Summary: Paul was a great missionary who's example can show us how to witness to others. God has a plan for us all to follow. What can we do get help us understand and follow that path?
As we start our new year, we’re going to start by looking at who we are. Concordia isn’t just this place. It includes all of us that come here to worship. Its not confined to just the walls of this building but has to look towards the people that live near us. We’re called to shine the love of Jesus in our community, and seek opportunities to share God’s love.
A few moments ago, we heard a story about the Apostle Paul and his ministry to neighbors in the city of Corinth. Paul was an instrumental person in our church history traveling over 10,000 miles over the course of 30 years and planting Christian churches all along the way. But he had a lot of difficulties getting the message out. In fact, Paul’s missionary work was filled with problems. No matter how difficult the situation was, God was still there, and He had a plan for Paul to follow.
The same is true for us today. We may not understand what the plan is, and it might not be an easy path, but God has plan for us too. Tonight, I’d like to spend a few moments looking at how we move through God’s journey set before us. I’d like to look at:
- Paul’s Journey
- God’s Plan
- Our Path
1. Paul’s Journey
Let’s start by looking at Paul’s journey. He had a lot of challenges.
First there was travel. Whenever I’ve gone on a business trip, I’ve always known how I’d get there, where I’d sleep and an idea of where to eat. I normally booked a hotel which served a good breakfast so I was ready to go in the morning. I had a comfortable, warm bed to sleep in, my own private bathroom, and sometimes a kitchenette to prepare my own meals.
My work paid for the trips so I didn’t need to figure out how to pay for anything. Traveling isn’t too bad when someone else is paying.
Paul didn’t have it this good. He didn’t have a travel agent and didn’t have an employer taking care of the bills. He didn’t always know where he was going to sleep. There were no Marriotts or Holiday Inns to stay in. Instead, he often found someone willing to let him stay, and willing to feed him while he was there.
Paul’s journey was often challenging.
Then there were multiple jobs. Paul was a tent maker which including things like cutting and sewing cloth, often made from goat’s hair. Other tasks like making rope, dying cloth, and staining hides were also part of the trade. It was dirty, tiring work that didn’t pay all that well. Paul must have worked long hard hours to pay for his missionary journey. Paul was a full-time preacher who made tents to pay the bills.
Then there was the mission field. Paul was not treated well. In fact, many rejected what he was doing. Corinth was a busy port city known for the worship of Poseidon, Helios and Aphrodite. It was a town of sin filled with nearly any vice you could think of, including temple prostitutes. People weren’t all that interested in listening because there were plenty of other gods around.
Even within his own Jewish and Christian communities, he had challenges. He wasn’t always welcome in Jewish circles because he was often seen as someone stirring up trouble and speaking heresy against the temple faith. He wasn’t trusted in many Christian circles either because of his history as Saul, the oppressor of Christians. Many resisted his message and some even tried to get him thrown in jail.
Even in this challenging environment, there were many who listened, many who welcomed Paul’s words, and many who learned to follow Christ.
Paul was called to speak in Corinth and other scary cities where his message was not welcome. In fact, some wanted to kill him. Sometimes he was afraid. Sometimes he might have felt like quitting and going home. It would have been easy to give-up. But, God encouraged him when He said:
“Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10, CSB)
God had a plan for Paul. It wasn’t an easy path, but there was a direction God wanted him to go. God wanted Paul to deliver His message of hope.
2. God’s Plan
God doesn’t only have a plan for Paul. God has a plan for us as well.
God has called us to be witnesses wherever we are. Here in the United States, we’re blessed with the right of free speech, and the right of free expression of religion. We have the opportunity to talk to others about our faith and share the message of God’s love, and how we’re redeemed through Christ. God want’s us to share that message, and we have that opportunity.