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Acts #48 (Acts 14:10-21)
The Book of Acts
Qualities of a Great Missionary, Part 2
Acts 14:10-21
 
We began last week at study of the 14th chapter of Acts where we find interwoven through the narrative of the text, 8 characteristics of a great missionary and really, any servant of God.  These characteristics are not given to us in a list, but rather in a very practical description of Paul and Barnabas and how they performed their ministry. 
 
And as I pointed out, these two guys are just doing what God called and gifted them to do and what they did is really what any servant of God in any capacity of ministry has the potential to do. It may not be the outward, visible public ministry of preaching and mission work that they did, but any ministry service that employs these characteristics will find the same success they did. 
 
We saw three of those characteristics last week in the first few verses of the chapter.  We discovered they were operating within the realm of their spiritual giftedness demonstrating holy boldness because of the power of God. 
 
They preached the gospel, then taught and encouraged the saints of God to become disciples of Christ.  And they continued to do that in spite of the opposition they encountered.  And they didn't do things in their own energy, but in the power of God. 
 
 
 
Tonight I want to show you two more of the characteristics we find in these men, and as I do that, I want to point out that there is an order to their appearance in Scripture.   And as it normally is, there is a logic and practicality to what we see. 
 
With Paul and Barnabas, we have these two men who are functioning in the power of God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  They have boldly preached the gospel and seen God's power at work through them. 
 
So what is the most obvious temptation they are going to face?  It is pride and arrogance.  "Man, Barnabas, we really knocked them dead today didn't we?  I told that guy to stand up and walk and he took off like a rocket!"
 
I would think it was very easy to be tempted to be proud, especially for Paul.  He knew what it was like to deal with pride and arrogance.  And if it is true in a fleshly, humanistic kind of way, it is also true when it comes to the ministry and doing missions.
 
We who preach are especially susceptible because we stand around after church waiting on people to pass by and brag on us.  And there is a temptation when somebody comes up and says, "That was a wonderful sermon" to, down under your breath, say, "Yeah, I know!"
 
Now think about this:  If you are genuinely operating within the realm of your spiritual giftedness and God has given His power and boldness, then there is going to be results!  When you are doing the work iof God in the Spirit of God, things happen! 
But we must never lose sight of the fact that we didn't do it, God did!
 
And that's why immediately following this man's healing, we find what we find in the text.
 
verse 11
 
So why this strange response?  They had a myth in Lystra that there was a time when two of the gods, Zeus and Hermes, came to earth in disguise, kind of like angels unaware.  they were seeking a place to stay and something to eat and no one would help them except for an old man named Philemon and his wife Baucis.
 
In response to that, they were made guardians of a splendid temple outside the cit, but everyone else was drowned.   
 
So now, here come two guys performing miracles and immediately everyone assumes Zeus and Hermes, or in the Latin it would have been Jupiter and Mercury, have returned and they sure weren't going to make the same mistake their ancestors did.
 
So they throw this big party and celebration to honor the gods who have come to visit.  And apparently, since the specific language they were using is mentioned, Paul and Barnabas didn't understand what was being said.   I'm sure they must have been  wondering what was going on when the place goes wild and everyone is jabbering in their native tongue.
 
Then, all of a sudden, here comes the village priest and apparently, they figure out what's happening.
verse 13
 
Now this presents an interesting temptation. Paul could have turned to Barnabas and said, "You know Barney, if we handle this right, we could really use it as an opportunity to preach the gospel!  What a terrific opportunity. Let's take advantage of what's happening!
 
See, Satan is very subtle!  The last town they were in, they wanted to kill these guys.  Now, they preach the same gospel and they think they are gods! His approach runs the gamut. If persecution isn't successful, he'll exalt you.
 
Through Paul and Barnabas we learn there are at least two things that anyone who serves God has to learn to handle.  One is persecution and the other is pride.  And sometimes pride is more devastating than persecution. Pride is a disaster and if Paul and Barnabas had given in to this temptation, it would have been the end of their ministry.
 
The devil loves to fill the desire for praise and exaltation and adoration.  I learned a long time ago you don't need to be popular in the world to be successful with God. All you need is the energy of the Holy Spirit and God takes great delight in using people nobodies with no natural abilities to accomplish His work.
 
The Holy Spirit does what He wants to do through the vessels He has by the way they're spiritually gifted and by their sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. And Paul and Barnabas understand that.  They know they've done nothing. Any miracles that were done were God's doing.  So notice their response.
verses 14-15a
 
They didn't want any recognition or honor from the world and certainly not from a bunch of pagans.  They understood what was being proposed was blasphemous.  That's why they tore their clothes.  That was a very Jewish thing to do.  That was a sign of desecration, an acknowledgment that something was blasphemous.
 
It was their way of saying, " We don't want to be exalted. We don't want to be deified.  Only God gets the glory."
 
And then Paul takes the opportunity to preach.
 
verse 15b
 
In other words, we feel the same things you do. We feel pain, and hunger, and thirst and we suffer sickness and we die. We're just mortal. We're just plain old, everyday, common, ordinary human beings."
 
