Summary: Paul lived an unhindered life and had an unhindered ministry, but that doesn't mean he didn't have many obstacles and challenges. The secret to Paul being unhindered was his attitude of contentment and commitment.
A. How many of you like the story “The Little Engine that Could”?
1. The Little Engine That Could is an illustrated children’s book that was first published in the United States in 1930.
2. The story is used to teach children the value of optimism and hard work.
3. The story is about a long train that must be pulled over a high mountain.
a. Larger engines are asked to pull the train, but for various reasons they refused.
b. The request was finally sent to a small engine, who agreed to try.
c. The engine succeeded, pulling the train over the mountain while repeating: “I-think-I-can.”
B. You might remember that when Syracuse University Football Coach, Greg Robinson was fired in December of 2008 with two games left in the season, he became a bit of a laughingstock, because in a press conference after being fired, he read the children’s story, The Little Engine that Could, in order to illustrate that he still thought he could turn around the program.
1. He said that the job was not yet finished, and just like the little engine that could, he and the football program were still moving slowly up the mountain.
C. While many made fun of him, his mindset was certainly right.
1. Our attitude and mindset make such a difference.
2. I’ve often said that attitude equals altitude – how we think will determine how high we can go.
3. Henry Ford said: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you are right.”
D. Let’s consider the difference between hindrances and obstacles.
1. Although they are similar in meaning and are often used as synonyms, I want to use them to represent two different kinds of challenges we face in life.
2. As nouns the difference between hindrance and obstacle is that hindrance is something which hinders: something that holds back or causes problems with something else; while an obstacle is something that impedes, stands in the way of, or holds up progress.
3. The distinction that I want to make is:
a. An obstacle is physical – it is a physical reality
b. A hindrance is mental – it is our mental response to a physical reality – it is the condition of my heart and spirit that makes obstacles insurmountable.
4. For instance: An obstacle might be a hurdle on a running track – it is a physical reality – it has a specific height and challenge to it.
a. A hindrance, however, might be the fact that I don’t think I can jump over the hurdle.
5. The one is a real, physical reality, whereas the other is only as real as we make it in our minds.
E. Today, as we bring our study of the life of Paul to a conclusion, I want us to take to heart the lesson that Paul had lived an unhindered life and that Paul had had an unhindered ministry.
1. But I want us to wrestle with an important distinction: does the fact that Paul had an unhindered life and ministry mean that he had a life and ministry with no obstacles and challenges?
2. Absolutely not! If you think that is the case, you haven’t been paying close attention during our sermon series.
3. Paul faced all kinds of obstacles and challenges, including all kinds of persecution and beatings, and opposition, and physical suffering, even a shipwreck and imprisonments.
4. If he had all those obstacles, then how can I say he had an unhindered life and ministry?
5. It all comes back to attitude and mindset – Paul learned how to serve unhindered in the midst of all the obstacles and challenges.
6. Let’s see how this lesson is illustrated and magnified in the final years of Paul’s life.
I. The Story
A. Last week, you will recall, we left Paul on the island of Malta.
1. He and his companions were on their way to Rome, where Paul was scheduled to stand trial before Caesar.
2. Unfortunately, they found themselves in a hurricane and for two weeks the storm took them far off course on the Mediterranean sea.
3. Thankfully, God was in control, and through an angel, God promised that everyone on board would be safe if they stayed with the ship until it would run aground on an island – Malta.
4. The Bible tells us that the islanders showed them unusual kindness, and that they honored them in many ways, and when it was time to set sail again, they furnished the supplies needed.
B. We pick up the story in Acts 28:11: 11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.