INTRO: Have you ever felt discouragement in your life as a Christ follower? If you’ve known him for any length of time, like a distance runner, I’ll bet you’ve “hit a wall” of discouragement. You think, “this is never going to work,” or “how long can I continue,” or “God’s favor no longer rests on me.” Have you felt discouraged in your work? In your studies? In your relationships? In your ministry?
ILLUSTRATION: In 2006 I hit some real discouragement: I was struggling as a pastor in a struggling church, wondering had God lifted my call?
>> So the question becomes, when discouraged, will we persevere? And if we’re determined to persevere, what will we need? What will we need in order to persevere when discouraged in following Christ?
>> When Paul arrives in Corinth, he's pretty discouraged. He describes himself going there “in weakness and fear, with much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3)
• Think about why Paul would have been discouraged: riots in Thessalonica & Berea; much indifference in Athens.
• Corinth: populous commercial trade center notorious for immorality (“Corinthian girl” was slang for "prostitute"). Paul couldn’t have been terribly encouraged about his message being received well. But from his time in Corinth, we can discover 3 KEYS TO PERSEVERING WHEN DISCOURAGED: [READ 18:1-8]
In order to persevere when discouraged,
I. WE NEED COMMITTED PARTNERS (1-5, 7-8)
A. Paul receives encouragement from ministry partners new & old.
1. Paul meets two Jewish followers of Christ, Priscilla and Aquila.
a. They were living in Rome in 49AD when the Roman emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews. So the couple moved to Corinth, where they set up their tent-making business.
b. When Paul arrived, Priscilla and Aquila opened their home to him and invited him to work with them. The trio would later work and minister together in Ephesus.
c. When Claudius died in 55AD, Priscilla and Aquila returned to Rome and again hosted a church in their home, to whom Paul would send greetings in his letter to the Romans.
2. Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia.
a. They brought with them good news of the Thessalonians’ faith and love, despite the persecution there.
b. They also brought a gift from that church.
c. As a result, Paul was able to give up his tent-making job, and devote himself exclusively to preaching, “testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah” (5).
3. Titius Justus opens his home to Paul.
a. Paul relocates his ministry from the synagogue to the home of Justus, which became the meeting place of the young church (7).
b. In addition, the conversion of Crispus, the synagogue ruler (8) must have been an encouragement to Paul.
4. Notice the people in Paul’s life who commit themselves to join him in ministry: Priscilla & Aquila, Silas, Timothy, Titius Justus, and Crispus. That’s 6 people Luke mentions in 8 verses.
B. [APPLICATION]: Life in Christ is not a solo act
1. Following Christ is not a solo act (small groups, community in other ways)
2. Serving Christ is not a solo act (ministry teams & ministry partnerships)
3. When we get discouraged, we need committed partners to lift us up and see us through.
C. [ILLUSTRATION] There are two statues in Washington D.C. that together tell a remarkable story. One is the massive memorial to General Ulysses S. Grant that stands at the east end of the Reflecting Pool, literally in the shadow of the U. S. Capitol building. Visitors can hardly miss this majestic depiction of the legendary general atop his war stallion. Grant's military leadership was decisive to the Union's victory in the Civil War, and he is considered a symbol of the force of human will, an icon of the strong man who stands against the storm when all others have shrunk back.
Some two-and-a-half miles away, in a pleasant but nondescript city park, stands a more commonplace memorial. The statue of this lesser-known Civil War figure, Major General John Rawlins, has actually had eight different locations and is hardly ever noticed by visitors. Rawlins had been a lawyer in Galena, Illinois, where Grant lived just prior to the war, and he became Grant's chief of staff. Rawlins knew Grant's character flaws, especially his weakness for alcohol. At the beginning of the war, Rawlins extracted a pledge from Grant to abstain from drunkenness, and when the Grant threatened to fall away from that promise, his friend would plead with him and support him until Grant could get back on track. Grant is pictured here as a solitary figure, but in many ways it was Rawlins who stood beside the great general. Rawlins' memorial is modest compared to the mounted glory afforded Grant, yet without his unheralded love and support, Grant would hardly have managed even to climb into the saddle.
