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Not all Roses
". . . These that have turned the world upside down are come hither
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
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.  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.  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
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
 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.  Yet I never
shrank from telling you the truth, either publicly or in your homes. 
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.
 "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