#6 The Lord Is With You Series
"THE LORD IS WITH YOU IN OPPOSITION!"
TEXT: Acts 17:32-18:17 1 Cor. 2:3
INTRO: No one likes opposition, yet, as Christians we must face the fact that this will be a real part of life at times. Why does God allow opposition into our life? What purpose does God see in our struggles with opposition? God usually helps us in one of two ways when opposition strikes us: He may shield us from the terrible storm or He may have us face directly into it! In either case He is trying to teach us to hold on to Him ... we must adopt the strategy of the vine!
ILLUS: THE VINE HAS DEVELOPED ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL METHODS OF SURVIVAL IN NATURE. IT IS CAPABLE OF DEVELOPING IN ANY CLIMATIC CONDITION, IT IS ABLE TO GROW AS TALL AS THE TALLEST TREE WITHOUT HAVING TO BUILD A HUGE TRUNK FOR SUPPORT, IT CAN SPEND IT'S ENERGY ON GROWTH UPWARDS BECAUSE IT UTILIZES THE STRENGTH OF WHATEVER IT CLINGS TO, THUS IT GROWS MUCH FASTER THAN THE VERY TREE IT ATTACHES ITSELF TO. WHY IS IT ABLE TO STAND ANY STORM FROM ANY DIRECTION? IT WINDS ITSELF AROUND IN A CIRCLE UPWARDS. IT DOES THIS SO THAT NO MATTER WHICH WAY A STORM COMES FROM IT CANNOT BE SHAKEN OFF ... EVEN THOSE VINES THAT GROW STRAIGHT UP ARE UNSHAKABLE ... WHY? IF A VINE GROWS ON THE NORTH SIDE OF A TREE AND A STORM COMES FROM THE NORTH, THE WINDS WILL DRIVE THE VINE INTO THE STRONG TREE, IT REMAINS IN POSITION THEREFORE, IF THE WINDS COME FROM THE SOUTH, THE TREE ITSELF WILL SHIELD THE VINE FROM THE WINDS, AGAIN IT REMAINS UNMOVED ... EVEN THOSE THAT GROW STRAIGHT TEND TO WIND SLOWLY SO THAT ONE PART OF THE VINE IS ALWAYS PROTECTED FROM A STORM IN ANY DIRECTION! THE VINE IS AS SAFE AND AS STRONG AS THAT WHICH IT CLINGS TO. SOURCE UNKNOWN
And so we are to be like a vine clinging to Christ ... if opposition comes against us head-on He is our shield; if it comes from the other direction it can only drive us closer to Christ and so we still are safe! Like the vine, we are only as strong as that which we really cling to ... so cling to the strongest thing in the Universe which is God! Anything else might give way eventually, cling to the best!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that in any type of opposition God has promised to be with us ... His presence will enable us to survive any type of opposition ... in fact, not only survive it but to actually continue growing in spite of it!
I. EMOTIONAL OPPOSITION Acts 17:32-34 1 Cor. 2:3
A. Disappointment Acts -34
1. Paul was no stranger to
2. He was sneered for his convictions.
3. According to 7:34a only a few people responded to the call of salvation.
4. It was not one of Paul's more successful evangelism campaigns!
5. Before arriving in Athens Paul had
also had a rough time, agitators had created problems of opposition for him
before he got to
a. Paul was going from being harassed
by the Jews in Thessalonica to having few positive responses in
b. Even the godliest of people become discouraged without some positive results occasionally!
c. Unsuccessful ministry can bring disappointment to the level of severe emotional discouragement ... even for leaders who are normally very strong!
6. Paul's disappointing results of ministry in Athens after having to run away from opposition in Thessalonica left him quite vulnerable when arriving now here in Corinth!
a. Of all cities to go to for ministry, after a disappointing ministry in Athens he comes to a city with a church full of conflict and a city full of sin and hostility to the Gospel and his leadership!
c. It was not an easy city to minister in, preachers were not exactly welcomed!
d. Add to this a church that was deeply divided and full of selfishness and not mature, and you can see why this was a challenge emotionally. When Paul arrives in Corinth he finds a church that was divided over which leaders they were willing to follow, and there were groups within the church that favored different leaders, they were deeply divided.