D. [APPLICATION]: Who are the people who have encouraged you along the way? What did they do?
1. Bring you good news? Join you in ministry?
2. Share themselves or their home with you?
3. Support you financially or in other ways?
Thank them today—right now, in fact. Get out your phone, and send a text start an email, Facebook message—tell someone “God has used you to encourage me along the way, and I appreciate that.” You have 60 seconds—go!
>> But the people we hear about here aren’t just committed to Paul, but to his purpose. If we're going to persevere when discouraged,
II. WE NEED A COMPELLING PURPOSE (4-8)
A. Paul was intentionally seeker-sensitive in trying to reach people for Christ: he shared the gospel in different ways for different people.
B. But his Jewish mission met with stubborn resistance, which led Paul to repeat the drastic step he had taken before in Pisidian Antioch and to turn to the Gentiles.
1. Paul changed his evangelistic focus from public synagogue to private house, and from Jews to Gentiles.
2. The first convert of the Gentile mission was (ironically) Crispus, the Jewish synagogue ruler.
C. Notice that Paul didn’t let his plans override his purpose—he changed his strategy when it proved necessary.
1. Eisenhower: “Planning is essential but plans are useless.”
2. Helmut Thielicke: “The gospel must be preached afresh and told in new ways to every generation, since every generation has its own unique questions. The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.”
D. [APPLICATION]: What’s your life’s purpose? Is it a compelling one?
1. Just making money for yourself is not a compelling purpose.
2. Chicago sewer worker: “I dig the ditch to get the money to buy the food to have the strength to dig the ditch.”
3. Ministering Christ to others is a compelling purpose!
a. Serving in nursery, preschool, children’s, youth ministries
b. Doing mission for Christ everywhere we go
c. What’s more important than that? Eternities are at stake!
>> When discouraged, we need committed partners in a compelling purpose. But there’s something else, something greater still that we need: [READ vv. 9-11]
III. WE NEED CHRIST'S PROMISE (9-11)
A. The expression in v.10 is reminiscent of the Good Shepherd’s statement that he had “other sheep … not of this sheep pen” (John 10:16), i.e. Gentiles. They had not yet believed in him, but they would do so, because already according to his purpose they belonged to him.
B. My friend David ministers to cancer survivors, facing the question “what are you afraid of?” Do you believe what Jesus says about the resurrection or not?
>> Does Paul persevere in light of Christ’s promise? Let’s see: [READ 12-18]
C. Paul: “I thought you said I wouldn’t be attacked!” Jesus: “I said 'attack AND harm’, Paul. They’re going to blitz you, but you will not be sacked.”
1. The Jews brought Paul to Gallio, the Roman proconsul, charging him with breaking the law (13). Their agenda was to show that Christianity was not truly Jewish and therefore could not claim protection under Roman law.
2. Gallio did not even give Paul time to speak. Rather he said that what Paul was doing was not a crime for him to judge and that he was not going to tackle issues pertaining to their theology (14-15). He ejected the Jews from the court, which resulted in the ruler of the synagogue being beaten, and not Paul.
a. Good day for Paul; bad day for Sosthenes
b. Paul mentions “our brother” Sosthenes in 1 Cor. 1:1--did this incident lead to his conversion?
D. Gallio’s refusal to hear the Jewish case against Paul was immensely important for the future of the gospel.
1. In effect, he passed a favorable verdict on the Christian faith and thus established a significant precedent.
2. The gospel could not now be charged with illegality under imperial policy.
3. So Paul stayed in Corinth for some time (18). Jesus had kept his promise to protect him. Jesus always keeps his promises.
CONCLUSION (BI) TO PERSEVERE WHEN DISCOURAGED, WE NEED COMMITTED PARTNERS, COMPELLING PURPOSE, AND CHRIST'S PROMISE.
>>Has Jesus given you a promise? Has he given New Hope Church a promise?
Matt. 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Christ is with us! That’s his promise to his people, his church.
[ILLUSTRATION] The Lion King: Mufasa appears to Simba in a vision …
“Simba, you have forgotten me.”
“You have forgotten who you are, and so you have forgotten me.”
“You are more than you have become. You are my son, and the one true king.”
“Remember who you are … Remember.”
Let's remember who we are in Christ, and his promises to us.