Summary: What do you do when EVERYTHING goes wrong in your life? That is exactly what happened to Paul in Acts 21. This sermon explains what to do when your world falls apart.
When Everything Goes Wrong
October 15, 2017
NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation is available for this sermon by request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 21
Did you ever have one of those weeks when EVERYTHING went wrong?
Illus. – I remember while on missionary deputation one trip I’ll NEVER forget— Traveling from a church in West Virginia, both Chris and Jon, our first two sons, got sick in the car and neither of them made it to the window—making a big mess! We had to spend the night in a motel, causing us to miss our next meeting in Ohio. The next day, in Ohio, our radiator went out and we had to stop and get that fixed.
The next day, on our trip to Missouri we thought, “Surely nothing else could happen!” Well, it could, and it did! In Illinois we had a flat tire, so we stopped and got it fixed. In Indiana, we had ANOTHER flat tire, so we stopped and got that one fixed. In EASTERN Missouri, ANOTHER tire blew out. On the final leg of the trip, Susan developed a high fever and flu symptoms.
When we rolled into Kansas City, we looked and felt like a band of refugees who had just traveled through a war zone! It was one of those times when EVERYTHING went wrong.
I think we can all relate to times in our lives like that—when everything goes wrong.
That must have been how Paul felt in our text we will read today in Acts 21.
I only have two points this morning, so let’s look at them:
I. FIRST, LOOK AT WHEN EVERYTHING WENT WRONG FOR PAUL
To understand what happens here, I need to give you a little background information. The Jerusalem church leaders had listened to false rumors that Paul was encouraging Jewish Christians not to follow the Old Testament Law. As long as it was understood that following the Law was not tied to salvation, and as long as the Gentiles were not expected to follow the ceremonial and dietary aspects of the Law, Paul didn’t care if the Jews continued in the Law or not.
What he did care about and what grieved him greatly, was a growing rift he was witnessing between Jewish and Gentile believers. He did everything he could not to offend the Jews, and even sought ways to extend an olive branch to them. When he heard of a famine in Jerusalem, he challenged all the churches he had founded to give sacrificially to help the needy believers in Jerusalem and had amassed a large offering to give to the needy of Jerusalem. And now here in Acts 21, Paul has come to Jerusalem to give the gift to the Jerusalem church and report on his work among the Gentiles.
Let’s pick up the story now at verses 18-19 – “And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had [“greeted”] them, he declared particularly [or “one by one”] what things God had done among the Gentiles by his ministry.”
So Paul recited all that the Lord had accomplished through his ministry to the Gentiles, detailing his experiences one-by-one. That must have been a stirring, inspiring missionary report to anyone with an ounce of love for seeing people come to faith in Christ.
One commentator describes what the report must have been like:
[Paul], no doubt, told of his first visit to Galatia and told the thrilling story of his three missionary journeys. The names rolled off his tongue like a roll call of the nations—Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus,…and not just places, but people. Thousands upon thousands of people saved by faith.…And not only the places and people, but… anecdotes—stories of prison and persecution, stories of Mars’ Hill preaching, stories of miracles and magicians and mighty movements of the Spirit. Never had these Jerusalem Christians, with their narrow, parochial interests, heard the like. (Exploring Acts, Loizeaux Brothers: Neptune, NJ, 1991, p. 418.)
So, what kind of reception did Paul receive for this stirring missionary report?
Note verses 20-22 – “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of you, that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What then is to be done? the multitude will certainly hear that you have come.’”
Verse 20 says that when they heard it, they glorified the Lord…but notice the next word—“AND”. That one word, “and,” spoils it all!