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Acts 21:1-15

The Will of the Lord Be Done

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • July 19, 2014

Acts 21 contains some very important verses because they have to do with listening to the Lord which is something we all need to understand. But it also has to do with decision-making and the will of God, something that should be important to all of us.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

The Will of the Lord be Done

Acts 21:1-15

As we continue our study through the book of Acts, Paul is on his third missionary journey. He has been traveling by ship and is determined in his heart to go to Jerusalem. They crossed the northern part of the Mediterranean heading east toward Israel and landed at a city called Tyre, a port city in the area of Syria, just north of Israel.

They stayed there seven days with the disciples from that city who kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. There has been much scholarly discussion and debate about whether Paul was being told here that he should not go to Jerusalem, yet the scripture seems plain that he is being warned in the Spirit not to go.

These are very important verses because it has to do with listening to the Lord which is something we all need to understand. But it also has to do with decision-making and the will of God, something that should be important to all of us.

There is a story of an old Scottish woman who went from home to home across the countryside selling thread and buttons and such. When she came to an unmarked crossroad, she would toss a stick into the air and go in the direction the stick pointed when it landed.

One day, however, she was seen tossing the stick up several times. “Why do you toss the stick more than once?” someone asked. “Because,” replied the woman, “it keeps pointing to the left, but I want to take the road on the right.”

We all make many thousands of decisions in our lives and the course of our lives often hinges on just a few key decisions. It’s so important to understand these things.

I. God often Warns Us in Advance

A. Count the cost

  • Earlier Paul said he was bound in spirit on his way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to him there. But now he knows.
  • The Holy Spirit has made clear to Paul that if he continues toward Jerusalem, he will be bound hand and foot and delivered over to the Gentiles.
  • Therefore, this is a warning to Paul that he should not go to Jerusalem unless he has fully counted the cost and is willing to encounter the perils of the journey.
  • Jesus taught a parable that spoke of this point very powerfully. 

Illus – A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; at the dinner hour he sent his servant to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is now ready.” But they all began to make excuses. One had just purchased a piece of land and needed to go and look at it, another had purchased five yoke of oxen and wanted to try them out, another one said, “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.”

  • Jesus then concluded the parable by saying…

Luke 14:28, 31, 27, “Which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down to calculate the cost… Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough to encounter the one coming against him?… Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

  • Paul has counted the cost and is ready not only to be bound, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

B. Listen to the warnings of God

  • God often tells you in advance that the way of blessing is this way or that if you turn the other way it will result in disaster.

Isaiah 30:21, Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.

Illus - Sometimes it’s a choice between right and wrong and though it may be difficult, God’s telling you to do the right thing.

Back when I worked in the restaurant business, I knew a shift manager who was told to change everyone’s timecards or be fired. She stared at the timecards for two hours knowing she couldn’t afford it, but quit anyway. It was the right thing to do.

  • There are other times when we have to say no to something good in order to say yes to something better. There are times when we must choose the highest good; that which glorifies God the most.

Illus - Once there was a man who was the keeper of a lighthouse. He lived on a small island where there was a small village. It was difficult to reach him so they supplied oil only once every three months. A bitterly cold winter fell upon the island and one by one his neighbors began to ask for a little oil… but the ships depended on that light to reach safe harbor.

Jeremiah 42:6, “Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the Lord our God… that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the Lord our God.”

II. Commit Your Life into His Hands

  • In other words, “We entrust this to you, Lord. This is not what we want, nevertheless, we trust that Your will is over all things and we can trust you with whatever happens.”

A. God’s will interfaces with human choice

Matthew 26:42, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Luke 22:42, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

  • There are many things in life we may not understand, but we can trust that God holds all things in the palm of His hand.

Illus - It’s difficult to understand when things take a hard turn; if finances fall apart, where you hear some bad news from the doctor, or if you lose someone near to you, or your relationship is in shambles. All you can do is keep walking faithfully and trust God’s hand.

2 Timothy 1:12, For I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.

Isaiah 49:15-16, “I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;”

B. God allows you to choose

Illus - We have a team traveling to Nairobi this October. At a recent team meeting we discussed the potential dangers and then said that each one must make their own decision. Each one must have peace and follow their heart.

  • God’s will interfaces with our choosing so that we might freely choose Him. That’s what love is.

Deuteronomy 30:19, “I have set before you life and death… So choose life in order that you may live… by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him, for this is your life and the length of your days.”

  • And if anyone needs wisdom in deciding, God is more than willing to give the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

James 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

  • But what if you make a dumb decision? Then own it, repent, and run back to God as fast as you can.

Isaiah 55:7, Let the unrighteous man forsake his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him… For He will abundantly pardon.

  • One of the things I really appreciate about the Lord is that He is able to take even the dumb things of my life and to somehow bring something for His glory.
  • I look back now and see that God’s hand has always been with me; through the highs and lows, through the good things and the dumb things, He uses all things for His glory.

Illus – When I went to OSU my major was pre-med. But I lacked discipline and joined a fraternity with all the bad choices that go with it. So I switched to business management and studied piano for an elective. Little did I know God was preparing me to be a pastor. 

C. Don’t pout when you don’t get your way

  • Those traveling with Paul were convinced that this warning of the Holy Spirit meant that he should not go to Jerusalem and they were begging him not to go.
  • When he could not be persuaded, they fell silent, saying, “The will of the Lord be done!”
  • The next verse is key; after this, they got ready and started on the way to Jerusalem.
  • Notice that they didn’t say, “If you’re not going to listen to our opinion, then we’re out of here, you can just go to Jerusalem by yourself!”
  • They tried to persuade Paul, but when they saw his heart was set, they willingly went with him. “The will of the Lord be done, we’ll go there together. I’m with you heart and soul.”
  • This story would have turned out very differently had they quit on Paul. This was the right response and it’s a great lesson for us to apply to our lives.
  • Too many people respond poorly when they don’t get their way and many relationships are broken because of it. But because they responded well, with a mature heart, God used them.
  • It was this same Luke who was given the privilege to author this book of Acts as well as the gospel of Luke.

Illus -When Saul was king of Israel and was in a standoff with the Philistines, his son Jonathan left camp with his armor bearer but did not tell his father. The thought in his mind was to attack the Philistine garrison, just that the two of them, saying, “Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

1 Samuel 14:7, “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor bearer said. “I am with you heart and soul.”

  • One of the things I also appreciate about the Lord is that when we don’t listen to Him, he doesn’t give up on us either. His love never fails.

Lamentations 3:21-23, This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

Acts 21:1-15     NASB

1 When we had parted from them and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos and the next day to Rhodes and from there to Patara; 2 and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3 When we came in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4 After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. 5 When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. 6 Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.
 
7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. 8 On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. 10 As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" 12 When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, "The will of the Lord be done!" 15 After these days we got ready and started on our way up to Jerusalem.

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