“Fly High” – Acts part 19
On the lighter side of life:
Thesis: Paul knew his divine destiny and he followed it right to the end. We need to ask ourselves two questions today, “What is my divine destiny?” and “Am I following it?”
Scripture Text: Acts 21
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Pradis CD-ROM:Ac 21:1.
On to Jerusalem
Ac 21:1 After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.
Ac 21:2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail.
Ac 21:3 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo.
Ac 21:4 Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
Ac 21:5 But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.
Ac 21:6 After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.
Ac 21:7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day.
Ac 21:8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.
Ac 21:9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
Ac 21:10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
Ac 21:11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ ”
Ac 21:12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.
Ac 21:13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Ac 21:14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
Ac 21:15 After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem.
Ac 21:16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.
Paul’s Arrival at Jerusalem
Ac 21:17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly.
Ac 21:18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.
Ac 21:19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Ac 21:20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.
Ac 21:21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.
Ac 21:22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come,
Ac 21:23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow.
Ac 21:24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.
Ac 21:25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
Ac 21:26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.
Ac 21:27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,
Ac 21:28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.”
Ac 21:29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)
Ac 21:30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.
Ac 21:31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar.
Ac 21:32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
Ac 21:33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done.
Ac 21:34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks.
Ac 21:35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers.
Ac 21:36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!”
Paul Speaks to the Crowd
Ac 21:37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” “Do you speak Greek?” he replied.
Ac 21:38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the desert some time ago?”
Ac 21:39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”
Ac 21:40 Having received the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic
The story of Paul’s arrest is what was predicted and Paul knew what the will of the Holy Spirit was to go to Jerusalem and be arrested for the message of the Gospel.
He was warned several times along the way what would happen. It did not change his mind nor did he change his course of action. Paul knew his destiny and he knew what the Holy Spirit directed him to do. It is important to note that many disagreed with his course of action but Paul stayed on course any way and he never changed his direction.
Paul was first warned at Tyre by the Spirit about what would happen. Many of the disciples there told Paul not to go to Jerusalem!
At Caesarea the prophet Agabus came to Paul and prophetically told him what would happen in Jerusalem:
Ac 21:11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ ”
Once again the people pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem but he said “He was willing to die for the Lord if this was the will of God.”
Martin Luther King Jr. stated: “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
Paul would have agreed with Martin’s thought!
Paul meets with James and he is complemented on his successful ministry and praised for reaching thousands of Jews and Gentiles for Christ. But James also warns Paul that with his tremendous success in ministry comes with it a loathing by the religious Jews and this will cause him to be arrested in Jerusalem.
Paul had become a legend in his day. He led 1,000 of Jews to Christ and 1,000 of Gentiles to Jesus. Paul’s legendary status would cause his arrest and his persecution form the legalistic Jews.
Some Jews from Asia see Paul and recognize the legend. They start a frenzied riot to have Paul killed and they start to beat him. The attack by Satan is unleashed onto Paul because the legend has come to Jerusalem and he wants him taken out. The city turns into a riot all because of the legend of Paul and Jesus. Word gets back to the keepers of the law and soldiers are dispatched to stop the mayhem. Paul’s life is spared because the soldiers show up and stop the mob from killing him. He is arrested by the soldiers and moved toward safety and in the midst of the mayhem Paul asks for permission to speak to the crowd. The legendary Paul is about to speak to a mob of people who want him dead and we will discover what he says next week. But we will stop here at the end of chapter 21 to learn some important spiritual lessons.
Thoughts for sermon:
Do you know what your divine destiny is? Paul definitely knew his divine destiny!
What is your destiny in life? Paul knew his was to preach the Gospel to both the Jew and the Gentiles and to go to Jerusalem to be arrested for the cause of Christ.
What is your purpose for life? While in prison Paul would write many letters which would become part of the Bible we have today.
What has God called you to do with your life? Paul knew his was to spread the message of the Gospel to the Jews and to the Gentiles and even to the city of Jerusalem.
Let me ask you a few more questions:
Are you heading toward your divine destiny today or are you running from it?
Do you know what your divine destiny is?
Has the Holy Spirit revealed to you your divine destiny?
Do you want the Holy Spirit to reveal to you your destiny?
Or could you care less about your divine destiny?
Over the last year I have learned a personal spiritual lesson about following the call of God on my life: It all has to do with knowing my divine destiny and being committed to it at any cost!
