Encouragement From the Lord – Acts 18 by Ben Fronczek


Encouragement From the Lord – Acts 18

Encouragement From the Lord – Paul in Corinth
 (Acts 18:1-11)
What does ‘Throwing in a towel’ symbolize?  – Giving up, quitting. Getting so discouraged we just can’t go on any further.
I suppose all of us some time or another feel like throwing in the proverbial towel. We get depressed, or want to give up and quit. Some of us can’t wait for Jesus to return and take us home. Sometime I just wish that I’d go to sleep some night and  wake up in Heaven.
Did you ever feel like that? Like: “There’s no use. Life is too hard. The harder I try, worse things get.   I just feel like I’m spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.”  Daily stresses, and problems at work, at home, sometimes can seem like such a grind, and so repetitive, like a Chinese water torture!
I know this is true for 2 reasons:
I talk to many of you who’ve been there. And I’ve been there myself…. More than once!
Sometimes God’s people need a spiritual pick me up, a 2nd wind…
Even heroes of old; Examples:
• Moses – The Greatest leader, handpicked by God!  He spoke to God face to face, yet in Numbers 11:15 he said to God, “put me to death” The Israelites and their complaining  were driving him over the edge.
• Elijah – Greatest prophet of OT. He willingly challenged the idolatry of his day/called fire down from heaven/won a faceoff with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah. Yet in I Kings 19:4 after it was all over he runs with fear from Jezebel, and after sitting down under a broom tree he asked God if he could just die, he said, “I’ve had enough Lord, … take my life!”
• Job – We talk about his patience and faith, and he was truly a great man…he had a great beginning and a great ending, but in-between, when he lost everything, he wished he had not been born, He cursed the very day he was born. (Job 3)
• Jonah – He wanted God to kill him to take his life. He was spiritually depressed and was not even happy for the 120,000 souls that just got saved in Nineveh!  (Jonah 4)
And then we come to Paul in Acts 18. Here we find him on his 2nd missionary journey, coming from Athens to Corinth. I can’t help but believe he was experiencing a low time in his life. We know that because in I Cor. 2:3 Paul writes of that time: “I came to you in weakness and in fear, and with much trembling”  In other words: “I was wreck.”
-Fatigue probably consumed him after his 53 mile walk.
-He was alone. He had left his friends Timothy and Silas back in Berea.
-He was probably out of money and needed to work, he was glad he found fellow a tent maker (v. 3)
-He probably had a sense of failure. He didn’t really have much success in Athens. Some even accused him of being a “babbler.”
-He was probably a bit frustrated and over whelmed, leaving a city of idolatry and was heading for one of the most sinful cities in the world, Corinth.   It hosted the Temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of sex, and it was said that a thousand priestesses prostituted their bodies in the name of religion!
By this point on this trip he had been beaten and jailed at Philippi, persecuted at Thessalonica and Berea, ridiculed in Athens, and now he was in Corinth and had to deal with all the smut.  So he starts preaching Jesus in the local synagogue. And what happens,   the Jews get him so upset  he literally shakes out his cloths  in protest to them and said, “You blood be on your own heads.”  By now he was probably at a low point in his ministry even though his friends Timothy and Silas finally caught up with him.  He was now angry at the Jews and I’m sure a bit disappointed.
But then the Lord came to Paul and showed him that this was not the time to throw in the towel!
Let me read to you this story –  Read Acts 18:1-11 “After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.  But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.”
In this section the Lord reminds Paul and us of a few things that should encourage him and us:
1. The Lord is presence  In vss. 9-10 the Lord tells Paul,  “Don’t’ be afraid, for I am with you…….”
• As a matter of fact, He is present in times of loneliness
In Heb. 13:5-7, The Lord reminded His people by saying, “I will never leave you, never will I forsake you.”  And so His people will say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can a man do to me?”
