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Bible Search
Acts #49 (chapter 14:21-28)
The Book of Acts
Qualities of a Great Missionary, Part 3
Acts 14:21-28
 
It's good to be back with you for our Wednesday night study.  I also want to extend my thanks to Bro. Gary and Bro. Jimmy for covering for me. 
 
When we were last together, we were in looking at 8 characteristics of a great missionary, and broadening that to a great servant of God, and thinking of great in Biblical and scriptural terms.  Those characteristics are found in the lives of Paul and Barnabas and are recorded for us in Acts 14. 
 
We have covered five of those characteristics already.  We've seen that great servants, great missionaries minister in the arena of their spiritual giftedness.  That is, first and foremost, the best way to assure God's blessing and success on what He calls you to do.   We find these guys preaching, teaching, exhorting and administering the ministries of the church.  Those were needed and necessary ministries, so God sent men equipped to take care of business. 
 
Secondly we saw they were successful because of boldness. There's no substitute for boldness because boldness is the ability to keep going, no matter how you're opposed. 
 
The third thing is they operated in and through the power of God.  In the text, that power is seen through the performing of a miracle.  Obviously, the age of apostolic miracles has ceased, but that doesn't mean the power of God is not available to us.
And the best thing any of us will ever learn is that you can't function in your own strength and find either success or fulfillment.  You'll either fail or you'll wear out if you try to do what God calls you do on your own.
 
The fourth thing these men illustrate is humility.  As soon as Paul performs a miracle the people want to worship him as a god and the devil uses that as a temptation to be proud.  But Paul corrects them and gives the glory to God.
 
The fifth thing is persistence.  There was a determination in the heart of Paul to continue to serve God, no matter what.  When he was beaten and left for dead, he gets up, goes to the next town and starts preaching again. He was persistent.
 
So that catches us up and tonight, in the time remaining, I'll try to cover the last three.  The fifth thing that makes for successful ministry and missions is
 
6.  Follow-Up
 
I know that doesn't make much sense to just mention that characteristic, so let me see if I can explain it. 
 
verse 21
 
Notice, the verse says, "they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch". 
 
Now they could have just gone from Derbe straight back to Antioch or Syria.  Instead, they retrace their steps back to the cities that had been in.
Why did they do that?  They believed in follow up and accountability.   Actually what they were doing is being obedient to the Great Commission. 
 
To just go do evangelism and try to get people saved is to misunderstand what it is Jesus sent us out to do.  He didn't say, "Go share the gospel or preach a salvation message."  He said, "Go and make disciples" and that takes some time.  It can't be done in one encounter.  So they return.
 
No obviously, it was dangerous to return. They'd been kicked out of every town they've been in and in one place, they tried to kill Paul.  But they believed so much in follow-up that they took that risk. 
 
By the way, we ought never lead anyone to the Lord we aren't willing to make an investment in. It is absolutely unfair, dangerous and irresponsible to make a new baby and then not take care of it.  We put people in jail if they do that in physical relationships. 
 
And yet we will lead people to the Lord and never get involved in helping them to grow and mature in the Lord and just leave them to the devil to have his way with them.  
 
They went back because they believed in follow-up. Sure it was dangerous. It was dangerous to go back but it was more dangerous for those new babes not to have meat and milk. 
 
By the way, what do I mean by follow up?  What should we teach new believers?
 
 
We find some good help right here in the text. 
 
Notice
 
verse 22
 
They strengthened the souls of the disciples.  The old KJV uses the word "confirmed".  The idea is that of "putting support under".  They went back to kind of "prop up" these converts.  They were helping them get their legs under them. 
 
Like newborn babies, they need some time to learn to walk and get around. That's exactly the way it is with a new baby Christian.  They need food for strength and instruction from those that care and guidance to make sure they are ready to live on their own.  They "strengthened them".
 
Now think about that: 
 
We get all carried away by people who go to a dangerous foreign field to take Bibles and preach the gospel. We say, "Aren't they something?  They were so brave. They went to carry the Gospel and they were willing to give up their lives."
 
Did you ever know anyone who was willing to give up his life for follow-up?  They did. Paul and Barnabas believed follow up was so necessary, they risked their lives for discipleship!
 
I can understand how people would just get burdened about leading people to Christ and be willing to give their lives to preach the Gospel but I don't find too many people giving their lives to follow up on the saved.
The second thing involved in follow up is found in
 
verse 22 also
 
Not only were they strengthening the souls of the disciples, they were
 
- "exhorting them to continue in the faith"
 
You know what exhorting means? It means to push a person toward a certain kind of conduct. It is to strongly encourage them toward a goal.  It is to challenge those under your influence. 
 
Basically, these first two is what the preaching and teaching ministry is all about.   We need to be strengthened through good, solid Biblical content then encouraged, exhorted to put it into practice.
 
