Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of Jesus—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book. “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonian, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain less fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go” (Acts 17:1-9).
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessaica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Bearea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens; and receiving commandment unto Silas and TImotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed” (Acts 17:10-15).
“Now when Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? Other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, Masy we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in noting else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill and said” (Acts 17:16-22).
“Ye men of Athens I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all thigns therein, seeing that he Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: ;because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:22-31).
“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman damned DSamaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:32-34).
When you come to the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the continuation of the second apostolic and missionary journey of the apostles Paul together with those who were traveling with him. According to Scripture we know that at least Timothy whom Paul met in Lystra and Derbe, Silas and Luke accompanied the apostle Paul on this missionary journey. With this being said it is absolutely necessary for us to recognize that this whole journey in and of itself was set in motion by the activity of the Holy Spirit as well as direction from God through a. Vision which would come to the apostle Paul by night. If you turn and direct your attention back to the sixteenth chapter you will find that after the apostle Paul met Timothy in Lystra and Derbe and had him circumcised he—together with Silas and Luke—would set forth from Lystra and Derbe after the apostle Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Not only this but the apostle Paul was also not suffered by the Holy Spirit to enter into Bythinia to preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Immediately after the Holy Spirit would indeed prevent the apostle from journeying unto these places we recognize and see how a vision would appear unto the apostle Paul in the night. In this vision there would be a man from Macedonia who would entreat him to come unto the region of Macedonia and help them. Concluding that this vision was the clear direction from the Lord the apostle Paul and his companions would indeed set forth unto Macedonia not knowing where exactly they would go. The apostle Paul and his companions would abide in Macedonia a certain number of days together with his companions and would enter into the sabbath day depart from the city of Philippi where they would sit by a river side. It would be here by the river side the apostle Paul would meet a woman named Lydia who was a seller of purpose of Thyatira which worshipped God, which heard them and whose heart the Lord had opened that she attended unto the things which were spoken of by the apostle Paul.
I have to admit that when I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I am absolutely captivated with and by the fact that the apostle Paul was not only free in the Spirit to be able to set forth and minister the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus but the apostle was also free in the natural sense to where he could depart anytime he wanted to for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for there was absolutely nothing that held the apostle Paul back from going forth and preaching the name and gospel of the Lord Jesus. Imagine being able to simply pick up and go wherever the Lord instructed and commanded you to go that you might preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Imagine being so incredibly free from the normal shackles of every day life and from this world that if you felt compelled and prompted of the Spirit to go and preach the gospel you could do so without being held back by anything or anyone. In today’s generation there are many who are enslaved to their jobs and even to corporate America and really don’t have the freedom to be able to pick up and set forth on a journey to preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. Pause and think about what it would look like if the Holy Spirit commanded and spoke to you right now and instructed you to go and preach the gospel and name unto those who were lost and hurting in the world today.
The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth of what it would and could look like if the Holy Spirit spoke to me today, tomorrow or the next day and commanded me to depart from that place where I am presently that I might preach the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. How would I respond and react if the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly and succinctly to me and instructed me to pack up everything I have and to journey across the world to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus. How would I respond if such a commission and such a call came unto me while praying, or while I was worshipping, or perhaps even while I was going about the daily responsibilities of every day life. At the time of this writing I am presently employed for a financial institution based out of San Francisco and have been employed by this company for almost five years. Come the first of October of this year I might be without a job as there is a possibility that this company will implement some type of return to office protocol. Back in December of last year I packed up everything and moved from the suburbs of Boston in Massachusetts and moved down south just over the border between North and South Carolina where I have lived since. I have lived down south for roughly eight months and in all reality took a risk moving down here. When I initially moved down here I thought I was going to be able to work from home through the end of March, however, that date was pushed back through the end of May and Memorial Day. As time would have it any return to office date would be pushed back through at least the end of September as there would be construction that would take place on the floor where I worked. As it stands right now I am working from home through the end of September and beyond that I have absolutely no clue what will happen.
