Summary: Sometimes God uses trials to get us to take the next step.
Taking The Next Step
Text: Acts 8:1-25
1. Video Clip
2. We are continuing our exploration of the book of Acts and the TV series A.D. today. A prevailing theme in Acts, which is clear in A.D. and mirrors our own lives to a somewhat lesser degree, is the trials and tribulations that the church experienced as they moved the Gospel forward.
A. As we know, persecution for our faith hasn’t gone away, but it seems far away to us in America.
B. Our persecution is usually pretty tame ”a liberal movie or article, maybe an ACLU case, or a job promotion slight,” but according to Open Doors Ministries, every month 322 Christians are killed, more than 200 churches or properties destroyed, and more than 700 acts of violence are committed against believers!
3. This morning we're going to camp out on that word trials. We all use it when circumstances go bad.
A. Some are life-threatening medical issues, stressful financial situations, or just aggravating scenarios that drive us to the point of despair.
B. Trials happen, but what exactly is a trial?
C. Well, that's Christianese for what an unbeliever would term a bummer, a hardship, or a difficulty.
D. But our use of the word trial instead of just a "bad thing" implies that there is more to it because of our faith. There is a purpose in it.
E. It isn't just karma or fate. There is a reason behind it, because we believe that God is sovereign.
F. We all need to be reminded of this simple truth. God is in control, even when it doesn't seem like it.
4. While this is not true in every case, sometimes God uses these trials to get us in to position to take the next step. Sometimes...
A. God Moves Us
B. God Moves Them
C. God's Spirit Will Move
5. Let's stand together this morning as we read Acts 8:1-25.
Proposition: Sometimes God uses trials to get us to take the next step.
Transition: If we won't move...
I. God Will Move Us (1-4).
A. A Great Wave Of Persecution
1. Our dog Star is spoiled rotten! She will be laying on the sofa, but then all of the sudden she will decide that the love seat would be more comfortable. The only problem is it's usually the spot where Copper is laying. She will get down off of the sofa and she will stand a stare at Copper, and then she will begin to whine. Then she will stand there and stare at him. This will go on for several minuets, until Copper finally gets annoyed enough to move, at which time Star crawls up on the love seat and assumes the position.
2. Often that represents our relationship with God. He wants us to move, but we are too comfortable where we are and we just want to lay there and be comfortable. So God in His infinite wisdom makes us so uncomfortable that we move and take the next step in our walk with Him.
3. That is exactly what happened to the early church; they got too comfortable.
A. Acts 1:8 (NLT)
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
B. They all got the baptism of the Holy Spirit and everything was going great.
C. People were being saved, baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, people were getting healed, and life was good.
D. Unfortunately this caused them to lose sight of the mission...they weren't telling people everywhere, only in Jerusalem.
4. So look what God allows to happen. "Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria."
A. It says here that Saul was "giving approval to [Stephen's] death." The Greek is a little stronger: Saul wholly and completely approved of ("Saul was in hearty agreement with," NASB) Stephen's "death," and continued to act accordingly.
B. He did not share the feelings of his former teacher, Gamaliel (Acts 5:38). Instead, Paul considered Stephen's ideas dangerous and felt that they should be rooted out.
C. But neither he nor the rest of the Sanhedrin could root out the work of the Spirit (Stanley M. Horton, Acts: A Logion Press Commentary, 158).
D. Saul was undoubtedly one of the chief instigators of the persecution against the Church in Jerusalem that began "on that day," the very day Stephen was murdered.
E. So intense was this persecution that the Christians were all "scattered throughout Judea and Samaria" (Horton, 158).