- Sermon Notes
A Door of Faith
As we continue in the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas are on their first missionary journey. They have John Mark along with them as their helper. This is the shortest of Paul’s missionary journeys, only about two years in duration.
They were sent out by the church at Antioch which had become a major center of the Christian faith, second only to Jerusalem. When they return to Antioch at the end of their journey, they reported all the things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
That’s a great phrase, “a door of faith.” God opened a door of faith for the Gentiles, but in many ways it’s a great picture of the fact that we step through a door, out of the life we had in the world and into this journey of faith we now walk with God.
That picture of going through a door helps us understand that there is a distinction from the old life to what we now have in God.
At one point on this journey Paul and Barnabas went into a synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. After the reading of Scripture, one of the synagogue officials said, “Brethren, if you have any word to say for the people, say it.”
At this point they are speaking to Jews, so they recounted the history of God moving through Israel beginning with their stay in the land of Egypt and bringing them to Jesus, the Son of David, whom God raised from the dead.
Paul then said, “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaim to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.”
What a clear way of demonstrating that there is a great distinction in our lives when we walk through that door of faith. It’s like walking in darkness, and then stepping through a door into a beautiful day in early June here in Oregon… and fresh strawberries are just coming into season.
In other words, the life we live now as we walk with God is the greatest life there is. Just the fact that we have forgiveness of our sins is amazing. Let’s just see it again and appreciate what we have; we were headed for certain judgment, without hope and without God in this world, but then we receive forgiveness of sins and are freed from all things, from which we could not be freed through religion or anything else.
At this very moment you are walking in eternal life. Sitting right where you are, if you received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you have received the forgiveness of your sins and are walking in eternal life; because you are walking with God and when you breathe your last on this earth, you’re just gonna keep on walking right into eternity with God.
Having said that, however, there is something else we need to understand. Paul also said in Acts 14:22, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
How do we reconcile the fact that we, as believers, have the greatest life there is, having the life of God within us and the joy of the Holy Spirit, yet at the same time knowing that on this earth there will be many troubles and tribulations?
Great question. That’s what we’re going to see in these verses we’re studying today. On this journey Paul and Barnabas see the triumph and victory of the gospel, but they also see troubles and tribulation like no man would ever choose.
In many ways, though, we see the same things, though not to the same degree. In this life there are many triumphs and victories, but we all know there are many troubles and tribulations. This world is filled with troubles, but the good news is that we walk through it all with God who promises never to leave us or forsake us.
I. The Problem of Prosperity
- C.S. Lewis once wrote a famous article called The Problem of Pain, but I want us to understand that there can also be a problem of prosperity.
- Of course, prosperity is the mantra of our day. Many people long for and dream of such things. Some literally lust after prosperity.
- It comes in many forms. There is material wealth, but there is also earthly success in many different forms that many people desire.
- Even ministry success can be a great danger and because of it many have lost their way.
- Of course these things can be good if they are used for God’s glory, but these things can really mess up lives and they can also destroy faith.
- In Acts 14:10 Paul calls out to a man who was lame from birth and the man is made well. When the multitudes saw what Paul had done, they began crying out, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” What an adoring fan base they now have. What a twitter following this could create. But there’s danger here.
- The crowd reacts so strongly is because there was the belief in Lystra these gods had once visited there, but the people were inhospitable and suffered a great flood. They weren’t going to make that mistake again, so they worship Paul and Barnabas.
- In Acts 12:22 when the crowd said the same thing to Herod Agrippa in Caesarea, he did not give God the glory and let’s just say it didn’t end well.
- The problem of living in a culture where prosperity is the mantra of the day is that it’s easy to lose our perspective and forget the value of our relationship to God.
- Perhaps one of our problems is that we often see things from the perspective of our earthly life, when we get to heaven, however, we’re going to see things differently.
1 Corinthians 13:12, For now we see as in the mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
- Perhaps the things which the world highly values, the things which people often think are good, aren’t as good as people thought.