And then he goes further.
 
verse 15c
 
We preach to you the good news to turn from these useless things.  What useless things was he referencing?  Their idols.  The objects of their worship.  See the contrast?  We preach a living God .  You worship, literally nothing.! He says, "Turn from the nothing." That's what idolatry is; it's worshiping nothing. You can't imagine the heathen bowing down and saying, "Oh, nothing. Vain, worthless, useless nothing."
Paul says, "We've been telling you the good news about a living God.  Stop worshiping no things and turn to Him!
 
So Who is this living God?  It's interesting that he doesn't use the same approach as he did before.  In other places such as Antioch, he preached about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But these fols weren't Jews.  That meant nothing to them. 
 
So instead, notice what he says:
 
verse 15d
 
Why does he say that?  Because, according to Romans 1,  every person ever born has an awareness of that God.  Through the created world, God has revealed Himself to humanity and that means everyone is without excuse. 
 
No man will ever be able to say, "I don't know God and I didn't know there was a God." Every man born into the world has the knowledge of God through creation.  And that's not all.
 
verse 16
 
In other words, there was a time when there was no formal, written ceremonial law, but
 
verse 17
 
Even without a ceremonial law that defined the character and expectations of God, God still provided to His nature in that He did good, and sent rain and productivity and joy.
So that no one is without excuse.  Even without a written law, everyone has the law of God written in their hearts, plus they have the visible witness of creation and the providential care and blessing of God.  Therefore, anybody anywhere in the this world is responsible for the knowledge of God, for God has written it in his conscience, God has revealed it in the creation, and God continues to reveal it in providence.
 
Therefore, Paul says, stop serving nothing and turn to this living God that you already know in your hearts to exist and be good and kind and gracious.
 
What a response to those who wanted to worship them as Gods.  They tell them, We aren't gods.  We're people just like you.  But we do know the living God and we want you to know Him also. That is humility in action.  This is the attitude of John the Baptist who desired to decrease so the Christ could increase. And Jesus said of him he was the greatest man to ever live!  
 
So, back to our outline, we find in Paul and Barnabas these characteristics of great service.  They ministered through their gifts, they had great boldness, God's power flowed through them and they demonstrated humility.
 
Let me give you one more and that is
 
5.  Persistence
 
verse 19
 
 
Now remember, they had been kicked out of both those towns and you can imagine when these Jews arrived in Lystra and found them at it again that they were really upset.
 
And interesting it interesting how fast the fickle crowd changes? The same bunch that threw the rocks at him were the same ones that were worshipping them a few days ago.
 
But these Jews blow into town, stir things up and immediately the mindset changes and grow to mob violence.  So they organize the troops, apprehend Paul, stone him, drag them out of town and leave him for dead. I would say that is a pretty good deterrent to ministry.  Most of us would probably come away from that experience a little bit discouraged.
 
But I just love
 
verse 20
 
By the way, isn't that first phrase a beautiful thought? 
 
"When the disciples gathered around him".
 
So how many disciples went to Lystra?  Paul and Barnabas.  But now we find "disciples".  So where did they come from?  They came from fruitful ministry.  And I can tell you who three of them were.  We find out later in the New Testament that one family that came from this community was a grandmother, her daughter and grandson named
Lois, Eunice and Timothy.
 
And notice, these disciples give evidence that they are growing in the Lord in that they "gathered around" a broken brother.  That put their own safety in jeopardy, but they were willing to identify with Paul and the God he served and the Savior he loved.
 
And , I will tell you, those that come alongside each other as followers of Christ get to see some things no one else will ever see. Remember, they have come to minister to Paul.  He's just been stoned, dragged out of town and left for dead.
 
verse 20b
 
That is persistence. Remember, this is the same guy who would write about temporary setbacks and light afflictions.  He was not finished yet. This slight interruption had only delayed him a matter of a few hours and soon, he is right back at it.  He was so persistent. 
 
By the way, it's a 30-mile journey to Derbe and they went the next day. And notice,
 
verse 21
 
He didn't rest at all. Paul never lost a day and the Holy Spirit makes sure we understand that byt stipulating it was on the next day when they departed. 
 
Persistence.  It is this characteristic that keeps a lot of Christians from ever knowing what it means to really serve God.  If serving God means you come when it's convenient and give when you can afford it and share your faith if there is no threat, then a lot of people serve faithfully.
But to really serve God regardless of the circumstances and conditions and threats requires persistence.  It is that commitment that says, "No matter what happens, I will be faithful to God.
 
As far as we know, Paul never got side-tracked or  distracted. It didn't matter if he was beaten within an inch of his life. They thought he was dead; that's how bad off he was, but it didn't stop him.  He was persistent.  What a great quality of Christian service!  I wish more people had it, don't you?
 
Well, so far we've seen five characteristics of effective service for the Lord: spiritual gifts, boldness, divine power, humility and persistence. Three more next week.
 
Let's pray.
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