Summary: In this sermon, we look at some of the difficulties that Paul faced and how he endured them by trusting in God. He understood that God would always be with him, and that although God would not remove the difficulties, God would enable him to overcome.
A. M. Scott Peck’s 1978 best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled, opens with these words: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
B. Not only is life difficult, the Christian life is, at points, even more difficult.
1. Sometimes following Jesus gets even tougher and tougher, even as it gets better and better.
2. There are some Christians who voluntarily, or involuntarily, have it even tougher.
3. The Apostle Paul was certainly one of these.
C. Last week in our sermon in our series from the life of Paul, we looked at Paul’s leadership.
1. Paul’s leadership principles are so helpful to us as we follow his example.
2. Last week, we left Paul with the Ephesian elders who had come down to Miletus to meet Paul as Paul was heading toward Jerusalem.
3. Paul made it clear to them that the Holy Spirit was compelling him to go to Jerusalem, but the Spirit also was warning him that prison and hardships awaited him there.
D. Today, I want us to journey with Paul as he headed right into those hardships that awaited him in Jerusalem.
1. From today’s lesson, I hope that we can come to understand something that Paul understood.
2. Paul understood that God was with him always.
3. Paul understood that God would not remove the hardships from his life, but would enable him to courageously face whatever obstacles and opposition that he might face.
4. Because Paul understood these things, he put his trust in God.
5. I hope and pray that we can do the same.
I. The Story
A. We pick up Paul’s story in Acts 21:1-16: 1 After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. 2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 3 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 6 After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.
7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. 8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven (How awesome, Philip, one of the seven of Acts 6, the one who taught the Ethiopian Eunuch, he is still serving God faithfully). 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ ”
12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord's will be done.”
15 After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples. (Acts 21:1-16)
1. We notice in this reading that in spite of the continued warnings about the hardships ahead, Paul would not be dissuaded from going to Jerusalem.
2. Notice that Luke, the author, says “we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem (vs. 12).”
3. Luke, Paul’s friend and traveling companion was part of the chorus that tried to get Paul to change his mind.