At His birth that is what His name “Emmanuel”   meant, –  “God with us”
And before Jesus ascended, after giving the Great commission, one of the last things that Jesus told His disciples was, “Lo, I am with you always”
People may let you down, abandon you even hurt you. Your best friend may stab you in the back, but our Lord said, “I will never leave you.”  We may not see Him with these eyes or hear Him with these ears but He is a friend that sticks closer to us than anyone else.   We are never truly alone.
• He is also with us in the valley when we are lower than we’ve ever been.
When defeat comes /discouragement/sickness/ financial reversal/heartaches/family problems…remember that the God of the mountain is still God in the valley! 
Story: A little boy went home after school very sad & told mom about Billy, his best friend, who had been absent for 3 days, he had found out today why when he returned to class…his daddy died, and when he told us, he cried and just laid my head flat on his desk. Mom asked “what did you do?” He said, I didn’t know what to do, so I just laid my head on my desk and cried, too! (that’s the kind of Savior we have!)
In John. 11:35-36 do you remember what Jesus did when he saw Lazarus’ family crying at his grave even though He knew He was going to raise him from the dead; even though He knew things were going to get better? Jesus cried right along with them.
Our Lord is there in the valley with you when you’re down in the deepest pit!  Don’t forget that!
• He’s Even with us In death     In Ps. 23 David said, “yea, tho’ I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…for thou art with me!”
So the Lord encourages Paul by letting him know, ‘It’s too soon to quit!’ We have the promise of His presence!
2. The 2nd thing the Lord lets Paul know besides the fact that he is not alone is,  God going to protect him.   v. 10 says “Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent for I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you” .…not that he wouldn’t be hurt,  he just wouldn’t be harmed there in Corinth!
Later, some would kill the apostle Paul, but not until he was able to say, “I have finished my course.”   They killed the Lord Jesus, but not before He said, “It is finished!”
God has a purpose for your life. (Probably more than you realize) And if you choose to, you can live it out, fearlessly…Though there may be persecution, trials and hardships…until your work here is done, until God’s purpose for you is complete, He is not going to let any real harm come to you.  Nothing is going to happen to you without the Lord’s permission.
So He tells Paul, ‘don’t quit yet. It’s too soon to throw in the towel there in Corinth!
Someone once said, “Ahead of us He’s our guide, behind us He’s our guard, under us are His everlasting arms, and above us, if we’ll look up, He’s ever-present with us in a cloud of glory!”
3. The 3rd thing we see is God’s insight and potential  
The 3rd thing the Lord tells Paul in vs. 10 is, “I have many people in this city”  How could God say that? So far there were no more than a handful of Christians in Corinth!
The Lord didn’t just see the perverts of this city. He also saw those whose heart were ready to turn to Him. Years later when the church was much bigger,  Paul writes to the Corinthians saying this in I Cor. 6: 9 “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. “ NLT
Over and over Paul was comforted by God’s love and compassion. I believe the conscious reality of God’s love and compassion encouraged him and gave him the 2nd wind he needed. Read 2 Cor. 1:3-5  “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.” NLT
Over and over God tries to get us see that He loves us but for some reason many of us just don’t give ourselves fully to Him and His love. We are distracted by other things in this world which we think will give us what we think we need to make us feel happy.
Illustration: Let me tell a little story in closing. I hope in hearing it you will see how much God loves you and me. And I hope that it will give you comfort, and strength and a second wind when you are down.
“In a particular neighborhood some children grew up together, played together as is quite common in most neighborhoods across the world. In this particular neighborhood a little girl by the name of Sally and a little boy by the name of Billy were neighbors and were good friends throughout the early years of their life. Being the same age they both entered school at the same time and even had some of the same classes together. Sally was quite pretty, slim with blue eyes and wavy strawberry blond hair She had a sweet yet outgoing personality, she liked sports and eventually joined the cheerleading and track teams at school. Billy was a little different. He was quite and fairly common looking. He wasn’t very tall and at times he got a little pudgy around the middle. He wasn’t so much into school team sports, rather he gravitated more towards nature. He like fishing, hiking, boating and camping.
