Summary: Sometimes we don't see much visible fruit, or past attempts to witness or minister were not outwardly successful and tempted to hold back our witness or cut back our service. God's words to Paul Acts 18:5-11 are just the prescription.
Be Brave, Speak and Don’t Give Up!
August 6, 2017
TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 18:5-11 – “And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. 6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. 7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. 8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. 9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
-- Have you ever felt a desire to share your faith with someone, but because of what you perceived as past failure, you held your tongue and kept quiet?
-- Have you ever embarked on what was to you a bold step of faith, and somewhere along the way it didn’t go so well, and you were tempted to quit for fear of failure?
-- Have you ever gotten discouraged working in some ministry for the Lord because you didn’t see much visible spiritual fruit from your labors for the Lord?
Illus. – I’m always challenged by the first modern missionaries. In the late 1700s, William Carey, known as “The Father of Modern Missions” was filled with an insatiable desire to go and preach the Gospel at a time when his Baptist brethren, beset by hyper-Calvinism opposed his mission plans.
Once, when sharing his burden to go to India with a group of ministers, an older preacher said, “Sit down, young man. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.”
But nothing would stop him and Cary eventually made it to India, where he faced a multitude of hardships—He and his wife contracted one tropical disease after another in a time when there were no anti-biotics; his wife became mentally ill; his son died of a tropical disease, and Carey himself was so weakened by the disease that he didn’t even have the strength to bury him; their son’s death caused Mrs. Cary to spiral even deeper into depression and mental instability.
When another couple, the Marshmans, finally came to help them, they buried six of their twelve children in succession, such were the ravages of the diseases they faced.
But here’s the thing: The Careys and Marshmans never had a single convert until their seventh year on the mission field, and when he was baptized, it caused a riot among the Indians, resulting in political opposition with the colonial administrators.
Years later, God did bless William Carey and his missionary co-workers with a great harvest of people won to Christ.
Now put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine how you would feel in year six! What if you gave up in year six, just before God open the doors to success opened in India? All that labor would have been for nothing!
What made them stay and suffer for Christ, and labor and pray and be faithful and witness in a hard field with a difficult people for years with no results! Their journals reveal that the very things we find in today’s text kept them on the field! But they also record many discouraging days—days when the Careys and Marshmens questioned their calling, their motives, their methods, even their own sanity!
Well, he wouldn’t have been the first to do so. In fact, when Paul left Athens, most scholars believe that he was very discouraged. He had had a comparatively unsuccessful campaign in Athens. Everywhere he had gone, he met with opposition and persecution, but usually he left a healthy church—but not in Athens.
Then when Paul came to Corinth…things just seemed to get worse. Paul had run out of money and he was alone without his beloved co-workers for a number of weeks; perhaps months. And Corinth was filled with sinfulness and immorality, and verse 5 says that he was “pressed in his spirit” which means in the Greek that he was “afflicted or suffering in his spirit,”—that is he was suffering a spiritual or mental crisis.
In modern language verses 5-6 are saying this: “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul was in a state of internal conflict and stress. But he did all he could to persuade the Jews that Jesus was in fact God’s Messiah. But to no success. All they did was argue contentiously and contradict him at every turn. Totally exasperated, Paul had finally had it with them and gave up, saying, ‘Your blood is upon your own heads; I am clean: from now on, I’m going to the Gentiles.’”