"Strengthening Through Tribulation"
Paul and Barnabas strengthened the brethren, encouraging them by saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
Strengthening Through Suffering
A. There are times when I read God’s word and say, “God, I just don’t understand how you can say this, or ask this of me?” I am not arguing with him, I just shake my head and wonder, how I can live out this passage.
B. Listen to James 1:2-4. I understand that verses 3-4 explain verse 2, but still, if I were the Holy Spirit guiding James, I would not say, “consider it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.” NOT!!! Do I consider it joyous that I mature in Christ? YES, but the way to maturity is not easy.
C. How about Paul, when he tells the church in Rome, “For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Really? Paul do you know about my present suffering? The answer, by the way, is “yes and more.” Let me share with you this one story that we read about in Acts 14.
I. Paul’s Time At Lystra
A. Barnabas and Paul had started their first missionary journey. With the blessing of the church, the commission by the HS, they begin. They meet up with a problem early on with Elymas that Paul confronts. Then it is off to Pisidia where we hear Paul’s first recorded sermon about Jewish his and the resurrection of Jesus. But again, they encounter trouble as jealous Jews rise up against them. Then it was off to Iconium where they have the same problem but this time there is a threat of stoning. So the leave and we get their story of the time in Lystra.
B. They encounter a crippled man who had never walked. He listened intently to Paul’s preaching. Paul, who could see this man’s faith, said in loud voice, “Stand up on your feet!” And to the amazement of the crowd, the crippled man stand, no longer a cripple. Praise God! Well, the problem is these people praise Barnabas and Paul like they were gods, in fact, called them Greek god names. The priests of those Greek gods wanted to offer sacrifices to them, but Paul and Barnabas told them they were only human.
C. They talk about the only and only God who created all things and gave all good gifts. But it was difficult to keep these people from looking at them in some warped concept. But the Jews.. It keeps coming back to a group of jealous people who live more in hate than in love. They somehow take a group of people who saw Paul as a god and convince them to stone him. Which they do and drag him out of the city thinking he was dead.
D. WAIT! This is the guy who said “our present suffering is not worth comparing to our future glory.” This is the guy who is friends with James who said, “Count it all joy when you face various trials.” Suffering is a part of the Christian life and these men want us to be encouraged by it!
E. What would you do if people stoned you, thought you were dead and dragged out of town – and you wake up? Look at verse 20. Get up and go back into town.
II. Strengthening Through Suffering
A. Let’s come to our text. Paul understood that bragging was not going to be beneficial to anyone. But understood the need to help spiritually strengthen a person in their faith. We can do a great disservice to a young Christian if we let them think that being saved is the beginning of the easy life in the body. It is not. It is easy to quit. It is easy to get mad, upset, feel injustice, see hypocrisy, and simply say, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Brethren, yes you did.
B. Listen to Jesus: Luke 9:23-25, 57-62. Do you understand this? Trials of various kind will come, can you count it all joy? You will have to make some tough decision that may affect the relationships you love the most deeply, can you make the call to be a disciple? Jesus would write to the church in Smyrna and tell them a future that was not pleasant. Rev. 2:8-11. Do you have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church?
C. Peter lays it out for us to understand in 1 Pet. 4:12-19. I don’t go looking for trouble. I want to live at peace with all men, but only so far as it is possible. If have to make a decision between peace with men or peace with God, God wins.
D. Rightly did God say through Isaiah, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God stands forever.” Heb. 10:25 is a favorite passage for man. Stay strong in your trials.
A. As Paul and Barnabas went out on a mission to share Jesus to a lost and dying world. They started in synagogues and preached to the people they loved – the Jews. But some of those Jews not only refused to believe, but sought to destroy. Paul would then turn to the audience God told him he would reach – the Gentiles. Many of them would not believe either, and some would seek to harm him, but preaching and strengthening was what this missionary journey was all about.
B. Going back through the cities they traveled, they encouraged these new Christians stay strong to the faith. Being a Christian may not be easy, but it is the best life I can live. While the world may hate me, there are brethren all over the world who love me and will lift me up.
C. Appointing elders in these new congregations was important. They needed spiritual leadership. Through prayer and fasting Paul and Barnabas dedicated these men to serve the church.
1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
D. You are not alone in suffering. The stories we could share about Christians around the world this day would make you cry. But crying is not the point, standing firm in your faith is. Don’t quit because the going gets tough. No, it isn’t easy. But I look forward to that crown of righteousness with the Lord will give to all who long for his appearing.
E. If you need our help in standing strong, if you need our encouragement to keep on keeping on, then come as we stand and sing.