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Not all Roses

Acts 17:6 

 

". . . These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;" KJV 

Whenever you read verses like this one, do you ever pine for the good old days of the Bible?  Days when the Red Sea divided or the giant fell to the ground or water became wine.  Most of our days are rather mundane in comparison to what we read in the Bible.  I mean, I've never stood before a bush that was burning, but wasn't being consumed and heard the voice of God, have you?

For the past few months we've feasted on a steady diet of the miraculous.  Acts is a book filled with passages like this one and I've enjoyed every minute of our study together.  I've enjoyed fanning the flames of faith and remembering how God advanced His early church.  Certainly one theme that runs through this book is that God specializes in doing the impossible, but today I want to talk about another theme that sometimes the going gets pretty tough for those who follow Christ.

 Take the Apostle Paul for example.  Yes, he'd turned the world upside down as our text says, but his journey wasn't that easy.  For one thing, not all of his followers remained loyal to him.

 Demas is only mentioned three times in the Bible.  Twice, Paul sent his greetings on to the people he was writing.  The third time Paul mentioned him was in  2 Tim. 4:10  "Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia." (NLT)

 Paul turned the world upside down, even though men like Demas were not loyal to him.  Proverbs 3:3 says "Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart." (NLT) G. K. Chesterton said, "We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty." (http://www.worldofquotes.com/topic/Loyalty/1/)

Loyalty is a non-negotiable as far as I'm concerned.  How could Paul turn the world upside down when his partners in the boat on the stormy sea were not loyal?  Well, all I can say is ministry isn't all roses.

  Demas wasn't the only one that demonstrated disloyalty. Even young John Mark, deserted Paul.  Acts 15:38 NLT   But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work.  John Mark was a young man and made a young man's mistake he left before the job was done.  Paul did not want to bring John Mark along this time and entered into a fatal argument with Barnabas.  Barnabas was so upset with Paul's leadership that he severed his relationship with him, refused to accept his judgment and separated from Paul.  Acts 15:39 NLT "Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus."

Now this is just shameful.  Why couldn't these men of God set aside their differences for the gospel's sake?  Why was Paul so pig-headed that he wouldn't give the young man a second chance?  By now, Paul had emerged as the leader, why didn't Barnabas submit to his leader and leave John Mark home?

 How can these men expect to turn the world upside down when they aren't right with one another?  Well, all I can say is ministry isn't all roses.

Not only were some of Paul's followers disloyal to him, some of them just flat ignored him. Do you Remember Eutychus, who fell asleep during his preaching and plunged to his death from a 3 story window?  Acts 20:9 NLT  As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he sank into a deep sleep and fell three stories to his death below. 

 "Paul spoke on and on . . ." the text said.  I preached my first sermon behind my father's pulpit in Silverton, Texas in 1977.  There was an inscription on the pulpit that said, "Quit a few minutes before the people do."  I don't know if dad put that inscription there or someone from the church did, but it is good advise.  Apparently, Paul wasn't always a riveting speaker something Eutychus found out first hand.

 But being boring wasn't his only problem.  Not everyone thought Paul had the qualifications to lead.

Some questioned the validity of his apostleship and Paul had to defend himself.  1 Cor. 9:2 says "Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you, for you are living proof that I am the Lord's apostle."  (NLT) The Jewish leaders so resisted Paul's leadership that they incited a mob riot and ran him out of town  Acts 13:50-51 "Then the Jewish leaders stirred up both the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. [51] But they shook off the dust of their feet against them and went to the city of Iconium" (NLT)

 How could Paul turn the world upside down with this kind of opposition to his leadership?  Well, all I can say is ministry isn't all roses.

Or another way to put it is that every rose has its thorns.  Yet, through all of this and more, Paul did turn the world upside down because of one simple fact.  Paul remained focused on his mission and didn't let anything deter him from completing it. Consider the obstacles Paul faced and overcame:

 Paul was stoned to death and got up and went back to work.  Acts 14:19-20 says   "Now some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the crowds into a murderous mob. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, apparently dead. [20] But as the believers stood around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe." (NLT)

 He was thrown in prison but he didn't forget about his mission Acts 16:25 says "Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening." (NLT)

 Paul could have been depressed and discouraged, instead, he used his circumstance to further his mission.  Florence Scovel Shinn said, "Every great work, every great accomplishment, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement." 

 Greatness is never born without birth pains.  It is born in spite of discouragement and heartaches.  Who knows, the discouragement you face today could be the context for your next victory.

This side of our leather bound bibles, it is easy to gloss over these passages of scripture we've studied today and only reflect upon the great miracles and success of Paul's ministry.  Truth be told, he faced discouragements and impediments that would thwart most people's advances.   Yet, he remained true and pressed on.

At the end of his life, Paul wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Tim. 4:7 (NIV) To Paul, his mission was a battle to fight, a course to complete and a commitment to keep.

Fighting a fight means there will be opposition.  In other words, ministry isn't always roses.  There will be times when you face opposition.  Instead of being discouraged, remember that those problems might just be the context for your next victory.

 Finishing a race means it will take endurance and effort. Underline the word finish in your mind.  Effectiveness takes time.

Ultimately, even when others aren't loyal to us, we must remain loyal to God we must, like Paul, keep the faith.

 In summing up his ministry, Paul stated in Acts 20:18-22 ". . "You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now [19] I have done the Lord's work humbly yes, and with tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. [20] Yet I never shrank from telling you the truth, either publicly or in your homes. [21] I have had one message for Jews and Gentiles alike the necessity of turning from sin and turning to God, and of faith in our Lord Jesus.   [22] "And now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me," (NLT)

Paul remained true to his mission, even in the midst of hardship.  That's how Paul turned the world upside down, or should we say right side up?
 

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