Summary: From Paul's experience in Corinth, we find 3 keys to persevering through discouragement.
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.