Though they were friends and neighbors for as long as they could remember, as they entered puberty, junior high and then later high school, Billy started feeling a little different towards Sally. What started as child-like friendship eventually grew into feelings of love and concern for his little friend next door who had now developed into a beautiful young woman.  They still talked and teased one another, but it wasn’t until their freshman year in HS that Billy mustered up the courage to tell Sally how he really felt about her. He told her that he loved her, it was something that she already knew, and he told her that he wanted to be more than just the neighbor friend next door. Now Sally like Billy, they had been friends all their life, and she told him that in a way she did love him, but not the way he wanted, rather, it was more like love one would have for a brother.
Billy was humble. He did not get angry or try to make her feel guilty, though inside he did feel sad because he knew that he love her like no other. Every now and then, maybe twice a year when they were alone and had a chance to talk he repeatedly let her know that he still loved her in a way that did not put her on a guilt trip. He would even watch out for her, protect her and her reputation at school behind the scene. He would leave little gifts for her now and then, and even  some affectionate notes teasing her in a friendly way.
But Sally had busied herself  with new friends, activities, sports cheerleading, track, parties, football players, clothes and boys with nice cars. But despite all the changes Billy kept a close watch on her and loved her from a distance.
One day unexpectedly, during a track meet, Sally collapsed on the field and lost consciousness. She was rushed to the local hospital and what the doctors found shook her mom and dad to the core. Sally had a major heart defect which was non repairable. Sally’s heart was so bad that they told her mom and dad that if they did not find another heart soon, she would not recover. He told them they had put in an emergency request to the donated organ banks around the country for another heart.
Billy was devastated. This sweet young lady that he loved all his life was at the brink of death and almost lost to him. The next day the doctor came to Sally and her parents with good news, the organ transplant bank called about a heart and delivered it to the hospital. That same day she was rushed to the O-R and they put the new heart in Sally with much success. And all the parents could do was weep every time they saw her because they thought they were going to lose their little girl.
I wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when she was well on the road to recovery that Sally found out why her parents continued to weep so much when they saw her. That is until she found out whose heart was beating inside her giving her life. That’s when she began to weep. It was Billy’s
Billy was  distraught when he learned that his beloved was going to die if she didn’t get a heart. After hearing that there were none available for her anywhere, he went home, he went into the bathroom, he wrote a letter, called 911, and then proceeded to cut his wrist very deep and then put his hand it in the tub. Not long after an ambulance and the rescue crews arrived at his house and there was a lot of confusion. They found him not to long after he passed away with a note pinned to his shirt, with a smile on his face.
The note read,
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13   
Mom, dad, please don’t be mad because I did this. Please make sure they give Sally my heart.  I gave it to her a long time ago.                                        
With no regrets, Billy
P.S. Sally, do not be up set with me for doing this. Just remember that I love you and that as long as you live, I will be with you always and give you a renewed strength with evey beat of this heart.
As I thought about this story, I could not help but think about our Lord and what He has done for us. Our entire life, from the time we were conceived, He has loved us. He has let us know this of over and over and over again in many different ways sending us messages, gifts and blessings wanting us to draw closer to Him.
Like Sally we are distracted  by so many other people and things of this world.  Some of these people and things have hurt us. But also like Sally we have an incurable disease that is going to destroy us, and that disease is called sin.  And what did our Lord do? Like Billy, He made the ultimate sacrifice, He freely gave His life on that cross to save us. A true expression of love.
But unlike Billy, Jesus rose again to become Lord over all. And then He planted His very Spirit in us as we rise out of the watery grave of baptism so that we can be born anew and so that He will be ever present in us to help us, give us strength and comfort us.
As he reminded Paul in Corinth, He said, ‘I will be with you always, when you are lonely, when you are depress, when you feel like no one else understands or cares, I am with you and I love you and no one can separate me from you. So hold on. Be of good cheer, Hold your head up, take courage. We are yoked together, when you are burdened, let Me carry the load.
I don’t know about you but when I wake up and realize how much I am loved, and that God has a special purpose for my life, and that He is going to help me and protect me, that helps me get out of my frump and leave my own pity party behind. It lets me know that God doesn’t want we to throw in the towel because he still want me to use that towel for something.