I am writing these words and as I am writing them I am doing so from a place where I have managed to save up almost a full year’s worth of wages before taxes. What’s more is that as of this writing virtually all debt has been paid off which is something that hinders many Americans within this generation and nation. Not only this but at the time of this writing I have spent a considerable amount of time and money preparing for that which is going to come in the days ahead. I have spent the past two plus years working to stock up on non-perishable food as well as essential items that are used in every day use. This is something which I have taken great joy in as I firmly believe that we are preparing to enter into dark and dangerous days within this nation. I am absolutely convinced that if there are certain things we as the people of God need to do during these days it’s doing anything and everything we can to pay off debt. I firmly believe that we as the saints of God must do absolutely everything to save up anywhere from six months to a full year’s worth of expenses and pay in the event of something happening. I also believe that we are living in days when we need to give ourselves to purchasing gold and silver and to have a good amount in reserve. I am also convinced that in the coming days there is a great need to keep very little money in the banks which are present within this nation. I have been listening to a book that describes the formation of our modern day economy and the more I listen to this book the more I am distrustful and cynical of the banks and financials institutions which are present within this nation. Not only this but the more I think about preparing for the coming days the more I am wondering if it is necessary to invest in a plot of land—perhaps not to build upward upon the land in terms of a house but to build below the ground and have a full sustaining shelter beneath the surface.
With all of this being said I am finding myself in a place where I am feeling compelled of the Holy Spirit to not only prepare for the days which are ahead but also to prepare myself for being called and sent forth to preach the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. The more I think about what might and what could happen come September 30th of this year the more I am wondering if the Spirit of the sovereign Lord isn’t transitioning me out of my current role and into something that He actually has and has had for me. I find myself thinking about the incredible reality of whether or not the Holy Spirit is indeed preparing me for the work of the ministry which is ahead in the coming days. I truly believe we are preparing to enter into some dark and dangerous days and that there is a great need within our hearts, within our souls, within our minds and within our lives to prepare for what lies ahead and what is before us. As I continue to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I am brought face to face with how the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and even Luke were able to simply to go when they felt the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit to do so. Imagine the freedom—and not just the freedom but the absolute and utter freedom within one’s life in all areas to simply pick up and go where the living and eternal God had called and sent someone. I am reminded of Abraham whom the Lord appeared unto in Ur of the Chaldeans and instructed him to depart from that place, from his kindred and from his father’s house that he might journey unto the place whereunto he had been called. Stop for a moment and consider what tremendous freedom Abraham had to be able to pick up and pack up his household and everything he had to depart unto the land whereunto the Lord commanded him to journey to and which the Lord God would show him. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis concerning the word and command which would indeed come unto Abraham instructing him to depart from his country, from his kindred and from his father’s house that he might journey unto that place which the living God would show him:
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will b less them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builder he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builder an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south” (Genesis 12:1-9).
There is something absolutely wonderful and astonishing about the words which we find in this passage of Scripture for the words and language presented here bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the call of God unto and upon the life of Abram while he was still in Haran. Abram was seventy five years old when he departed from Haran and would depart together with Sarai his wife, Lot his nephew and all the souls and possessions he had received and gotten for himself there in that place. This is truly spectacular when you take the time to think about it for it brings us face to face with the astonishing reality of Abram being able to simply hear the voice of God, hear the command to depart from Haran and journey unto the land whereunto the LORD would show Him and He would do so without even thinking twice about it. Oh permit me to ask you what would happen in your life if the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord appeared and spoke unto you and called you forth from that place where you were unto a place which He would show you. How would you respond if the living and eternal God spoke unto you and called you out of that place where you were and called you forth into a place which He would show you that you might step into and fulfill that which He had called and commanded you to. Would there be any hesitation or reservation within your heart and soul if the Lord did in fact appear unto you and command you to either go unto a place whereunto He would show you as well as call you to serve Him in a very specific way.
The more I read the words which are found in the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts the more I am absolutely captivated with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul being bound and beholden to no man here upon the earth. The apostle Paul was completely and utterly free from any man which was present upon the earth and he could indeed come and go as freely as he desired without even thinking twice about such a thing. The apostle Paul could easily get on a ship and journey anywhere he wanted to simply because and simply when the voice of the living God commanded and instructed him to do so. The apostle Paul would indeed journey wherever the LORD called and commanded him and could do so whenever the Lord commanded him. This is something we must needs recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul and being able to simply pick up and go wherever the Lord had commanded him to go. The apostle Paul was not bound nor was he beholden to any man here upon the earth and was beholden and subject only to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit had full and complete control and authority within the life of the apostle Paul and could speak unto him at any time instructing and commanding him to rise from that place he was and depart from where he was. The apostle Paul would hear the voice and command of the Holy Spirit and would obey without even thinking twice about it. There would be absolutely no hesitation nor would there be any reservation on behalf of the apostle Paul when the voice of the Lord spoke unto him and commanded him to go forth and fulfill that which the living and eternal God had purposed for his life.