This year I wanted to leave the ministry and become more focused in counseling or in social work. I really wanted out of the pastorate! But through this time the Lord did gently remind me of what my destiny is! I am called to be a pastor!
T.S. - To discover your divine destiny you have to look at your life in 4 dimensions: I evaluated my life in these 4 dimensions over this last year and it remind me what my destiny was and is.
1. The Struggle – Truth is life is filled with struggles! Struggles usually occur in the battlefield of the mind. There is in the mind a raging battle for the control of this vessel we live in. This debate between self, God and Satan floods your mind, this is done in the soul realm of a persons being. It can have the tendency to rip at your heart and at your mind. This struggle is real and it will impact your divine destiny!
a. Scripture Text: Romans 7:21-25 is from the apostle Paul as he speaks about this battle and this struggle:
i. Ro 7:14: We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
ii. Ro 7:15: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
iii. Ro 7:16: And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
iv. Ro 7:17: As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
v. Ro 7:18: I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
vi. Ro 7:19: For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
vii. Ro 7:20: Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
viii. Ro 7:21: So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
ix. Ro 7:22: For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
x. Ro 7:23: but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
xi. Ro 7:24: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
xii. Ro 7:25: Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
b. For me this struggle manifested itself in the following ways: (Please note I am not trying to point fingers at anyone here but I am revealing to you what happens in the struggle in our minds and in our hearts.)
• I was tired and burned out from doing ministry.
• I was battling with depression about my life and my ministry expectations.
• I physically lived in pain everyday from my knee to my back to my hand and in my heart.
• I felt helpless for the first time in my life throughout last years surgeries and struggles - But I kept up the façade, the image that I had everything in control.
• Inside I was a wrestling daily with self, with evil and yes with God. The enemy tried to tempt me a way from ministry many times and in many different ways.
o It was a struggle! It was a battle for my mind and my heart!
• Some days I just wanted to get in my SUV and drive away to a distant Disney Land where life would be good again.
• I was frustrated with the ministry and with people in general.
o There is an old minister’s joke which says, “If it was not for the people the ministry would be awesome!”
o Truth is – Ministry is about the people!
• I was becoming more self-centered and battling deceptive thoughts constantly in my mind.
• I was emotionally drained and I really struggled writing sermons week after week after week.
• I was frustrated at how the church was always left a mess after services and I was appalled at the disrespect showed to the building – and I equated this irrational thought that the disrespect for the building was a disrespect for the Lord himself.
o See this is how the struggle plays out in your minds!
o I resented having to clean up after people all the time during the week because no one cleaned up after themselves – which by the way is an exaggeration.
o Most people do clean up after themselves.
• I was receiving letters during this time that ridiculed my choices in leadership and my ministry decisions.
• I was tired of the criticism from others and the hurtful comments.
• I wanted out of the ministry!
o I actually wrote about this in one of Masters School papers.
The struggle was real and it was going on daily in my mind!
o I even applied for secular jobs because I wanted hope that I could get out of this ministry lifestyle.
Note: I would still love Jesus but not be in the ministry any more!
Not once did I ever think of leaving Jesus!
• The Lord brought me to this following verse many time during the struggle:
o Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
o The Lord kept telling me – Mike you cannot give up your God given destiny! Push through it – the reward is coming!
T.S. – To find our God given destiny we must go through the struggle against self, evil and God. If we do then we will begin to see the path that will reveal or remind us of our God given destiny. Life is a struggle and if we persist to the next stage in the process then we will see the light glistening on the path which leads to our divine destiny.
2. The Attitude: Stage two is where we face our greatest ally or our worst enemy. Attitudes will either bless you or curse you! Attitudes are the doors to the mind and the heart. They can either be open or closed! But know this they will determine your destiny!
a. Scripture Text: Phil. 2:5-13 from Paul once again reveals a spiritual thought to us about our attitude. Note this Paul writes this letter from prison!
i. Phil 2:5: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
ii. Phil 2:6: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
iii. Phil 2:7: but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
iv. Phil 2:8: And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death —even death on a cross!
v. Phil 2:9: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name
vi. Phil 2:10: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, l in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
vii. Phil 2:11: and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
viii. Phil 2:12: Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
ix. Phil 2:13: for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose
b. Joel Osteen from his book “Your Best Life Now” stated, “Until you learn how to enlarge your vision, seeing the future through your eyes of faith, your own wrong thinking will prevent good things from happening in your life. God will not pour fresh, creative ideas and blessings into old attitudes… (6) …Those wrong attitudes will block the flow. You must stop dwelling on negative, destructive thoughts that keep you in a rut. Your life is not going to change until you first change your thinking” (7).
i. He also adds this thought: “What you keep before your eyes will affect you. You will produce what you’re continually seeing in your mind. If you foster an image of defeat and failure, then you’re going to live that kind of life. But if you develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you” (5).
c. For me the problem with attitude manifested itself in the following ways:
• My attitude was self-centered.
o I wanted things on my terms and my way!
