Living on Purpose
Intro: Video clip of Acts 28 & Paul’s life. [44:45]
Prop: Our lives are not to be lived haphazardly, but guided by the purposes of God.
Interrogative: How does this happen? How can we stay in alignment with God’s purposes?
TS: This closing chapter of Acts leaves us with a sense that God is in control and that He will guide our lives if we let Him. I’d like to uncover a few thoughts today that relate to God’s purposes and how that affects our lives.
I. God’s Purposes Cannot Be Stopped by Death or Disaster (Acts 28:1-6)
1Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, "This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live." 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
-Paul had faced the possibility of death a number of times in his life and ministry. But he didn’t view death as his greatest enemy. In fact, we read last week in Romans 8:38-39, 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-Paul stared death in the face during the storm when the ship was being tossed around, and when it finally wrecked. However, God had spoken to him about the purposes He had for him, and Paul knew that somehow he would survive.
-Now, after being bitten by a very poisonous snake, Paul is not overly alarmed. He knew God’s promise and God’s purpose. He knew he would get to Rome and not die from a snakebite.
-Folks, it would be good for us to stay in touch with God’s purposes for our lives. Because what God plans with our lives always works out. He’s a great planner. He is very strategic, and we don’t even need to know the details – just obey and stay in alignment with Him.
-Please hear me when I say that there is literally nothing that can stop God’s plans and purposes from being fulfilled in our lives. Let’s grab a hold of His words to us and His plan for our lives and live life to its fullest!
-TS: Well, in addition to being unstoppable, God’s purposes produce good things.
II. God’s Purposes Bring Life and Healing to Those in Need (Acts 28:7-10)
7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.
-Paul has just been through a pretty rough time, but he is being carried along on the steady current of God’s purposes. Paul could have looked at his situation in a negative way, something like this. “You think you had a bad day… First, I was falsely accused by the Jews, then put on a stinking ship that almost killed me when it wrecked. Then to top it off, when I’m doing a good deed and gathering firewood, a snake bites me and could have killed me!” I don’t think that’s the way Paul told the story. That wouldn’t give much glory to God. No, I think he sang the praises of God to anyone who would listen. “Hey, did you hear? We almost died from a shipwreck, but God promised me that we would all be safe if we would stick together. Every last one of us made it to shore safe and sound! Then, a poisonous snake bit me, but God protected me and no harm came to me. Isn’t God awesome!”
-Instead of feeling sorry for himself and thinking that everything that happens is all about him, Paul looked around for the ministry opportunities God had set up for him. The chief official’s father was sick, so Paul prayed for him and he was healed. Then, the rest of the sick on the island came to Paul and they were healed as well. That is the kind of thing that goes along with the purposes of God. Primarily, God wants to have a loving relationship with every human being on this planet. However, His love and grace also bring many other benefits, including healing from sickness and disease. Luke says nothing about Paul preaching to them or inviting them to become Christ-followers, but by now the reader of Acts should know that Paul would not pass up an opportunity to share Christ with others.
-God is the Giver of life and breath and all good things. His purposes include revealing Himself to people who do not yet know Him. That may take place through healing, miracles, and blessings. God may also reveal Himself as the One Who will be with you when you are going through the difficult times. One thing we know. God can be trusted to give us what we need. Whether things seem good or bad, Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Each of has been called by God according to His purpose. If we will live according to His purpose, then we know that all things will work together for good.
-TS: Along those lines, our next point talks about how God rewards those who live according to His purpose.
III. God’s Purposes Bring Encouragement to Those Who Follow Him (Acts 28:11-15)
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.
-It is easy to miss something very special that happened in these verses. See, Paul had previously written to the Roman believers, trying to promote peace among the church in Rome. Jews, of course, had started the church in Rome, probably right after the day of Pentecost when Peter stood up and preached to the crowd. Jews had traveled from Rome to be in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, and some of them received Christ and took Him back to Rome with them. However, sometime in the 40’s, Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome. When Claudius died in AD 54, Jewish followers of Christ returned to a church that was not very Jewish anymore. The Jewish and Gentile believers had a lot to work out, and Paul encouraged them to make it work in his letter to the Romans.
-So, here is the setting of our verses. Many of the believers from Rome traveled about 40 miles or so from the city of Rome to give Paul a hero’s welcome. They traveled with him and “gave him something like a triumphal escort,” in the words of one Bible scholar.
-This must have been very rewarding for Paul. While he wanted no glory for himself, he was still human enough to appreciate the love and honor that these believers showed him as he neared their city.
-God knows what it takes to encourage us along the way. As we are being led by the HS, according to God’s purposes, it sure is nice to have other believers who come around us and affirm us and encourage us. God is the source of this kind of reward. It is worth more than any amount of money or material blessing. V.15 says that when Paul saw these believers coming out to meet him, he thanked God. Why did he thank God? Because God had sent them to encourage him – and he was truly encouraged.
-TS: Our next point is about ministry opportunities. God will bring them our way, if we will watch for them. Rather than read these 13 verses, let’s just talk about them.
IV. God’s Purposes Always Bring about Ministry Opportunities (Acts 28:16-28)
16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. 17 Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: "My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar-- not that I had any charge to bring against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain." 21 They replied, "We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect." 23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 26 "’Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 "Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"
-Paul called several of the Jews together and v.23 says, “From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.”
-God put it in Paul’s heart to use his influence to pull these Jews together. Again, he could have been passive while he was under guard. However, he saw his situation as an opportunity to share the good news about Jesus with more of his Jewish brothers. Some believed, but several didn’t. That wasn’t Paul’s concern. His concern was to make the most of the opportunities God had given him.
-We talk a lot about stewardship in relation to money, and maybe even time. But we need to think about being good stewards with the ministry opportunities God sends our way. Sometimes, we don’t get another chance to share God’s love with the people He leads us to. We need to be aware of the open doors God sets before us and walk through them when He leads us that way.
-TS: Finally, God’s purposes are as wide as they are deep.
V. God’s Purposes Include All Who Will Come to Him (Acts 28:30)
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
-The reason Paul welcomed all who came to see him is because he knew that’s what Jesus would do. God wants everyone to know Him and experience His gift of life. He doesn’t want anyone to miss out on the blessings of His love. However, He will not force anyone to love Him. Rather, He invites us into relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus.
-God’s purpose is seen in 2 Peter 3:9: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
-Jesus invited people to come to Him and find the rest and peace they were looking for. Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
-Your life has purpose! You were created for a reason – to know God and to make Him known to others. God has a blueprint for your life. If you come to Him, He will not run you off, or forget about you, or abandon you. Instead, He promises to be with you and lead you in the right path. You will never be fulfilled until you come to God and begin to follow His plan and purpose for your life.
Conclusion: God wants us to live on purpose. He doesn’t want us to just get by or pass the time away. Our lives were not designed to be lived haphazardly or based on our whims. Our very existence is based upon the purposes of God. God’s Purposes Cannot Be Stopped by Death or Disaster. God’s Purposes Bring Life and Healing to Those in Need. God’s Purposes Bring Encouragement to Those Who Follow Him. God’s Purposes Always Bring about Ministry Opportunities. And, God’s Purposes Include All Who Will Come to Him.
-Are you living on purpose? Do you know why you exist, and are you fulfilling that purpose, or is your life more of a random hit and miss? Jesus invites you to follow Him, and He will help you live on purpose – on the eternal purpose that He has in His heart for you. Take some time to talk to the Lord today about His purposes for you. If you need a little help, you might start with the purposes of His church, and ask Him where you fit. He wants to use you to bring about good in your life and in the lives of others.