I write these words and I can’t help but think about the vast contrast between the first missionary journey of the apostle Paul and the second missionary journey. The first missionary journey of the apostle Paul would indeed be initiated and brought about by the voice of the Holy Spirit calling for Paul and Barnabas to be separated from the brethren in Antioch unto the work whereunto they had been called. The apostle Paul together with Barnabas would indeed be separated from the brethren there in Antioch and would be separated unto the work whereunto the Holy Spirit had called them to, however, we must also recognize that they were separated unto the person of the Holy Spirit Himself. The apostle Paul was more than simply separated from the brethren which were at Antioch and was more than simply separated unto the work whereunto the Holy Spirit had called them to for he was also separated unto the person of the Holy Spirit Himself. What makes this entirely and altogether different when you consider the second missionary journey is that whereas the Holy Spirit would call for the separation of Paul and Barnabas from the brethren which were at Antioch He would not call them unto a specific place but would actually forbid them from entering into Asia and would not suffer them to enter into another region. Whereas the Holy Spirit would deliberately and specifically separate Paul and Barnabas from the brethren which were in Antioch prior to his first missionary journey the Holy Spirit at this time would not call and command him unto a specific work or unto a specific place but would rather forbid and restrict him from journey unto those places whereunto they had not been called. This is something we must needs understand for we must needs be so in tune and so sensitive to the Holy Spirit that we can hear His voice speaking to us and truly governing our lives and every part of them.
As you come to the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul together with Silas, Timothy and perhaps even Luke himself passing through Amphioplis and Apollonia and coming unto Thessalonica. It would be there in Thessalonica the apostle would Paul would enter into a synagogue of the Jews which was there. There in the synagogue on the sabbath day the apostle Paul would go in unto them and for three sabbath days would reason with them out of the scriptures opening and alleging that Christ needs have suffered, and risen from the dead and that Jesus was indeed the very Christ. When the apostle Paul entered into Thessalonica he would indeed enter into the synagogue of the Jews that he might preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul would not only reason that Jesus was the very Christ and the Messiah but the apostle Paul would also preach that Christ must needs suffer in the flesh, be killed and crucified and would rise from death to life on the third day. Luke goes on to write how some of those who heard Paul believed and consorted with Paul and Silas as well as a great multitude of devout Greeks and of the chief women. What we find here in Thessalonica, however, is that although there were some of the Jews who believed it would be the Greeks and the Gentiles who would believe in great number. There in Thessalonica the apostle Paul would preach Jesus as the Christ and as the risen Son of the living God and while there would indeed be certain Jews who would believe on the name of the Lord there would be a vast number of the Jews who would resist, oppose, despise and reject the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. In fact Luke goes on to write how those Jews which believed not were moved with envy and took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort and gathered a company and set all the city on an uproar and assaulted the house of Jason and sought to bring Paul, Silas and Timothy out to the people.
It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand this for this would not be the first time the apostle Paul and those who were with him would encounter the unbelief, the hardness of the hearts of the jews, nor even the resistance, rejection and opposition to the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of this New Testament book you will find what might very well be the beginning of the resistance of the Jews to the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how incredible it is for the New Testament book of Acts would reveal and demonstrate how after the persecution which would break out against the church in the city of Jerusalem and after the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and really the beginning of the word and gospel being preached unto the Gentiles the Jews would begin to resist and oppose the preaching of the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. That which the apostle Paul would indeed experience here in Thessalonica would be something which he had already experienced during his first missionary journey. The apostle Paul was no stranger to the unbelief and hardness of heart among the Jews for this was something he had personally experienced during his first missionary journey. Oh what makes this all the more intriguing when you think about and consider it is that in the final verses of the fourteenth chapter you find the apostle emphatically declaring that we must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. Oh permit me to ask you a very pointed and powerful question—is your life too comfortable? Is your life too comfortable in the present place where you are? Is there any room for disruption and interruption within your life right now? Have you become too comfortable and complacent within your life and is there a need for the Lord Jesus Christ to come in and shake things up—perhaps even causing great distress within your heart and soul?
