Summary: Believe that your labour is never in vain. Ministry is an investment. Sow and expect to reap a harvest. Believe you are never left alone. Discouragement cannot defeat you unless you allow it.
Paul was able to stand firm despite the oppositions and the difficulties he faced.
• He experienced fatigue, frustrations, fears and failures but he did not give up.
• Paul weathered through all these and stood firm. This is what we can learn from him.
1 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 labour in the Lord is not in vain.”
In Acts 17, Paul had a challenging time in Athens with the philosophers, in a city full of idols. The sight of the idolatry “greatly distressed” him.
• There were oppositions in almost every city he had been to, from Philippi to Thessalonica, from Berea to Athens.
• He moved from place to place, but most of the times not by choice but by force because the people were out to get him.
He was alone in Athens and supposed to wait for Silas and Timothy to join him but they did not come.
• Acts 18 tells us Paul decided to leave for Corinth, where he met a Jewish couple who were tentmakers. He stayed and worked with them, because he himself was a tentmaker.
• It was quite obvious that Paul needed some financial support. He needed to work and provide for him because he was all alone.
Paul could only spent “every Sabbath”, not every day, to reason in the synagogue and persuade Jews and Greeks to believe Christ.
• He did not stop preaching; he just could not do it every day…
• …UNTIL Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia. Then, “Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.” (18:5)
18:6-7 “But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
• “7Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.”
• Paul never gives up. If you do not want it, I’ll go somewhere else with it.
• He was determined to let the truth out. He was relentless in preaching Christ. He was committed to God’s call upon his life.
I read through a couple of the chapters this past week and gained a deeper appreciation for this man. Paul was truly a remarkable servant of God.
• He was resolute, determined, and unwavering in his commitment to preach Christ, no matter what – no matter what the circumstances are or how the people are treating him.
• I wondered if he knew what he was getting himself into when God called him.
• If that was the JOB RESPONSIBILITIES he read at the beginning, during his enlistment, I wondered if it scared him.
I went back to read what God said to Ananias: “This man is my chosen instrument to carry My Name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)
• If this was the Job Description given out in a job interview, then I must say Paul met it spot on.
• In fact, I felt he surpassed it. He excelled in what God called him to do.
But what surprised me was what God said after that. I didn’t notice this until now. God said to Ananias: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my Name.” (9:16)
• Even that, God said it right at the beginning. He revealed how tough the ministry would be.
• I wondered if this would have scared away many would-be followers of Christ today, if the prevalent message we have is that when we follow Christ, we would be blessed in every way – left, right, and centre. We would get health, wealth and success.
• People are not prepared to ‘give up’ anything to follow Christ. We are here to be blessed, not to make sacrifices.
I wondered if Ananias told Saul everything God said. Did Paul know right at the start that he would be facing lots of hardship? Would it have scared him then?
• I don’t know. The Scriptures did not reveal much.
• But that is not relevant now. What is more important is: Are we prepared for this? Are we prepared to pay a price so that others can get the prize?
I was talking with Bro Peter about a month ago and he posed me a question - How to grow a church? It sounded like a trick question, but anyway, he eventually gave his answer to it.
• Jesus said to His first disciples: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19).