Our Next Big Step for Jesus
The Book of Acts - Part 69
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - January 11, 2015
*Remember that here in Acts 19, Paul was on his third missionary journey. His team was reaching many people in the city of Ephesus. They saw the Hand of God at work in amazing ways. And Acts 19:10 tells us "this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks."
*But by the time we get to vs. 20, the two years were about up, and God was leading Paul to get ready for the next step in his service for the Lord. With this bit of background in mind, let's get started by reading Acts 19:20-22.
*God has a great plan for our lives. Rick Stacy reminds us with the example of a leader in their church. His name was Mike Freeman, and when Mike was finishing college he had two possibilities for a required internship.
*One option was a really swanky resort in Missouri. The other opportunity was "Spring Hill" children's camp in upper Michigan. The resort was extra nice, sort of like a cruise ship on land, with a parking lot full of BMWs and Cadillacs. In many ways it seemed like a great opportunity to move up, but the staff was into a lot of partying and drinking.
*Mike prayed and thought about his decision. Then late one night, Mike was on the way home, and he turned on his radio. The very first words he heard were: "You know what you need to do. Now do it."
*Those words were from a sermon preached by a man Mike had never heard of, but Mike knew that those words really came from God. So, he took the job at the children's camp, and that's where he met his future wife, Sheila. A couple of years later Mike got a great job in California, because the manager knew a man who had worked with Mike at the children's camp. (1)
*God had a great plan for Mike's life, and He has great plans for us too! In today's Scripture, Paul was about to take the next big step in his work for the cause of Christ. Again, Paul was on his third missionary journey. And by the time we get to vs. 21, he had been in Ephesus for over two years.
*Paul sensed that his time in Ephesus was about finished, and as always, he wanted to take the next big step for Jesus Christ. Now Paul helps us see how to take our next big step for the Lord.
1. First: We must stay on target.
*As Christians, and as a church, we must stay on target. But what is our target? We can see it in vs. 20, where "the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed." Church, that's our target: For God's Word to grow mightily!
*Our target is for God's Word to prevail over the lies of the devil and the sinfulness of man. Our target is to transmit the truth about Jesus Christ. We need to spread the Good News everywhere and every way we can, knowing that God's Word has the power to save souls and radically transform lives.
*As David said in Psalm 19:7-11:
7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.
 Why do we want the Word of God to grow mightily and prevail? The most important reason is because God's Word is the only possible source for eternal life.
*Everyone who has ever been saved, has been saved by the Word of God. 1 Peter 1:22-25 makes this truth clear when it says this to Christians:
22. Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,
23. having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
24. because "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away,
25. but the word of the Lord endures forever.'' Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
 We want the Word of God to grow mightily and prevail because it is the only true source of eternal life, and because it's the only true source of peace and joy.
*There is an old story from England about a man who was wracked with guilt. One day, he was resting behind a hedge, and he heard two young Christian women talking about a sermon they had heard. One of the girls said, "I shall never forget one thing that he said. It gave me a big lift."
*The other girl asked what the preacher had said, and the first girl gave this quote: "The world will always say, 'You made your bed and you must lie in it'. But One greater than the world has said: 'Take up your bed and walk. Your sins are forgiven.'" (2)
*When the troubled man heard those words, his discouragement lifted, and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, he went on his way rejoicing. That's our target: Lives rescued and renewed by the powerful truth of God's Word.
2. We must stay on the target. That's a big step for Jesus, but we also must travel.
*Paul reminds us of this truth in vs. 21 where God's Word says, "When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, 'After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'''
*Paul was willing to travel for the Lord. Macedonia was the Roman Province where the cities of Philippi and Thessalonica were located. Achaia was the province where the city of Corinth was. Then after Jerusalem, Paul was willing to go all the way to Rome and far beyond.
*In Romans 1, God's Word shows us Paul's great desire to spread the gospel in Rome. Starting in Romans 1:9, the Apostle wrote:
9. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,
10. making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.
11. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established
12. that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
13. Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.
14. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.
15. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
17. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith.''
*Paul was willing to travel for the Lord, and we must be willing to travel too. This surely includes physical travel: Going to a new neighbor, going to an old friend, going to the hospital or nursing home, going to serve in a new place, across town or across the world.
*Last summer our church sent a mission team all the way to Canada. This summer, Anita has been led toward doing something right here in Caldwell Parish. But near or far, we have to go, so in Acts 1:8, the Lord tells His followers: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.''
*Christians: We must be willing to travel physically. But we also must be willing to travel spiritually. And our spiritual journeys are just as important as our physical journeys. We need to go to a new place in our hearts. That's one reason why the Bible describes the Christian life as a walk.
*In 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul tells us that "we walk by faith, not by sight." And in Romans 6:4 Paul tells us that "just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
*But what does it mean to "walk in newness of life?" Ephesians 5:1-2 helps us understand. There Paul gave us 3 characteristics of the Christian walk when he said:
1. Therefore be followers of God as dear children.
2. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
 The Christian walk means walking as followers of God.