I sit here today writing the words which are presented in this writing and I am brought face to face with how comfortable my life is and has been. Even though the whole world was in a certain state of upheaval over the past two plus years because of a global pandemic, because of financial crises and so many other things I have to admit that my life wasn’t really disrupted. If I am being truly honest with you who are reading these words I must admit that the only thing that really changed for me was working from home as opposed to working from the office. I was able to continue working throughout and during the entire pandemic and was incredibly fortunate and blessed to not be in a place where countless other Americans and citizens of the nations of the world found themselves in. During the past two plus years I’ve managed to amass a decent savings, pay off debt, purchase certain things which were desired, move to a different state, stock up and begin preparing for the coming days and the like. This is something which I personally must needs recognize and understand for my life hasn’t really been turned upside down, complicated nor has it been interrupted in any way shape or form. I have been able to live a relatively quiet, comfortable and perhaps even in many cases a complacent life. I have not had to worry about many of the struggles others within this nation have had to experience over the past two plus years. With this being said I have to ask myself whether or not my life has indeed and has in fact been too comfortable. What’s more is that I find myself asking a question—even of ministry itself and whether or not ministry has indeed been too comfortable. Oh would it shock and surprise you if I told you that it is possible for ministry itself to become too comfortable? Would you be surprised if I told you that it was indeed possible for ministry itself to be too comfortable and to quiet, restful and peaceful compared to what it could indeed look like?
If there are two questions I can’t help but ask myself when reading the words which are presented in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but ask myself two very important questions—questions which have already been alluded to in this particular writing. The first question I find myself asking is whether or not life itself has become too comfortable? Despite the events which have taken place in the past two plus years I have to ask myself whether or not my life has indeed become too comfortable and whether there has been or even is any room for disruption. It is indeed possible that our lives—even our lives as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ—can be too comfortable for us and even for the eternal and living God. There is not a doubt in my mind that our lives as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ can indeed be too comfortable—and in fact too comfortable compared to that which the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded of and for us. Remember how the Lord Jesus declared unto Ananias that He would show Saul what great things he must needs suffer for His name, thus indicating that the apostle Paul would indeed suffer many things for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words which are found here int his passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the life of the apostle Paul and how he recognized that he himself must needs enter the kingdom of God through many troubles, trials and tribulations. The apostle Paul recognized that he had not been called to a quiet, to a comfortable, to a convenient, to a restful and even to a peaceful life. Having said this I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the words which are found in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints which describes the suffering, the affliction, the trouble, the trials and the troubles the apostle Paul did and would indeed face as he faithfully served the Lord Jesus Christ:
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: But I beseech you, that I may not be b old when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For through we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: that I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present” (2 Corinthians 10:1-11).
“I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fulls gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am i. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painful fitness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concerning mine infirmities. The God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (Whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he hearth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
The words which are found in these passages of Scripture must be carefully considered as they invite us into the struggles which the apostle Paul faced during this time walking with and serving the Lord. If there is one thing the apostle Paul could never say it’s that his life was comfortable nor even complacent. The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will encounter the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding just how uncomfortable the life of the apostle Paul truly—and not only how uncomfortable it was but also how uncertain it was. The apostle knew that in whatsoever city he entered he would face trials, troubles, tribulation, sufferings and afflictions. In fact when he was speaking to the Ephesian elders on the beach he declared that he was going bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem “not k bowing the things which shall befall him there save that the Holy Ghost witnesses in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.” Please don’t miss how absolutely incredible this truly is for the apostle Paul would go on to declare that none of these things moved him, neither did he count his life dear unto himself so that he might finish his course with joy and the ministry which he received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for there is something to be said about how uncomfortable and how uncertain the life of the apostle Paul truly was. The apostle Paul declared that the only thing he was certain of in this life was that in every city the Holy Ghost witnessed that bonds and afflictions awaited and abode him. What’s more is the apostle Paul was indeed certain that we must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Paul was certain that in whatsoever city he entered he was not guaranteed peace, he was not guaranteed rest, he was not guaranteed comfort not was he guaranteed ease.
