In our world today, there is an unprecedented need for peace. Almost every day brings more unsettling news and the urging that we pray for peace in this broken world. Paul urged us “First of all…that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Why was this an urgent issue for Paul? He next two verses give us the answer. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Timothy 2:1–4).
As to these verses, John Piper gives us an observation about our culture that we must consider. “One of the great obstacles to victory is when people are swept up into social, political, and militaristic conflicts that draw away their attention, time, energy, and creativity from the real battle of the universe…the salvation of the lost and the perseverance of the saints.”
The obstacles he refers to are only temporary. The saving of the lost has eternal consequences! Which are you occupied with and putting your time and energy into?
Piper, John, Let the Nations be Glad, Baker Academic, 2003, page 50.
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 9:35). There is a very instructive characteristic of Jesus and Paul. They were always on the move and never settled down in one place for long. What propelled them on to the next village or city refusing a life of ease and comfort? It was the message! Paul said, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). When the disciples wanted to detain Jesus in a certain place, “he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (Mark 1:38). They both knew their purpose in being called to a specific mission.
This also helps us understand the key principles we have mentioned the last two days. Believers must be strengthened and established so they are strong in the faith, and then we can move on to the next portion of our Father’s field. Often missionaries settle down in a place, learn the language, preach the gospel, make disciples and build buildings. It is no wonder there are 800 churches for every unreached people group in the world (Joshua Project). It is time to follow Jesus’ and Paul’s method and be on the move in reaching the unreached.
I would rather leave behind a trail of reproducing churches that multiply the message of the gospel than a monument to my name. God is most glorified when our work leads others to exalt Him, not us!
It is easy to get derailed from our mission when disagreements arise. Persons and problems become our focus rather than “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul was not derailed from God’s plan and purpose for the church because there was a disagreement with Barnabas. He “chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord” (Acts 15:40). Notice that the church in Antioch is wholly in agreement with Paul moving on with Silas, to strengthen existing churches, and no mention is made of disunity in the church.
Let me propose to you that where the Holy Spirit is at work in a local church, there will be unity in the church and with the leaders (Read Ephesians 4:1-3 and see the prerequisite attitudes). And more importantly, God’s work will advance rapidly!
Is this happening in your church? If not, isn’t it time to return to the biblical model?
STRENGTHENING THE CHURCH – How important is this subject? Yesterday I continued our examination of Paul’s example in the Book of Acts. In chapter 15, Paul went back to the cities where the gospel had been preached and believers added to the Lord, for the specific purpose of strengthening them in their faith. Was Luke biased on this issue? Let’s look at Paul’s own words in his letters to see if this was really a priority for him.
In the introduction to his letter to the saints in Rome, he says, “I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (Romans 1:11). How would Paul strengthen them by letter? It was his sixth letter and the last of his first letters which aimed at grounding believers in the pure gospel of grace. This was the “spiritual gift” that would perpetuate itself through “mutually encouraging each other’s faith” (1:12) and helping them “not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (1:16). This is the only way to make sure believers and the church exist and expand on a firm foundation. The ‘false gospel of works’ quickly undermines faith and weakens a person’s relationship with God.
For further study of this subject, read Ephesians 3:14-16; Colossians 1:11-12. In order to see this subject in its larger context, we invite you to study the Scripture through God’s Plan for His Church. Go to our website, http://www.newfoundationsinternational.org/training-resources.html and download the training manual FREE. If you contact us through our email address, we will be happy to personally walk you through the training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We come to one of the most critical principles that made Paul’s missionary work so effective. Acts 15:36 tells us that “after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Many who speak or write on this section of Acts focus on the separation of Paul and Barnabas because of Mark, and miss what made Paul’s work so effective.
Returning to the places where the gospel had been preached and believers added to the Lord was for the purpose of strengthening (14:22; 15:32, 41; 16:5; 18:23) and establishing these new converts so they could stand firm in the faith on their own. By doing this, Paul could move on to other fields of ministry as led by the Spirit (16:6-10) and know that what he left behind was self-sustaining and multiplying without his being there. Paul developed this principle in Timothy so he would do the same as Paul had done (Philippians 2:19-20).
Striving for maturity in the body of Christ must be a primary objective of our ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-16). If this principle was being used by everyone on the mission field and in ministry, every unreached people group would be reached by now. Sadly, most are distracted by other agendas and we are missing effective opportunities to fulfill the Great Commission. Evangelism and establishing converts go hand-in-hand with the expansion of the gospel.
It is not natural for us to look at suffering and trial we pass through, as tools in God’s hands that He uses to produce character. John Piper says that “this is the first purpose of missionary suffering; to wean us from the world and set our hope fully in God alone.” If we really desire to reach the unreached with the gospel of Christ, we will “rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
Why is this so important? We live in a world with ever increasing distractions and I believe, from my own experience, that God uses suffering to refocus our attention on our real calling and purpose. If we let the world dictate our priorities, our passion for the gospel will quickly decline and we become unfruitful and ineffective.
Are you allowing trials to develop your character and sharpen your vision, or are you getting more and more distracted?
After Paul recounts "the affliction they experienced in Asia", he makes a very important statement we all should think about carefully as it relates to our ministries and personal lives.
"But that (the affliction) was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead." (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
If you are relying on anything that cannot raise the dead, your relying on the wrong source. God alone has that power and that power is what we need in life and ministry!
Out of the years of experience with God; trusting him at every turn, George Mueller said at the end of his life; "They will know...that God is faithful and hears prayers still."
Bailey, Faith Coxe, George Mueller - He Dared to Trust God for the Needs of Countless Orphans, Moody Press, 1958, page 157.
What will people see in the work we have left behind? Will it exalt us or God who answer prayer?
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Do you look at life through the lens of eternity - what cannot be lost?
Yesterday we saw the selection of qualified men (Barnabas and Paul) who carried the vital message of freedom in Christ from Jerusalem to the rest of the church that had been “troubled” by false teachers. These men sent from Jerusalem “went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter” (Acts 15:30). Involving the whole body of Christ in a place with critical messages like this promotes unity, and in this case, “they rejoiced because of its encouragement” (v.31). Judas and Silas were also men sent for this purpose. Together, they “encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words” (v.32).
Looking at this situation in the larger context, we see that a needed correction in teaching became a tremendous tool for “encouragement and strengthening”. When we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our teaching through the authority of God’s Word, these two things will automatically take place. The church in our day needs corrective teaching as much as encouragement to become biblically sound. Making sure your teaching is biblical, presented in humility, in the power of the Holy Spirit; the church will be firmly established, equipped and will naturally expand. More will be said about this in days to come.
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