Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, July 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/6/16 Sermon - The Lord's Will Be Done

“The Lord’s Will Be Done”

Acts 21:1-16

 

We are coming down to the “home stretch” of the Book of Acts. We will need to leave the last inning for after New Year’s as Advent and Christmas are coming. Today will be our last message from the Book of Acts for a while. We will leave off in Chapter 21, just as Paul enters Jerusalem where he will be

falsely accused,

nearly killed,

arrested and then

“rescued” by

the Roman authorities,

who will eventually make sure

Paul goes to Rome

to await a trial before Caesar.

Definitely a cliff hanger.

 

Today’s reading in Acts 21 has Paul and his companions completing the last leg of their journey to Jerusalem which started back in Acts chapter 19, when Paul had resolved to go to Jerusalem.

 

Now after all these things had taken place, Paul resolved to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. He said, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome”

Acts 19:21

 

One of the reasons he was intent on making it to Jerusalem was to bring the saints in Judea the money he had collected from the Gentile churches he had founded across Asia and Macedonia.

 

The other reason was because Paul was “compelled by the Spirit”. Last week we read in Acts 20:22-24,

 

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem without knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace

 

 

Chapter 21 begins with Paul and those traveling with him, having departed from the elders from Ephesus, which has a more literal translation of “tore themselves away from them”. It had to have been difficult for Paul to leave those he had poured his life and love into and

for those leaders who loved him in return

to have to say goodbye, for good.

 

They landed next in Tyre, and they found disciples living there. We have not read about a church being planted in Tyre in the Book of Acts, which reminds us that although the Book of Acts tells us of the early church’s activity, it does not tell us everything that happened. Paul found a  group of disciples and among them there were those who had the gift of prophesy and they prophesied of the danger that Paul would encounter should he go to Jerusalem. This wasn’t the first warning Paul had received, nor would it be his last.

 

Again, as they were leaving, everyone from Tyre that was with Paul accompanied him out of the city, which was a tradition, but the kneeling down on the shore together for prayer was unique to Christians.

The warnings kept coming. They made one stop for a day in Ptolemais, and then departed to Caesarea, where they met up with Philip, one of the seven men who had been chosen back at the beginning of Acts to serve tables. He had settled in Caesarea and had four daughters who each had the gift of prophecy.

 

According to ancient records, “The daughters, or at least some of them, lived to a great age, and were highly esteemed as informants on persons and events belonging to the early years of Judean Christianity.”  (Bruce)

 

The daughters did not have a particular prophesy for Paul, but a prophet named, Agabus, came down from Judea and “play-acts” a message he had received from the Holy Spirit, to Paul and his companions. After hearing and seeing this drama those traveling with Paul became concerned and urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

 

Yet Paul remained true to what he felt in his heart. His response in verse 13 reads,

 

“Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

 

The companions then realized Paul could not be persuaded so they stopped and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

 

That statement

“Let the will of the Lord be done.”

is easy to say, easy to believe, but not so easy to discern.

 

Jesus taught his disciples to say it, and it has been repeated ever since by Christians throughout the centuries, and how often do we actually live it out, much like Paul did here?

 

You know the prayer, we said it together this morning,

“Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name,

Thy Kingdom come,

Thy will be done, …..”

 

I don’t know about you, but discerning God’s will, in the midst of all the other wills, and ideas, and suggestions that come our way, is often, not so easy.

 

Let’s look at Paul’s example and try to glean some wisdom from his actions to figure out what is the will of God and what isn’t.

 

Paul stated he “was bound by the Holy Spirit” to go to Jerusalem. As far as I can tell, Paul was quite aware of the consequences that would occur if he were to follow this will of God. I think that is our first clue. Were we to claim that we have heard the “will of God” but we were not willing to see the obvious circumstances around the action, it should be a sign that something was not quite right. If Paul wasn’t personally aware, he had many friends and prophets reminding him of the danger he was facing. Although it may have seemed like the prophesies of those around Paul were in contrast to what Paul thought his will to be, I think the idea of listening to what God is telling other Christians helps us to understand God’s will for our own life, if we are willing to listen. Paul understood that if he was to follow God’s will it would mean hardship.

 

Which brings me to the tricky part of doing the will of God. How many of our family and friends have the gift of prophecy? Yet, how many of our family and friends are eager to tell us when we about to get ourselves into trouble? And just because what God has called us to may be difficult, does that mean we shouldn’t do it? I wonder if they are listening to God, or like Paul’s companions, after hearing Agabus, out of fear, more than God’s prophesy, urged Paul to not go to Jerusalem.

 

The power of fear, often gets in the way of our doing what God has asked us to do. So why doesn’t Paul have fear?

 

I think Paul did have fear, he was human after all. But I think Paul’s relationship with Jesus and God was greater than the fear he felt.

 

Which still leaves us with what seems to be a conflict between Paul’s conviction and his friend’s prophesies. Everyone Paul came in contact with seemed to give a prophecy, from God, that was contrary to Paul’s understanding of what God told him.

And yet, when we look closely we realize it really wasn’t. The prophecies given to Paul by those he met didn’t tell him not to go, but they do told him what will happen if he did go. Based on the negative things that would occur, the human interpretation of the Holy Spirit’s prophesy of the danger Paul would encounter was to tell Paul, not to go.

 

How often does our human interpretation of what we perceive as something bad happening, get in the way of us being in the will of God?

 

Paul wasn’t being disobedient and stubborn by following what he had heard from the Holy Spirit and ignoring what others were telling him. Paul was quite aware what was in store for him when he arrived in Jerusalem. Yet, in his personal relationship with Jesus, he had been given the strength of the Holy Spirit to endure whatever hardships would come his way, even unto to death.

 

Human application and interpretation is understandable, even logical, but that doesn’t mean it is from God.

 

Paul had been given confirmation from the prophets he met along the way to Jerusalem that he should expect trouble once he arrived. Paul wasn’t rebelling against God, but was being obedient to the command of the Holy Spirit he had been given in his own heart. The warnings he received were intended to prepare Paul, not to stop him.

 

What does it mean to have something from God in your heart?

 

Well for Paul, God had already revealed to him at the time of his conversion what was going to happen to him back in Acts 9:15-16,

 

But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16).

 

God has also revealed difficulties for all Christians, we need to read:

 

 

John 16:33 ESV

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

2 Timothy 3:1-17 ESV 

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ...

1 Peter 2:21 ESV

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

 

 

 

Ephesians 6:12 ESV

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Let’s face it, the idea of seeking God’s will is not a popular one, even among Christians. Because underneath we all know that God’s will involves sacrifice and suffering, and quite frankly, it’s a lot nicer just getting by living the Christian life and quietly fitting in and not making waves.

Paul didn’t find that appealing. He was ready to give all he had. I think it was because he had a comprehension of all that Christ had done for him and realized that the only way he could show his love for Jesus was to follow Jesus, 100%. Regardless of the consequences, even death.

I know that God has a will for each of us. I also know that it is God’s will that we seek Him to find it.

John 17:7 reads,

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, they will know whether the teaching is from God…”

God wants us to be in His will more than we do. The decision really is whether we are willing to surrender our will. The best place to find out how to do so is by reading and studying God’s Word, and getting to know God better.

 

I think we often get caught up in thinking that God’s will is for us to live in a particular place, chose a particular job, marry a particular person, when in reality God’s utmost will for each of us is

to recognize that God loves us,

God is good,

and anyone who laid down his life for us,

has invested in us already and

we have the freedom to rest in His love.

Paul shows us through the Book of Acts, that regardless of the circumstances around us, when God is first in our lives, God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven.

 

 

Lord’s Supper.