64-69 64"Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Did you notice that many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him? Does this mean that after they saw what was happening with Jesus and His ministry that they didn’t want to have any part of it? Does this mean that they were not "true" disciples after all? It sure makes a person wonder.
I don’t know for sure but it does seem natural that if a person truly believes in the Lord Jesus and has accepted Him into their life then they will want to serve Christ somehow in the church or out of the church. That is, if their faith is sure.
James 1:22 "Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only..."
Ephesians 4:11-12 "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."
ILL.- I recall the story about the church that had what is called a “Quittin meeting.” What’s that? I had never heard of such a meeting before, but apparently, it’s similar to a revival meeting. The only difference is in this meeting the people are called on to quit certain things: quit drinking, quit smoking, quit cussing, and quit carousing, etc.
One elderly lady went forward during the invitation time. The preacher asked her why she came forward, because he and everybody else knew that she’d never done anything wrong in her life. She replied, “I ain’t been doin nothin and I’m a quittin!” And so it should be with us. If you’ve been doing little or nothing in the Christian life, that is, doing little good or not serving then you need to quit and start doing something.
ILL.- A preacher was trying to persuade a woman to teach a Sunday School class. She was well qualified and had time for it. She declined, saying, “I don’t want to be tied down to things.”
Finally, the preacher said, “You know we serve a Master who was willing to be NAILED down to things for us.” There’s our motivation. The love of Christ compels us!
We may not be able to do some things but by the grace of God we should do what we can do. What can you do?
II. REMEMBER GOD’S PROCESS FOR SELECTION
1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
ILL.- A PARAMEDIC was asked on a local Dallas TV talk-show program: “What was your most unusual and challenging 911 call?” “Recently,” paramedic began, we got a call from that big white CHURCH on 11th and Walnut. A frantic usher was very concerned that during their WORSHIP service an elderly man PASSED out in a pew and appeared to be dead. The usher could find no PULSE and there was no noticeable BREATHING.”
“What was so unusual and demanding about this particular call?” the interviewer asked. “Well,” the paramedic said, “we carried out four guys before we found the one who was dead.”
Some people just don’t get too excited about worship or going to worship.
ILL.- I have a preacher friend in Brunswick, GA. Brunswick is about 16,000 population, located just north of Jacksonville, FL, and south of Savannah, GA.
I think they have over 80 members but it’s obviously, a small church. They run in the 50’s and 60’s on Sunday morning.
A year ago he asked me if I could come and preach a revival for him. When he first told me the idea sounded good. I’ve preached revivals for him before, but when I checked the distance I had a change of heart. I discovered that it is 763 miles from Jonesboro and 12 hours of driving. To some people, that’s not difficult at all but I don’t enjoy driving that much. Plus, he wanted me to preach from Sunday morning through Friday night or six sermons. I’m sorry but I turned him down. I just didn’t think I could handle the drive to and from Brunswick, GA. And I would have had to drive back all day on Saturday and preach here the next day.
He ended up getting another friend in southern IL to preach for him. And guess what? Their nightly attendance was about 20. Whew! All I am saying is this: Some people don’t get too excited about church worship! (or revivals, etc.)
The worship of this text is probably a very small worship group. And I happen to believe that every Christian should have their own daily worship in some form or another. Daily you should have a time to read some scripture and pray. That’s worship and the Lord deserves our daily worship and our Sunday worship.
While in worship, fasting and praying, they were guided to select Barnabas and Saul for a special work. IS THIS THE WAY WE SELECT PEOPLE TO SERVE IN OUR CHURCHES TODAY? No way.
Most of the time if we can get anybody to serve for any reason we’ll take them. However, that’s also how churches sometimes get into trouble. Some people who are selected to serve don’t show up to serve. Some people who are selected to serve don’t give it their best shot.
This business of selecting anybody for any reason should not happen in the church. Selecting people to serve should be a matter of prayer or prayer and fasting.
If we relied more on the Lord to direct us in prayer in all things we’d make better decisions in life and select better people to serve.
