“Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” Acts 18:9-11 NKJV
Oh who am I kidding – Paul did not have a bad day, he was having a long difficult time here. We watch as Paul, new to ministry and zealous for God, burn himself out and struggle with doing the work of God in the flesh verses doing it in the spirit.
Dear Heavenly Father – As always, please open eye to see and our ears to hear what you are saying! Lord – open our understanding that we may know you and give us wisdom. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen
Today’s reading is from the book of Acts, chapter 17 through chapter 18, verse 18 (embedded below the image below for your convenience).
As we read through chronologically, we must remember we are reading events in order – but Paul wrote to the Corinthians first and we read Galatians first. It is because we are following the event path where Paul and his team went from place to place preaching first to the Jews and then the gentiles and then the unbelievers got mad and they fled to the next city. Over and over. In rapid fire succession. It was literally exhausting.
Sometimes we read that they were having a problem and they went to sleep – what it because their faith was so great they had peace enough to sleep? Or was it just complete exhaustion? Eventually the attacks on the ministry were so bad and focusing on Paul – that he separated from the team and went to the next city. I lovely Greek cultural center with thoughtful poets, artist and scholars contemplating God and religion.
This moves Paul. These people have an abundance of time and ability to contemplate God – think of all the glory to God that could happen if they knew the real God. In frustration and flesh, Paul preaches to them and because they were so hip and modern, Paul switches His approach and tries to use modern poets to support his arguments instead of preaching the word. Paul had little result there and was again chased out. Nothing Paul did seemed to work in the since of both saving others and not fleeing for his life!
Paul finds himself in Corinth. He shuts up. He is spiritually exhausted, frustrated, and he knows he makes followers but flees while they are persecuted and doesn’t even know if any of all of this was making any lasting impact. Paul doesn’t know if ANY of these people are still followers. Paul was a trained tent maker (canvas and leather work) and he found other in his trade and joined them. During this time in history tradesmen often followed the work and stayed together in foreign towns. Basically, Paul gave up and waited for his team.
Has seen the mighty power of God, has a first-hand personal relationship with God, is running for his life, is isolated and alone (from people) – who does this sound like? Elijah in the cave?!?!
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9 NKJV
As we read yesterday – do not grow weary in doing good. Paul learned this first hand. Paul learned that when he labored in his fleshly man and not with dwelling in the spirit, that he became fearful and exhausted. Often times in our modern world a slightly disconnected preacher who puts on a front of peace and perfection calmly reads the words of Paul we forget that Paul learned these things in literal blood sweat and tears. That we can either learn from Paul or shed our own blood, sweat and tears.
This marks the end of the first part of Paul’s ministry. This is what we now call a “New Leader”. ALL of the church leaders in many churches that I know of have zealously ran out of the starting gate and into their first beating, just like Paul. Then they run headlong into it again. So they begin to get a little trigger shy, and they change things, and get the same result, so they change again and get the same result and their effectiveness in the kingdom, the lives being transformed by grace are diminishing and he is having less and less of an effect. Until eventually they find themselves on a stage, acting like “they” want him to act and mixing in whatever is popular there… and the leader is no longer focused on the lost but on himself and is prepared to flee again…. Into a cave and ready to just give up like Elijah.
This is why many churches do not want to release people into ministry until they are “ready” because they think this will prevent it from happening. There are many more examples than just Paul and Elijah – it seems to be human nature and lesson we must go through. How else do we learn to live focused on Kingdom things and trusting God, while moving in The Spirit? I mean, I can sit here and type it out and you can read it and potential avoid it… but even those NOT in leadership go through it. It isn’t as dramatic when the followers and others aren’t watching, but it seems like a right of passage almost. We all grow tired in doing the work and must learn to let God do the work so we aren’t tired.
Good news – when you hit that point: God shows up and ministers to you. Gave Elijah food and sleep and in a still small voice – not loud and yelling at him. The rebuke was gentle, living, and gave life and strength. The problem is, many times, since we aren’t in the public eye and it is less dramatic we miss the still small voice, and the food stops coming, and we try to stay in the cave too long and then in our disobedience to God we blame God for not showing up! DUDE – WALK OUT OF THE CAVE!
God showed up for Paul with a dream and a promise, Paul joined this promise and made covenant with God by growing out his hair while God was giving Him the grace period. We do not need an actual dream (but if you get one, that is nice). We have an entire book of the WORDS of God. Find the promise for your situation. Pray and ask God to reveal it.
I recently ask God for a word on something in my life and for a week I heard preachers say not to be distracted and focus on the thing I am working on – then this past week I heard, accidently happened upon, at least one sermon on Nehemiah a day – focus on the work, with a sword in one hand to defend your work, but keep working. God speaks. God answers us.
So, like Paul – are we going to enter into the promise? God spoke. We cannot let that go by without the utmost thanks, honor and respect! Find a way to honor God and enter into the promise, the plan, the word that He has for you. Paul did it by not cutting his hair.
During this time of protection, Paul could preach again, re-find HIS OWN voice and method of preaching and not try to please people (they cannot all be pleased anyway). Enter into the time of grace and ask God to help you be who He created you to be.
This is where those lessons on the secret place and growing a relationship with God come into action. We can no longer be a baby Christian running around in the flesh making Christians look bad and not liking being a Christian. If we keep trying to give people the “Lite” version of Jesus so we do not offend – we have offended God (Oh Lord, forgive us) and people do not want a weak God. It is time to move in under His wing and then people see His wing, His power, His strength – they cannot see us, we are under the wing – they see HIM! We need to be this close – we need to develop a relationship that is even closer yet (so if you are close, it is time to get closer)!
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Get humble and bathed in grace.
Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen
MEMORY WORK: This month we have another powerful verse to pick up and swing when you need a sword in your hand! Knowing the Word is our Sword and Jesus is the Word! Jesus accomplishes what He set out to do. Quoting this verse is therefore the very act of walking in the victory!
NKJV – “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
NAS – “So will My word be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it.”
ESV – “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
AMP – “So will My word be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me void (useless, without result), Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
NIV – “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Thank you for reading.
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!
BIBLE READING: Acts 17-18:18 NKJV
Preaching Christ at Thessalonica
17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.
Assault on Jason’s House
5 But the Jews [a]who were not persuaded, [b]becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has [c]harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Ministering at Berea
10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more [d]fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
The Philosophers at Athens
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was [e]given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 [f]Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this [g]babbler want to say?”
Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.
19 And they took him and brought him to the [h]Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
Addressing the Areopagus
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the [i]Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one [j]blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Ministering at Corinth
18 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. 3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled [k]by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named [l]Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.
9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the [m]judgment seat, 13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”
14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat. 17 Then [n]all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.
Paul Returns to Antioch
18 So Paul still remained [o]a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.
- Acts 17:5 NU omits who were not persuaded
- Acts 17:5 M omits becoming envious
- Acts 17:7 welcomed
- Acts 17:11 Lit. noble
- Acts 17:16 full of idols
- Acts 17:18 NU, M add also
- Acts 17:18 Lit. seed picker, an idler who makes a living picking up scraps
- Acts 17:19 Lit. Hill of Ares, or Mars’ Hill
- Acts 17:22 Lit. Hill of Ares, or Mars’ Hill
- Acts 17:26 NU omits blood
- Acts 18:5 Or in his spirit or in the Spirit
- Acts 18:7 NU Titius Justus
- Acts 18:12 Gr. bema
- Acts 18:17 NU they all
- Acts 18:18 Lit. many days