• My attitude was negative towards the church, the people and toward my personal life.
• My attitude was caused by my losing sight of the ultimate vision – the ultimate goal – my eternal destiny.
o It became clouded because I was evaluating my life by what the world called success.
Size of ministry
Size of salary
Owning a house
My retirement fund
Honor from peers in ministry
Respect from others around me
o This is why I considered Chicago – I thought there at a large church and with a large salary I would finally get all these things along with respect and be labeled a success!
But they would never consider me a success in Amery.
I was told by a respected pastor that I needed to leave Amery because I was too talented to stay here and – in a sense I was wasting my potential here in Amery.
• I was frustrated with my finances and I wanted to help my kids out more with school and I could not.
o I started looking at what I made and what others made and I became envious.
o I discovered what I could make in a secular position with my education and it convinced me that I was going in the wrong direction.
• I had a mid-life crisis and I allowed my thoughts to convince me that I was losing out on life.
o I did not own my own home.
o I kept thinking, “I don’t even own my own bath room!”
o I could not provide like I had dreamed I would at this age for my family.
My wife was tired by doing so much at church and at school and I felt it was my fault!
o I saw how my brothers all made more money than I did and they had no post education.
o I became discontent with my life, my ministry, and my current living situation.
• My attitude was partially caused by my health problems and many comments that were made to me about my physical struggles.
o Two minister friends told me that I should have enough faith to be healed and not need surgery.
o I became resentful to the church because of a few comments that were made about me missing work to much and how much sick leave I should get.
o I was frustrated because I did not think people really cared about me! It was hurtful that not one of my ministerial friends from the FCA called to see how I was doing after any of my surgeries.
I will say, “Thank the Lord for Marion Adams he always called or came to see me when I was recovering!”
• But for the most part no one seemed to care among my close so-called minister friends.
• Because of my physical struggles I had weight gain. This was depressing me because I had always tried to stay in shape.
I was frustrated because I could not work out and depressed so I ate more!
People we know told Kathy I needed to lose weight.
People told me that I had lost my discipline.
Kathy even said to me jokingly that I needed to lose my mountain.
People told me that I need to go on a diet.
• Did I “Yes, I did and I still do!”
• I actually started looking to food for comfort because I felt that the church and many of my ministerial friends did not really care.
o I found a book called “Love Hunger” and I started reading it.
They talked about how an empty heart will cause some people to over eat to fill it but the reality is they are overfilling the stomach – not dealing with the heart issue.
I continued to read from this book and listen to some of the thoughts.
• “No matter how much food I stuff into my stomach when I’m feeling angry at my parents or longing for a husband and children, food will never reach my heart and satisfy its hunger” (30).
• “We sometimes call addictions emotional cancer. With cancer, the body’s growth process turns against itself and begins to eat away at its own tissue. Emotional cancer can be just as destructive, just as fatal” (52).
• The cycle page 53:
o Love Hunger
o Low self-esteem (Emotional pain)
o Addictive Agent (Food as an anesthetic)
o Consequences (obesity)
These thoughts were very insightful to helping me evaluate my attitude and my heart.
• It hit me -- I needed to change my attitude and look to the Lord for help through this valley of struggle.
o I was reminded by the Lord that He had not left me!
o I had just drifted away from Him as the world’s value system lured me away from his divine destiny for my life.
o He showed me how the enemy was chipping away at my divine attitude to make it a worldly attitude.
• Osteen states it well when he says, “We have to conceive it on the inside before we’re ever going to receive it on the outside. If you don’t think you can have something good, then you never will. The barrier is in your mind. It’s not God’s lack of resources or your lack of talent that prevents you from prospering. Your own wrong thinking can keep you from God’s best” (3).
• So with the help of the Holy Spirit and a decision on my part I decided to change my attitude and move n in the process of re-discovering my divine destiny!