ILL.- A woman bought a piece of needlework at a craft fair. On it was stitched these words, “PRAYER CHANGES THINGS.” Proud of her handiwork, she hung it up above the fireplace in the family room. Several days later, she noticed it was missing. She asked her husband if he knew what happened to it.
“I REMOVED IT,” he replied. “DON’T YOU BELIEVE PRAYER CHANGES THINGS?” she asked. He responded, “YES, I DO. I BELIEVE IN PRAYER. IN FACT, I BELIEVE THAT IT CHANGES THINGS. I JUST DON’T HAPPEN TO LIKE CHANGE, AND SO I TOOK IT DOWN.” Prayer makes a big difference in people’s lives and in the kingdom of God.
We need to be praying about everything in regard to our lives and in the life of the church. It shouldn’t be the same as the working world. If there is something that needs to be done in the church for the Lord then we should make it a matter of prayer, a matter of seeking His will and direction, and asking for His blessing.
III. RECOGNIZE EVIL AND STAND STRONG
6They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10"You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun." Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
ILL.- One man said: Overcoming locked gates, tall fences and snapping dogs presents a challenge for us meter readers in rural Oklahoma, where we are required to read all meters: no estimates are allowed. One time a co-worker succeeded in getting past a particularly vicious watchdog tied to a chain that was long enough to give him sway over the entire back yard and driveway. Later, the man was questioned by his superior: "How were you able to get past that watchdog? The customer is curious." "That’s easy, boss," the meter reader replied. "I parked on his chain."
Brothers and sisters, there are some vicious dogs out in the world who are out to bite us and we need to park on their chains! We need to somehow put a stop to their vicious attacks.
In our text, Elymas the sorcerer opposed Paul and Barnabas and tried to turn people from the faith. And there are plenty of people in our world who would like to do the same thing to Christian people.
They would like to discourage them and turn them from the faith of Christ. It could be someone you work for or work with. It could be some person in high authority. It could be some rich and famous person like some in Hollywood who think Christianity is a farce.
ILL.- Quotes of those who opposed Christianity:
Thomas Edison said, "My mind is incapable of conceiving such a thing as a soul. I may be in error, and man may have a soul; but I simply do not believe it."
Albert Einstein said, "I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it."
W. C. Fields said, "Prayers never bring anything... They may bring solace to the sap, the bigot, the ignorant, the aboriginal, and the lazy - but to the enlightened it is the same as asking Santa Claus to bring you something for Xmas." But W. C. Fields, Edison, and Einstein have met their maker and no doubt, have changed their minds but it’s too late.
ILL.- Do you remember months ago when Rosie O’Donnell attacked Elisabeth Hasselbeck on "The View"? Rosie made a snotty and pointed remark at Hasselbeck for her conservative view, saying, "Rosie, big fat lesbian loud Rosie, attacks innocent pure Christian Elisabeth." That was Rosie’s way of putting down both Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Christianity.
ILL.- Billy Joel (American musician) supposedly said: "I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I used to go to Mass with my friends, and I viewed the whole business as a lot of very enthralling hocus-pocus. There’s a guy hanging upon the wall in the church, nailed to a cross and dripping blood, and everybody’s blaming themselves for that man’s torment, but I said to myself, ’Forget it. I had no hand in that evil. I have no original sin. There’s no blood of any sacred martyr on my hands. I pass on all of this. I believe that all important matters have to be settled here, not in the clouds somewhere after we kick off."
Brothers and sisters, there are plenty of enemies of the cross of Christ in our world! And people like Billy Joel and others DO influence people against Christ.
What are we to do? Stand strong in the faith. Live for Christ. Speak for Christ. And God will bless you and use you!
I Cor. 15:58 "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
I Cor. 16:13 "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong."
Phil. 1:27-28 "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God."
II Tim. 2:3-4 "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer."
Any person who joins the military knows that life is not going to be a "piece of cake," so to speak. It will be a life of discipline, training, and work. And so it is in the kingdom of God. When you enlisted in the kingdom of God by believing in Christ, confessing Him and being baptized into Him, you join the greatest team in the world. The greatest fighting team and the team which offers the greatest benefits.
Fight, we must. Endure, we can. Win, we will. Let’s all find out what the Lord wants us to do and go to work for the Kingdom!