Summary: In this sermon you will learn to uphold other believers as they serve Jesus Christ.
(In introducing this sermon give everyone a piece of rope.) State: a rope is such a common ordinary item. Yet, a rope can fulfill a worthy task. Today we are going to look at a passage where a rope played a significant role in an act of service. The text is found in Acts 9:25. “Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.” You might be thinking, where is a rope mentioned in this passage? It is listed between the “o’s” in the word took. Ha! Ha! Obviously a rope is not mentioned in this passage. However, the disciples used a rope, chain, sheet, or something to lower Paul down the wall. That task was a worthy significant act of service. With that in mind I want to take a principle from this passage and highlight it. The title of the message is “Hold The Rope.”
Consider the context. Paul, the greatest leader of the New Testament church, had recently come to faith in Christ. He was in Damascus. He was filled with passion and zeal. He was preaching the gosple of Jesus Christ. However, at the same time there were Jews plotting to kill him. They were opposed to his message. That conflict escalated to the point that Paul was forced to escape for his life. A group of Jesus’ disciples came to Paul’s rescue. They lowered him to the ground in a basket. They held the rope. What a service! Yet such service often goes unnoticed. We read this passage and quickly pass over this significant act of service. We might notice Paul’s being lowered over the wall. But the act of holding the rope is quickly overlooked.
Today I want to recognize the rope holders. I want to recognize the unrecognized. Notice three encouraging applications.
1. Hold the rope: there is an important person at the other end. It would be easy to label people according to their stature. The reasoning is that a future president is more important than a homeless person. The truth is, every person is important and should be treated accordingly.
These disciples had no idea who they held in their basket. They knew he was a preacher. They knew he had recently been converted to faith in Christ. There was no way, in their wildest dreams, that they could imagine the impact this man would have on the world and the Christian faith. He would become the first missionary of the New Testament church. He would shake the Roman Empire with his preaching. He would write one third of the New Testament. He was a tremendous man of God.
You never know who you will have in your basket. That idea is incentive to be faithful. That idea is incentive to do your best. Over the years I have heard many stories that illustrate this point.
Illustration: The name Rick Warren has become a household name among religious people in recent years. He wrote the “Purpose Driven Church” and the “Purpose Driven Life” books. He is the pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, Ca. Rick Warren tells an encouraging story from his seminary days. He was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and a friend went to hear Dr. W.A. Criswell speak. Dr. Criswell died a couple of years back. He was one of the great preachers in Southern Baptist life. He was the pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas. At one time it was one of the largest churches in America. The day that Rick and the friend went to hear Dr. Criswell, something interesting happened. At the end of the service they stood in line to greet Dr. Criswell. Dr. Criswell laid his hand on Rick Warren’s shoulder and prayed a somewhat prophetic prayer. He prayed that Rick Warren would someday pastor a church that would be twice the size of First Baptist Dallas. You never know!
Illustration: Some years ago the University of Alabama offered a scholarship to a young man that very few schools were recruiting. He was not highly touted as a football player. He was not a five star player. Yet, he led Alabama to their last national championship. His name was Jay Barker. You never know!
Illustration: I remember reading a similar story about Michael Jordan. When he was in junior high school or middle school he was cut from the school basketball team. At that point in his career he was not very good. Yet, he went on to become one of the greatest college and NBA players of all time. His coach must have felt pretty foolish when he saw Michael Jordan’s accomplishments.
Let’s get back to our text. Paul needed several things.
1. Paul needed assistance. He was a great man of God but he needed assistance. His escape would have been impossible without the aid of the men at the end of the rope.