From Ben Fronczek.... No Matter What Your Situation, Serve Jesus

No Matter What Your Situation, Serve Jesus

In our study of the Book of Acts, we now come its final story after the Apostle Paul arrives in Rome. I sure he gained the respect of the Roman guards who accompanied him on his voyage to Rome, but he is still a prisoner.

Acts 28:17-31  17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
   you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
   they hardly hear with their ears,
   and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
   hear with their ears,
   understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29]
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

At this point, Paul is still under house arrest. He is still in chains for a crime he didn’t commit. And he’s awaiting trial before the wicked emperor Nero. And he would be imprisoned for two years. To some it may have seemed as though his life and mission was over. And Paul could have thrown in the towel. And said, “Lord, I’m done.” But that’s not what Paul said. Instead, he said, “Lord, your grace is sufficient for me. And I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. And I’m going to take advantage of my situation. And bring as many people to the Lord as I possibly can.” While in that Roman jail Paul wrote what we know as this prison Epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. 

Listen to what he writes to those in Philippi:

 12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guardand to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” 1:12-14

We see the Gospel was advanced as a result of Paul’s imprisonment: 

#1) The palace guard was being evangelized, and  

#2) It helped boost the confidence of other Christians and caused them to be braver about sharing the Gospel  to others.

I believe Paul was a great missionary because he was willing to be one every single day of his life. No matter where he was or what he was going through. In fact, everyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior is accepting a missionary responsibility. How do I know that? Because Acts 1:8 says “you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth!”  And that was the very theme of this entire book. 

Every Christian in this room has a story and is has witnessed  things that God has don in your own life.  You are witnesses to the power and mercy of God and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. I recently read about a woman by the name of Myrtie Howell. She was a devoted Christian woman. But she had lived a hard life. Her family was very poor. When she was 10, she quit school and went to work in a steel mill for 10 cents a day. She married at age 17. But in early 1940, her husband was killed in an accident. And when that happened, she lost her home. And she had to go back to work to support herself and her three kids.
Years later, her declining health forced her to move into an old, high rise nursing home. A few weeks later, her youngest son died. And that’s when she fell into a depression. She said, “Lord, what more can I do for you? I’ve lost everything that ever meant something to me. And now I’m stuck in this dark, dreary room. I have nothing left to live for! I want to die! I’ve had enough of this prison. Take me home.” But then God spoke to her as clear as possible. He said, “I’m not through with you yet, Myrtie. I want you write to prisoners.” So she wrote a letter and sent it to the Atlanta Penitentiary. And this is what the letter said: “Dear inmate. I am a grandmother who loves and cares for you. I am willing to be a friend. If you’d like to hear from me, write me. I will answer every letter you write. A Christian friend, Grandmother Howell.” The letter was given to the prison chaplain. And he gave her the names of eight prisoners she could write to. Prison Fellowship gave her some more names. Soon, she was corresponding with up to 40 inmates a day. She became a one woman ministry reaching into prisons all over America. Later she said, “I thought my life was over. But these past few years have been the most fulfilling years of my life! I thank Prison Fellowship! And most of all, I thank Jesus!” Myrtie Howell became a great missionary for God out of a one room apartment.

No matter where you live. Or what your situation is like. God can still do wonderful things through your life. As long as your heart is still beating, and your blood is still pumping, Jesus Christ is not through with you. Some of you may be thinking, “I’m still waiting to find God’s will for my life. If he would only tell me! In a dream. Or in a vision. Or in a moment of inspiration.” Here’s your moment of inspiration: God’s will for your life is right here in Acts 1! Be a witness for Jesus Christ wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

There are 3 things you should do if you are ready to be a missionary for God.

#1: Be available: In Acts 28, Paul calls together all the Jewish leaders. And basically says, “Guys. I just want you to know that I’m available! I’m a Christian. And I’m able to talk more about it at your convenience.” Well you may be thinking, “Well I’ve tried but the people I talked to did not respond.” Well are you any different than Paul here? How many time did people reject his teachings. For that matter how many rejected the words of Jesus himself?  The simple fact of the matter is, many will not want to hear what you want to say…… but some will.

#2 We should be hospitable. In Acts 28:30 it says that Paul welcomed all who came to see him.” He wasn’t prejudiced against any race or any religion. He welcomed everyone! We talked a lot about this in the last lesson.
I believe there are a lot of people out there looking for something and many of them don’t know what they are looking for. Our Love and Hospitality will help them find what they are looking for.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 Paul wrote to them saying:

 “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but OUR LIVES AS WELL!”

People’s lives are rarely changed because of a sermon or a visit to church. But they are often changed by Christian people who live out the truth of those sermons every day of their lives. You have a chance to become a neighbor like that!   And to become a great missionary for God.
So be available. Be hospitable. 

#3, you have to be biblical. In Acts 28:23, it says that from morning till evening, Paul tried to convince them about Jesus. from scripture. It’s good to be nice,  and neighborly, and compassionate. But at some point, you have to say something. The name of Jesus has to come up in conversation. We should not be afraid to use God’s word at the appropriate time. Do you remember that God’s word is sharper than any double edged sword… it can even cut right down into the heart of the strongest man. Most scholars believe that Paul was set free after this first imprisonment in Rome to continue his mission for Christ. Many believe that this first imprisonment took place between the 60 to 62 AD. After being released he Returned to the Aegean area. And sometime between 62-66 He wrote his Pastorial Epistles of 1 Timothy and Titus. He was again arrested in Rome in the years of 67 where he wrote 2 Timothy and then was Martyred in Rome in the year AD 68. Do you want to know what Paul was all about? Well he lets us know in his writings.

In Philippians 1:21 Paul writes:

 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!”                                                                                                                                  

In Philippians 3:7-13 he writes: 

 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

But then in his final letter to Timothy he writes just before his death, “6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)            

If the Church is going to grow in our generation, we’ll need more men and women like Paul. My encouragement this today is than we do not forget our Christian mission, and that is to share the good news about Jesus with those we come in contact with. Like Paul, it will help to be available, to be hospitable, and us the Word of God at the appropriate times.

(Based on a sermon by Dr. Marc Axelrod)

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