Summary: This message identifies three things we need to practice as believers in our walk of faith.
You have all heard the expression “practice makes perfect”. Do you believe it to be true? One of the greatest golfers of all time is Tiger Woods and when asked what he feels the greatest factor in his success is he attributes it to intense practice. He continually repeats the same routine, motion and follow through for every possible situation so that when he is on the course there are few surprises and he can be prepared for just about anything that can arise. The Christian life is much like that in that we too need to be prepared for what might come our way and we can do that with practice. This morning we will see three things in the passage that we need to practice in order to perfect.
We need to practice being…
1. Persuasive – V. 1 says that they “so spoke that a great multitude… believed”. This language seems to indicate to me that the way they spoke was intentional. They spoke in such a way as to bring about a particular response. They were very persuasive with what they had to say. This is not something that comes easily for most people. If you would ask nearly any high school or college debate student how effective they were in their first few debates they would likely answer that they had some amount of difficulty. The reason is that it takes practice. You must continually be aware of what the other person may respond with and you have to know your stuff in order to counter their response. Sharing the gospel in such a way as to be persuasive takes practice.
2. Persistent – V. 3 says that they “stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord”. Based upon what verse 2 says, this clearly was not under the best of circumstances. The unbelieving Jews were making life as hard as possible on Paul and Barnabas. Have you ever watched any boxing? I’m not a fan of the sport but I have seen bits and pieces of a fight here and there through the years and one thing that continues to amaze me is that those guys can get smacked right in the nose and keep on fighting. Now, I have been hit in the nose on accident before and it hurts so bad that it makes your eyes water. But I have never been hit like those boxers are. The only way they can continue to stay in there and fight is to remain persistent and shake off the pain and just keep coming back. Eventually the get to the point where they get used to it to a certain degree. There is a certain amount of pain they can endure and still keep fighting. We too need to remain persistent and endure the persecution as long as we can continue to fight the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. But we can only do it if we practice being persistent.
3. Perceptive – V. 6 says “they became aware” of the plot to abuse and stone them. Abuse, one can survive but most often the result of stoning was death. They were perceptive enough to what was going on around them that they were able to avert being stoned. Let’s go back to our boxing illustration for just a moment. Our boxer can endure a hit or two to the nose or face and still keep boxing but he must be perceptive enough to see the knockout punch coming and get out of the way if he hopes to stay in the fight. We too need to have this perception and recognize when enough is enough and try and dodge the knockout blow that will take us out of the battle. Dead soldiers can’t fight any longer but wounded ones can recover and live to fight another day. Perception takes practice just like perseverance and persuasiveness. Satan is just waiting to catch you with your guard down to knock you out.
You know, Tigers practice has brought him wealth beyond our imagination, numerous titles and accolades throughout the golfing community and not to mention several of those snappy green jackets you get from the Masters Tournament at Augusta. But those things are only temporary. They will end when this world ends. The prize in which our practice pays off is eternal and will never fade or rot. So in our case practice truly makes perfect.