In this text, that exhortation included two things.  First, he wanted them to
 
- continue in the faith
 
In so many words, Paul is saying he wanted them to be genuine, for real Christians.  A lot of people hear the gospel and come for a while, then they fade away or drop out.  Real Christians stick with it and they need to be encouraged to continue. 
 
And in particular, they needed to be exhorted ato
 
- anticipate opposition
 
He said, "We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God".
 
Someone needs to warn disciples that when they get saved, that Satan's coming and they need to be exhorted about the fact that tribulation is part of it. All that live Godly are going to suffer persecution and we need to know that and be prepared for it.
 
The third feature of follow-up involves
 
- organizing for effective ministry.
 
Notice, they appointed elders in every church.  Why did they do that?  Because the Lord expects things in the church to be done in an organized and effective way.  He has designed that the church be ruled by men called elders or pastors or bishops and that it be served by men called deacons and in that way, the church would be organized to strengthen and exhort and encourage and function. 
 
As the number of churches grew, Paul and Barnabas and the apostles couldn't keep coming and be there when needed, so they put others in place so the churches would have immediate guidance and help.  And by the w ay, these elders were appointed through prayer and fasting, which underscores just how important it was to make the right choice.   
 
The final element in their follow up is found at the end of
 
verse 23

"they commended them to the Lord"
 
 
 
Follow up included confirmation, exhortation, organization and commendation. Follow the process:  When you've done everything you can do to develop a new believer in that you've provided good, sound teaching and encouraged and exhorted them to continue in the faith and you've provided for them a structure that functions as God designed, when it's all said and done, we must realize they are ultimately in God's hands. 
 
I've been there as a pastor when I've had to say, "God, I've done everything I can do. I'm giving this one over to You Lord."  This is what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote
 
Hebrews 13:17
 
Churches and pastors and teachers are to do all they can to teach and encourage and provide an environment for growth.  That's what's involved in effective, successful ministry!  In fact, that leads to the seventh characteristic which is
 
7.  Commitment  
 
verses 24-26
 
For the next year and a half, they were out there preaching and teaching and enduring the opposition and it's almost unbelievable what they had gone through.  And finally, the time comes to go home. 
So how did they do it?  In a word, they were committed.
 
But why would anyone do that?  Those of a lesser level of commitment would look at them and say, "Why don't you take a rest?"
Some would even say, "You're crazy! Why don't you just relax?" People wonder sometimes, "Why do you study? Why do you do this? Why do you expend yourself?" They say to missionaries, "Why do you give yourselves like that?"
 
Let Paul Himself answer that:
 
1 Corinthians 9:16, "For though I preach the Gospel I have nothing to glory of. Don't pat me on the back. Why? Necessity is laid on me. Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel. Paul says, "If I don't preach the Gospel I get sick. I just do this so I don't have to live with a messed up conscious. Don't pat me on the back. I do it because I have to do it. Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel. He called me to do it. He told me to do it. What do you expect me to do?"
 
The real test of your commitment is not what you do when you're healthy and all the conditions are right and good.  The real test is are you still as committed when you are wiped out and Satan is strong and the opposition is great? 
 
Some people are looking for the least little excuse to get out of doing what they know they ought to be doing!  It takes so little to convince us we shouldn't do what Our Lord has commanded us to do!
 
But not these guys!  They had every reason not to preach in Perga. But commitment says I don't care what's going on, I'm gonna do what God called me to do. In fact, woe unto me if I don't do it!
 
May God help us to be committed! 
 
 
One final thing and that is, if you want to be successful as a servant of God, you must be sure to
 
8. Give the Praise to God
 
verses 26-27
 
They are now back where they started.  They've been gone for maybe two years!  Can you imagine the reception they received?  They are the two most beloved people in the church and when they get there, can you imagine what kind of shape they are in?  They probably looked starved and scrawny!  They are bruised and scarred from all up from beatings and whippings. 
 
And when they arrive, can you imagine what a joyous time? I bet they had a big banquet and gave them a little plague for their outstanding service ith a little inscription that said, "For successful missionary effort above and beyond the call of duty, Paul and Barnabas."
 
Not quite!  Listen to their testimony again"
 
verse 27
 
You want to know how they viewed themselves?  They were nothing more than tools in the hands of God.  They just said, "God opened a door and we went through it!"
 
By the way, that's all God wants to do with any of us!  After all, it is the handy tool that gets the use!
Just be there and He'll do the rest!  He'll use the gifts He has given you to do some amazing things if we'll just be bold and do it in His power, stay humble, persevere and make disciples, remain committed and give Him the glory for all that happens!
 
Whatever it is God is calling you to do and has gifted you to do, do it. He's still taking applications for successful servants.  If you'd like the job, God is waiting.
 
 Let's pray.
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