T.S. – We not only need to go through the struggle with self, evil and God but we also have to deal with the negative and just plain wrong attitudes that we have decided to harbor in our lives. I decided that I wanted more of God and less of me so I choose to surrender to His divine destiny for my life.
3. The Surrender: There comes a point in everyone’s life when you have to choose to be a living sacrifice and surrender to God’s way for your life. If you want the struggle to be over and for your attitude to change then you will have to surrender.
a. Romans 12:1: Paul once again talks about his stage in the process to us in Romans.
i. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
ii. One translation says that this act of surrender just makes sense!
b. 1 Peter 5:7: Paul once again led by the Holy Spirit speaks to us about this stage of life.
i. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
1. Surrender it all to God and just let it go!
c. The surrender step affected me in the following ways:
o I had to choose to once again to die to my self.
In this faith walk we must constantly be choosing the path of self-sacrifice and self-denial.
It’s not a one time act – it’s a constant daily surrender and some days it is easier than other days.
Jesus warned us that the price of following is daily surrender to the cross: Listen to His words again and let them melt into your heart:
• Luke 9:23-25: Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
o This text reminded me that I needed to let go of the pity party syndrome and surrender.
o I needed to lose the martyrdom complex and surrender.
o I needed to look to Jesus to help me with dying to my self daily.
o I needed to quit pleasing men and women and just please God.
o I needed to be reminded of my motto that I had made to the Lord many years ago.
I choose to lose – 3 areas that I made a decision to die too.
• Lose to God
• Lose to self
• Lose to pride
• When I choose the stage of surrender and I lost to my self again I re-discovered my eternal destiny and my life again!
T.S. – We have to get to the point were we surrender 100% to God and to His way for us to discover or re-discover our God given destiny. When we have surrendered and receive our divine revelation then we must step out in action and move onto the road which leads to our eternal God given destiny.
4. The Action: There is an old quote which says something like this, “Good intentions mean nothing if you never take those intentions and put them into action.” There is another one which says, “Talk is cheap- actions speak louder than words.” The fourth stage is the stage of action – the point where we actually do the Word which God has implanted into our hearts and minds.
a. James 1:22-24 talks about this important doing of the Word.
i. Jas 1:22: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
ii. Jas 1:23: Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror.
iii. Jas 1:24: and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
b. 1 Peter 1:13 is Paul’s own words again telling us about how important action is in our life:
i. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
c. I had to choose the path to action – it had to be an act on my part moving toward God – it had to be the concept of doing His Word – it was stepping out in faith again.
i. I needed to take responsibility for my choices and then pursue my God given destiny which He revealed to me again.
o I needed to change my attitude and align it with my God given destiny!
o I needed to pray more passionately to the Lord for help in achieving my God given destiny!
o I needed to get back on the right track with my focus on my God given destiny!
o I needed to choose God’s destiny for my life not someone else’s destiny or even my own ego destiny!
o I needed to let go of my ego – action – throw it out of the picture and out of my life!
o I needed to take steps toward God and His plan and forsake my plan!
o It was time to do it! “I just did it!”
o I stepped out off of the nice dry shore line of life and I stepped into the Red Sea and amazingly the water parted!
These are the four stages we must go threw for discovering our God given destiny and I have showed you how this played out in my own life. Now it is your turn to decide to progress through the 4 stages of growth and revelation.
But here is the key! You have to walk through these 4 steps yourself and let the Holy Spirit lead you through them all. You have to be ready to evaluate your life today and be open to the Holy Spirit’s counsel and insight! If you are ready then I believe that the Lord will take you through this 4 step process and you will discover your God Given Divine Destiny. Once you know what it is then you must take action toward it’s completion in your life.
Quote from, “Your Best Life Now!”
“God has so much in store for you, too. Start making room for it in your thinking. Conceive it on the inside. Start seeing yourself rising to a new level, doing something of significance…” (8).
The Lord wants to reveal your eternal destiny to you but you have to want it and be open too it!
Are you willing to give up your life for the Lord to achieve His purpose and plan for your life?
Are you willing too:
…Struggle through the self-centered mindset to a God-centered mindset?
…Change your attitude from negative to positive?
…Surrender your will and your whole life to God over and over everyday so that you can achieve your God given destiny?
…Take a step of action and become a doer of the Word of God and in doing so fulfill your God given destiny?
Answering these questions correctly will lead you too your God given divine destiny and to an action plan to achieve it? Are you ready for it? Then lets just do it!