I am writing these words and as I do so I am confronted with the fact that there are many who enter into the ministry thinking and expecting it to be such of comfort and ease. There are men and women who enter into the ministry expecting nothing but a life of comfort, a life of ease, a life of rest, a life of quietness and the like. There are and there have been men and women who have entered into the ministry thinking and believing that it would be easy for them and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. Remember the Lord Jesus declared on three different occasions that His disciples would indeed be hated of all men and all nations for his name’s sake. What’s more is the Lord Jesus would also declare that in this world they would have many afflictions but they were not to fear for He had overcome the world. The Lord Jesus didn’t prepare His disciples to be accepted nor even received but prepared them to be hated, prepared them to be persecuted, prepared them to be put out of the synagogues and even prepared them to be put to death. What’s more is the Lord Jesus emphatically declared unto His disciples that He sent them out as sheep among wolves and instructed them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding that which the apostle Paul knew and recognized of his own life—namely that he was not called nor had he been called to a life of comfort, to a life of ease, to a life of peace, to a life of quietness without any trials, without any troubles, without any tribulations. That which we find here in this particular chapter in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts clearly demonstrates that the apostle Paul would indeed come unto Thessalonica and even unto Berea and would experience tremendous opposition, resistance and persecution from the Jews. The apostle Paul would enter into Thessalonica and would indeed be in a place where life would be uncomfortable and life would be uncertain. It would be there in Thessalonica where the apostle Paul would indeed experience the resistance, the opposition and the blaspheming of the Jews as he preached the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is with all of this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the tenth, sixteenth, and twenty-fourth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. Here in these chapters we find the Lord Jesus Christ carefully instructing His disciples concerning their time in the world having been sent out as ambassadors and apostles for the kingdom. Within these chapters and passages of Scripture we encounter the incredibly unique and powerful truth surrounding the instruction the Lord Jesus gave unto His disciples—and not only the instruction He gave unto His disciples but also the warning, the caution and the means whereby He would prepare them for what they would face. The Lord would not prepare His disciples nor would He prepare hIs followers to enjoy a tremendous life of peace, comfort and ease—particularly and especially when they were called by His name, when they believed on His name and when they preached His name. The Lord Jesus declared unto His disciples that they would indeed be hated of all nations for His name’s sake, thus demonstrating and revealing the truly incredible truth surrounding the tremendous affliction, opposition, persecution, trials and tribulations they would face within this life. Jesus held absolutely no punches when speaking unto His disciples and made them very much aware and prepared for that which they would face in this life. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when seeking to understand our own life and that which we ourselves have been called to live in this life. I have presented the question of whether or not our lives are and have too comfortable and I would also like to ask the question of whether or not our lives have become too certain and perhaps even too quiet. Tell me—when was the last time you truly experienced any type of discomfort within your life? Please note that when I ask this question I am speaking purely and solely in terms of the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. When was the last time your life was interrupted and thrown into chaos because you were called by the name of Jesus, because you believed on the name of the Lord Jesus and because you preached the name of the Lord Jesus?
Having written these words and asked these questions I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the tenth, sixteenth, and twenty-fourth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. I would also like to draw your attention to the words which are found in the final section of the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John as well as the words which are found in the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter of the same gospel. Here within these passages of Scripture we get a clear and present understanding of what it means to truly walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to ask you when was the last time the cross—and not the cross upon which the Lord Jesus died upon—but the cross which you have been called to carry and bear has directly impacted your life? When was the last time the cross which you were called to carry created any type of distress, turmoil and chaos within your life? When was the last time the cross interrupted the quiet, peaceful, restful and perhaps even comfortable life you have lived in this life? This is something we dare not and must not be afraid to ask ourselves for there are many who have not only made the decision to walk with and follow Jesu but also to serve Him in the ministry under false pretenses coupled together with false context and false pretext. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there are countless men and women who have made a decision to believe on the Lord Jesus and “walk with Him” based on incomplete and errant teachings which have been presented unto them by the preachers of this generation. There are men and women who are much like those who received the word and with joy heard and abode within it for a season—that was until persecution, suffering, trials and afflictions arose for the sake of the word. There are those who heard and received the word of the Lord with joy and gladness and for a season perhaps even produced fruit, however when persecution arose for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus they were offended and would turn back and walk no more with the Lord Jesus. There are indeed men and women who came to Jesus without a clear understanding of what it truly means to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well the apostle John:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10;16-33).
