"When to Stay"
Ever need to catch a second wind? Sometimes you need a little help along the way because you are ready to move on when God wants you to stay. Never forget the mission.
When to Stay
A. In my 45 years of life I have discovered that quitting is easy. It is easy to walk away, to give up, to simply say that something is not worth the fight. I have struggled with being a quitter most of my life. But there are some things that are worth the fight, the staying power, the endurance to keep on keeping on.
B. I would guess most of us get depressed at some time, or just want to give up and quit. We think things like, “I’ll just leave this job, this church, this family and they’ll miss me … they’ll wish they had treated me different.”
C. We may feel like there is no use in trying harder, because the harder we try the worse things get. We feel like we are spinning our wheels, getting nowhere, and the daily stresses and problems are overwhelming.
D. Elijah was considered to be one of the greatest prophets. He is spoken of as a man of power in the Spirit. But let me tell you about a time near the end of his life. The story is found in 1 Kings 19 after his great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. When Queen Jezebel heard all that Elijah had done she sent a messenger to him to tell him that she would kill him within a day. The Bible tells us that Elijah was afraid and ran for his life! He told God he simply wanted to die.
E. As he ran, God led him to cave in Mt. Horeb and there God asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied that he had been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. Israel was rejecting God and was killing the prophets, and now they were after him. Standing in the mouth of the cave, God caused a great wind, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then he caused a great earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then he caused a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Then came a sound of a low whisper, a still small voice and Elijah heard God ask again, “What are you doing here?” He answered the same, but in this gentile whisper God told Elijah to go and do some things and ended by telling him that there is still 7000 in Israel that had not bowed the knee to Baal.
F. “To walk by faith means to see opportunities even in the midst of opposition. A pessimist sees only the problems; an optimist sees only the potential; but a realist sees the potential in the problems. (from The Bible Exposition Commentary)
I. Personal Accountability
A. I want us to see this story in Acts 18 from two vantage points. The first is that of the Jews. Paul had been traveling and having some success in helping people come to know Jesus as the Savior and establishing congregations. In Athens where he had preached about the Unknown God, some believed but like in other places, many of the Jews caused Paul problems.
B. The Jews saw Paul in a different light. First they saw him as a traitor to the ways of Judaism. He was not talking about the Law and the Prophets, instead he kept talking about a man named Jesus whom he said was the Messiah. He talked about and used scripture to teach that Messiah would come among men, would be killed and would rise up from the dead. It was something the Jews of the dispersed simply could not accept as a whole. They were steeped in their traditions, beliefs, and way of life. Because of how they saw him, they had no problem in wanted him dead. He was traitor and sowed seed that would only hurt Judaism.
C. Secondly, Paul had way too much contact and love for the Gentiles. It was one thing to work among them, and take their money. It was something totally different to say that Messiah was just as much a savior of the Gentiles as he was of the Jews. Paul tried to teach his own, but the Jews as a whole would not respond. Some, whose hearts were opened, did, but the vast majority only wanted Paul dead or gone.
D. Paul’s response was this: (verse 5-6). The two-fold action was a statement that Paul made to his fellow Jews. The shaking of the garment and the pronouncement of the blood being upon their own head, was a statement that he tried but they would not listen and now they are responsible for their own judgment. Brethren, there is a degree of personal responsibility and personal accountability that all must accept.
E. We live in a society that does not teach as much personal accountability as it once did. In many cases people are more willing to be and live the life of a victim than they are to do something. Too many people are about blame, when blaming does little to change the situation. Paul was saying to the Jews that they had the chance to hear, repent, and be baptized, but they openly refused and now they will have to live with the consequences of rejecting Jesus. Paul then turned to the Gentile community to continue to preach.
II. Divine Perspective
A. Now let me share with another vantage point, God’s. I don’t know what happened between verses 8 and 9 but it appears the persecution must have increased and Paul was making plans to leave. But before he does, God speaks to him in a vision and says these words (verse 9).
B. Fredrick Nolan, serving God in N. Africa in the midst of terrible persecution/Christians were running for their lives/Nolan was fleeing on foot/exhausted/stopped to catch his breath/looked to the right, saw a small cave/went in to await his enemies locating him, inevitably killing him/as he sat he saw a small spider weaving a web across the mouth of that cave/eventually the web covered the entire mouth!/he sat fascinated/persecutors arrived, saw the cave, marched toward it, saw the web—“he couldn’t be in there!”/they left…he escaped! Later, he said, “w/ God, a spiderweb is like a wall…w/out God, a wall is like a spiderweb!”
C. Jesus reassured Paul much like God did Elijah in that cave on Mt. Horeb. The wording of Jesus is strong and comforting. He begins by telling Paul to “stop being afraid.” While we don’t know what happened, the style of the words that we have recorded assume Paul was fearful and Jesus needed him to calm his fears because the work of the gospel needed to keep on. Paul was to keep on speak and not be silent. We can almost hear Jesus say, “Don’t quit! And let me tell you why, I have many people in this city.” God’s perspective is of the ones who still will be saved. He encouragement to Paul was that “I am with you.”
D. There may be some whom you love that are not saved and you may feel like it simply will never happen. It may not, but let me say to you, don’t quit. You don’t know their future, God does.
A. As Jesus was about to ascend back into heaven he gathered his apostles and gave to them what we call the Great Commission. Listen to Matt. 28:18-20.
B. It is those types of words that Paul was hearing in his vision. It is those words that are still being spoken to us today. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
C. Don’t quit. When you want to run away and hide, hear the voice of Jesus telling you that he is with you. When you feel like you are getting nowhere, when the church simply is what you wanted it to be, when family and friends seem more distant and loving, don’t quit. Jesus is with you.
D. Today, the same saving message that Paul gave to the Jews and Gentiles, God is giving to you. If you are a believer that Jesus is the Son of God, if you are willing to die to self and repent of your sins, if you are in need of being baptized into him and added to the church, then, let today be your day of salvation. Most of you who are here today are saved. But you may have faced the persecutions or hardships and just want to run, don’t quit. If we can surround you in love and prayer, then come as we stand and sing.