*And that word "follower" means to be an imitator of Christ. The original word is where we get our word "mimic." God wants us to mimic Jesus. And when we look at the life of Jesus Christ, there is no doubt that we've got somebody worth following, somebody worth imitating. So, we are to do the things we see Jesus do, living and giving our lives as an offering to God.
 The Christian walk also means walking as dearly loved children of God.
*We pay a lot of attention when our children first learn to walk. But you know how it is when a baby learns to walk. They stumble and stagger all over the place. And there's Mom or Dad, following right behind to catch them when they fall. That's the way I see our Heavenly Father. We're not always paying attention to Him, but He is always paying attention to us.
*And it takes a while for a child to learn how to walk. The same is true for our spiritual walk. In fact, it takes a lifetime for us to fully learn how to walk in the newness of life. But Christians, we are God's dearly loved children.
 The Christian walk also means walking in love as Christ also loved us.
*It means walking in the same kind of agape love that we have received from God, walking in the incredible love we see on the cross of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we need to walk to a new place in our hearts, drawing closer to the Lord, leaving sin behind, leaving selfishness behind, and leaving bad attitudes behind.
3. How can we take the next big step for Jesus? We must travel. We also must train new workers.
*God never intended us to try to do His work alone, and none of us is getting any younger. In order for the work to carry on, we must make it a priority to train new believers.
*We see two of Paul's students in vs. 22, where "he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus. . ." Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia to do some important short-term work while Paul stayed in Asia for a while.
*Paul was training Timothy, and still training his young partner in the two New Testament letters the Apostle wrote to Timothy. Please listen to Paul's opening instructions from 1 Timothy 1. The New Living Translation puts it this way:
1. This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and by Christ Jesus our hope.
2. It is written to Timothy, my true child in the faith. May God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.
3. When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those who are teaching wrong doctrine.
4. Don't let people waste time in endless speculation over myths and spiritual pedigrees. For these things only cause arguments; they don't help people live a life of faith in God.
5. The purpose of my instruction is that all the Christians there would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.
*People must be taught. New workers must be trained, and the best time to start is when they are young. There was a good story in "Mature Living" about a 4-year-old boy named Landon.
*Landon had an older brother in Upward Basketball, and little brother got confused when he went to the Upward awards presentation. Each player got a special star for his or her contribution to the team. And to Landon's shock, his brother was awarded a star for best defense because he had the most steals.
*When they left the gym, Landon shook his head and said, "I can't believe they gave him an award for stealing!" Landon had gotten off to an excellent start, but he needed to learn some more. And we do too. We must be trained, and we must help train other workers. (3)
4. How can we take the next big step for Jesus? We must train new workers. We also must trust each other.
*Paul had some very important work for Timothy and Erastus when he sent them into Macedonia. Eventually, Timothy would go as far as Corinth, and in 1 Corinthians 4:17 Paul said this: "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church."
*Paul trusted Timothy to carry out his mission. He also trusted the Corinthian church to treat Timothy in a worthy way. That's why in 1 Corinthians 16:10-11, Paul said this:
10. Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do.
11. Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.
*No church can function very well without trust. When Andrew Jensen was called to a new church, there was a big mistake in the Sunday bulletin. That Sunday they were also seeking special donations to help victims of a recent hurricane.
*Unfortunately, the first part of the hurricane announcement got left out of the bulletin that day. So, on the Preacher's first day, this is what the bulletin said: "Welcome to the Rev. Andrew Jensen and his family . . . the worst disaster to hit the area in this century. The full extent of the tragedy is not yet known." (4)
*I hope Bro. Jensen didn't let that keep him from trusting the secretary. None of us is perfect. All of us make mistakes. But all of us must do the best we can to be trustworthy. So, in Ephesians 4, Paul said:
28. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
29. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
30. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
*All of us must do the best we can to be trustworthy, and we must learn to trust each other, so Paul went on to say:
31. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
32. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
5. How can we take the next big step for Jesus? We must trust each other, and we must tarry until our work is done.
*Paul was basically finished in Ephesus, but there were some other important things that needed to be done. As we see again in vs. 22, "He sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time."
*In 1 Corinthians 16:8-9, Paul explained his delay to the church at Corinth, and there he said:
8. . . I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost.
9. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
*Paul had plans, and in the next verses we will see that he had to change his plans. But Paul did all he could do to finish his work at Ephesus. And we must tarry until our work is done.
*God had a great plan for Paul's life. He has great plans for us too, and the Lord is working them all out. In this Scripture, Paul helps us see how to take the next big step for the Lord. How can we do it?
-Keep our hearts on the target.
-Travel: Go where God leads.
-Train other workers.
-Trust each other.
-And tarry until our work is done.
*Please think about our next big step as we go back to God in prayer.
(1) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Rick Stacy
(2) STONES WITH FAIR COLORS by Gary Bowell - pp. 183-184 - Source: KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 12490 - SOURCE: Fredericksburg Bible Illustrator Supplements
(3) "Mature Living," October 2007, p. 9 - Source: "In Other Words" October 2007 #3 - produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net
(4) Reader's Digest, October 2001, p. 46 - Source: Fresh illustrations by Jim Wilson - http://www.freshministry.org