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).
These were the words which are presented in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and they paint a very clear picture that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. What’s more is these words paint a very clear picture that if anyone loves father, or mother, or brother, or sister or anyone more than Jesus they were not worthy of Him. In addition to this these passages of Scripture paint a clear and present picture of how we can expect to and will in fact be hated of all nations for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. There is absolutely no denying nor mistaking the truth that is found within these passages of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to why we made and make the decision to believe on the name of Jesus of Nazareth, why we chose to be called by His name, and why we might even have chosen to preach and proclaim the name of the Lord Jesus. It is with this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. It is here within these passages of Scripture we find additional language concerning what it means to truly walk with and follow the Lord Jesus—something that requires a great deal of commitment, devotion, dedication, faithfulness and endurance. I am convinced that if we want to truly understand the language contained within the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we must needs consider these words for they help paint a powerful picture of what it truly means to walk as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John beginning with the seventeenth verse of the fifteenth chapter:
“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:17-27).
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killest you will think that he doeth God a service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:1-11).
I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words presented here in these passages of Scripture for here again Jesus emphatically declares unto the disciples that they would be hated of all men and of the nations for His name’s sake. The Lord Jesus made it very clear that walking with and following Him would require love and would warrant hate—and not merely hate but hatred on account of and for the sake of the name which we believe on, carry and bear. This is something which must needs be carefully considered when reading the words presented in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts for within this book we encounter and come face to face with the apostle Paul and his companions experiencing tremendous persecution. What we must needs recognize is that this persecution came not from the Gentiles but from his own countrymen. The persecution which the apostle Paul would indeed experience came from those Jews who were not only unbelieving but were also envious and moved with bitterness and offense. What’s more is that as you read the words found in the seventeenth chapter you will find that in Thessalonica—while it was indeed true that there were some of the Jews who believed—there were a vast majority of the Jews who did not believe. It was their unbelief coupled together with their envy that would essentially pit them against the apostle Paul—and not merely against the apostle Paul but ultimately against the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. When we read the words found in this passage of Scripture we are indeed brought face to face with the absolutely tremendous reality of the afflictions, the persecution, the suffering, the trials and the tribulations the apostle Paul and his companions would indeed experience. What’s more is there is a part of me that wonders if Silas and Timothy expected the level of persecution, suffering and affliction they did when coming to Philippi and now Thessalonica. Did Silas and Timothy anticipated and even expect persecution and suffering when coming unto these places or did they have the idea that they would come and preach the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus.
When you read the words presented in this passage of Scripture you can and will come face to face with the incredibly unique perspective of the apostle Paul and his companions experienced the resistance and opposition of the Jews. While in Thessalonica the apostle Paul would experience the rejection of those Jews who were of an unbelieving heart and those Jews who were moved with envy. If there is one thing we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we expect the preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus to not be without persecution, affliction, opposition and resistance. Did you ever believe and/or have you ever believed that you would preach the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus absent any persecution, opposition, suffering and resistance? The words and language found in this passage demonstrates that preaching the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus does in fact warrant strong resistance from those who do not believe and those whose hearts are hardened in the sight and presence of the living God. This passage demonstrates that persecution, resistance, opposition, suffering and affliction can indeed rise up on account of the word and name of the Lord Jesus and that we ought not to go into preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus thinking and expecting that everyone can and will resist it. If there is one thing I can’t help but wonder when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s how many of those who did not believe were present in the midst of the synagogue versus those who believed and received the word of the apostle Paul. The book of Acts only gives us two instances where we know the number of those who believed—the three thousand mentioned in the third chapter and the five thousand which was mentioned in the fifth chapter. Aside from this the language of “many,” “multitudes,” and the like was used in this New Testament book. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for Jesus never promised us large crowds, large audiences and even success when preaching His word, His name and His gospel.