Luke 16:15, He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.”
- When Israel was about to enter the promised land, God took them aside and through Moses warned them to be careful because success and prosperity may cause them to forget their relationship to God.
Deuteronomy 8:2-14 Remember your God in the days when everything is good and you have success.
- The greatest treasure, the greatest value is God.
- The priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifices with the crowds.
- Paul and Barnabas rushed into the crowd crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God.”
- That’s it right there, that’s God’s heart. God preaches the gospel to us that we should turn from things that are vain, or empty, to a living God.
- The problem is that you can’t fill emptiness with emptiness. We were all born with an empty soul and people are trying to fill it with things from the world that will never work.
- Paul points out that even while the world is filled with vain and empty things, God did not leave Himself without a witness. (Verses 16-17)
- All the wonder and beauty, the goodness and fruitfulness are a witness of God Himself.
Romans 1:19-20, That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
- God leaves Himself a witness in creation, but now gives us the clear gospel, so that we would turn from empty things and turn to the living God.
II. Adversity is a Teacher
- The contrast in this story is amazing. Once the crowd figures out that they are not Zeus and Hermes, and then get stirred up by the antagonist Jews who followed them there, they dragged Paul out of the city and stoned him, leaving him for dead.
- What a day this is turning out to be; he goes from being called a god, dragged out and stoned, many believe he actually died here, but then gets up, shakes it off, and goes back into the city.
- Adversity does not stop Paul, he moves on, always pressing forward and forgetting what lies behind.
A. Adversity can strengthen faith
- The next day Paul and Barnabas go to Derbe, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith.
- Paul would be the right one to strengthen their souls, he knows something about being steadfast in faith through the adversity and troubles of life.
- That’s why he said in verse 22, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
- This is why James said that the testing of our faith produces endurance.
James 1:2-3, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
- All tragedies are tragedies, but God can take that which is bad, even a tragedy, and use it in our lives to strengthen faith and give Him glory.
Illus - Last week I mentioned that Jesus was friends with Mary and Martha her sister, and Lazarus their brother. They were friends. Jesus felt at home with them, there was hospitality and He could stop by for dinner, He and His 12 friends. By the way, wouldn’t it have been hard for them not to name drop, just a little bit? One day Lazarus became sick and they sent word to Jesus, “He whom you love is sick.” But Jesus waited two more days.
John 11:14-15, Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”
- Adversity, suffering, and pain is part of living in a troubled world, but through adversity faith is tested; and the faith that cannot be tested is faith they cannot be trusted.
- Faith sustains us through adversity and adversity strengthens faith; they go hand-in-hand.
Illus - It might be compared to having a baby. There is much pain, but afterward there is great joy. I know a lot about having a baby, after all I was a birthing coach to my wife, and that’s almost the same as having a baby. Okay, not quite.
John 16:21, “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.”
Psalm 30:5, Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.
- A word of caution; don’t say to yourself, “It’s too late for me, I’ve already ruined everything; there is no use in even trying.” That’s not faith talking, that’s broken pride; God has a better word for you… Hope.
- From scripture and from experience in life, it seems there are two opposite approaches the enemy takes in trying to defeat us.
- The first is that he has called the accuser of the brethren; if he can remind you of your failures and keep accusing you so that you stay knocked down, you are truly defeated.
Illus - Don’t be that guy that’s so defeated, and has so completely lost hope that he carries around the handbook of worst-case scenarios.
- But the enemy would also feed our pride. When things are good, bills are paid, something laid up for retirement, it can make people proud and self-sufficient. But when the stock market crashes or life takes a hard turn, it reminds us of what matters most; our faith and our relationship to God.
- Many Bible teachers suggest that when Paul was stoned, he was given a glimpse of heaven. But he was also given a thorn in the flesh…
2 Corinthians 12:9, He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Acts 14:1-28 NASB