I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this section of Scripture and while there would be those who would believe and would receive the word which the apostle Paul preached there were others whose hearts were hardened and unbelieving and would and could not receive the word he preached. One of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand is that although we have been commanded to go forth into all the nations teaching and baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus, in the name of the Holy Ghost and in the name of the Father that doesn’t mean that we are and/or were ever promised success. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs understand when reading these words is that although we have been called to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ we were never guaranteed it would be received. There was never any guarantee in any of the four gospels that when we preach the name of the Lord Jesus that there will be many who will believe and many who will receive the word and name which we love and present unto them. Jesus promised that signs and wonders will follow the preaching of the word and that signs and wonders will follow those who believe, however, Jesus never declared success in every city that we enter. In fact if you read the New Testament gospel narratives you will find that Jesus actually suggested there would be homes and entire cities that would reject, despise and ignore the word and name of the Lord Jesus. The simple fact that Jesus spoke of shaking the dust off one’s feet as a sign unto the cities and homes whereunto we have entered suggests that it’s possible for us to enter into houses and homes as well as cities preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus and we are not received by those to whom we have been sent. Not only this but even the ancient Hebrew prophets were accustomed to this for they were sent to a stiffnecked and hard-hearted people who would despise their words and shut their ears to the word of the LORD which was preached unto and among them.
With this being said we must needs recognize and understand that not only did the Lord Jesus not pretend that we would be successful in those places whereunto we would be sent but He also did not promise we would be received. Jesus promised that we would be hated, that we would be put out of synagogues, that we would experience suffering and persecution and that there would be times when we would have to shake the dust off our feet as a witness unto those in the cities and homes we entered bringing the word and name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding our need to have tempered expectations when we go forth and preach the word and name of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that when we read the words found in this passage of Scripture we will see that even moving from one city to another doesn’t mean nor does it guarantee that persecution, suffering, affliction, trials and troubles cannot and will not follow us. The apostle Paul and Silas would depart from Thessalonica and come unto Berea, however, the same trials, the same troubles and the same tribulations they experienced in Thessalonica would follow them to Berea. Oh this is something that warrants strong consideration when reading this particular chapter for there would be those who would like to think that simply moving from one city to another or moving from one church to another will automatically erase the suffering, the affliction, the persecution, the trials and the tribulations we experienced previously. This passage clearly demonstrates the fact that even when we transition from one place to another it is possible for the trouble we experienced in the previous place were were to follow and find us where we are presently. The apostle Paul and Silas would journey unto Berea and yet even there in Berea the Jews who sought to persecute them in Thessalonica would follow them there and unleash the same persecution against them.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the incredible words and language found here in this passage for there is something to be said about having our expectations tempered and properly measured when we make the decision to walk with and follow Jesus. If we have the understanding or expectation that when we make the decision to walk with and follow Jesus and be called by His name we will not experience any trials, troubles, tribulation, suffering and affliction we are sorely mistaken and will almost certainly be those who find themselves being offended and even angered when such situations arise. Moreover we must needs recognize that we have indeed been called and sent forth to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love our enemies while at the same time recognizing and understanding that Jesus never promised that we would be loved in return. Even when the lawyer asked Jesus who his neighbor was Jesus didn’t tell him who his neighbor was but proceeded to instruct him on how to be a neighbor unto others. This is something we must needs recognize for while we have indeed been called to love our neighbors and enemies while at the same time understanding that we were told we would be hated of all nations and of all men for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. In addition to this we were never promised that when we went forth preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus we would be successful and that our message would be received. Jesus never promised us that we would see multitudes be saved nor did He ever promise that we would have large crowds when we stood up for to preach His word and name. In all reality I would dare say there are far too many men and women who have untempered and false expectation and ideas about what it means to walk with and follow Jesus as well as loving others and even preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus. There are countless men and women who have the wrong idea that when they preach the word and name of the Lord Jesus they can and will be received and that the message itself will be received. The truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case and we must needs recognize that we have in fact been called to be men and women of stamina, men and women of endurance, men and women of courage, men and women of faithfulness and men and women who will walk with and follow Jesus regardless of the cost and what He asks of us.