B. Drained! 1 Cor. 2:3
1. Paul gives us insight into his emotional state when he arrived in Corinth in his own writings ... here Paul states that when he arrived in town he did so IN WEAKNESS; AND FEAR, AND WITH MUCH TREMBLING.
a. Clearly 3 tough situations in a row had taken its toll on him, and he reflects honestly his response to the constant opposition and hostility, not just from the world but even from within the church!
b. Paul was not exempt being drained emotionally just like you and me!
c. Opposition can bring on emotional bankruptcy!
d. A great man of God is honest about
his emotional nature ... he writes this to the church at
2. It was in this condition that Paul first came and preached to the Corinthians!
a. Sometimes we minister from an exhausted condition!
b. It is amazing how God enables us in our weaknesses to still minister!
3. Perhaps today some Christians would have questioned whether Paul had hidden sin in his life ... they would have looked for some explanation for Paul's emotional state, at best they would have questioned Paul's faith!
a. We need to be honest as God's people, we all experience discouraging times!
b. Even the best can become emotionally drained!
c. It is not always sin or lack of faith that is at the basis of a saint's discouragement, it may simply be the fact that they are human and worn out!
4. Paul was spent emotionally when he arrived to minister in Corinth!
a. What does Paul do while in this state of mind? THIS IS VERY INSTRUCTIVE FOR US ... WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN DRAINED?
b. At such times we need to do 2 things:
(1. Get refilled spiritually ...
ILLUS: "The only way to keep a broken vessel full is by keeping the faucet turned on." SOURCE UNKNOWN
(2. Keep ministering or seek someone else's need out, this is often where some Christians miss out, they get refilled and then do nothing!
ILLUS: THE FAMOUS PSYCHIATRIST, KARL MENNINGER ONCE GAVE A LECTURE ON MENTAL HEALTH AND WAS ANSWERING QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE. ONE QUESTION WAS ASKED, "WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE A PERSON TO DO IF THAT PERSON FELT A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN COMING 0N." MOST PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE EXPECTED HIM TO ANSWER, "CONSULT A PSYCHIATRIST." TO THEIR ASTONISHMENT, HE REPLIED, "LOCK UP YOUR HOUSE, GO ACROSS THE RAILWAY TRACKS, FIND SOMEONE IN NEED, AND THEN DO SOMETHING TO HELP THAT PERSON." SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. Paul was not going to sit back quietly when drained, emotional opposition only made him keep going!
II. ECONOMIC OPPOSITION Acts 18:1-5
A. Deficits! Acts 18:1-3
1. Paul found himself economically depressed when he arrived in Corinth!
a. He had no income or very little
from his unsuccessful ministry in
b. While he found himself struggling emotionally, he also found himself struggling economically!
c. He is forced to go back to his secular employment in order to continue ministry.
2. Paul meets a couple by the names of Aquilla and Priscilla who were in the same occupation he had been before ministry ... he sets up shop with them! Though he was an Apostle and could have expected the church in Corinth to support him he chose to not be a burden to them, but to set an example and remove any charges against him that he was there for money, so he accepts the burden himself for economic support though he certainly deserved support from the church, and could have received it from them, they were capable of giving it.
a. Paul worked again as a tentmaker so that he could minister on weekends.
b. It was tough enough being drained emotionally, but now he was also economically!
3. At this point many Christians might have raised some questions with God:
a. Why God are you doing this to me when I have been faithful to serve you?
b. "If this is going to be the rewards of faithfulness Lord then what's the use serving you or others?"
c. But Paul just keeps on going ... it must have been rough on him to only be able to minister on weekends, or to lovingly serve those in a church that was filled with conflict and resistant to his leadership after he proved himself and his sacrifices!
4. Paul accepted the opposition God allowed and did the best he could with it!
5. This was not the ideal situation he would have liked to be in ... but in his own words he had said, "I've learned to be content in want or abundance."
B. Devoted! Acts 18:4-5
1. Finally Silas and Timothy arrive
2. To his great delight Paul discovers that they have brought an offering along for Paul ... a generous one that allows Paul to give up his secular employment for full time ministry again!
a. God proves Himself faithful to the economic needs of His servant who continued to be faithful in the midst of opposition!
b. Paul had learned to trust God and keep going even when facing opposition!
c. Paul had also learned time and time again that God will take care of His needs!
3. Paul returns full time to preaching Jesus Christ, and as was his custom to the Jew first, then the Gentiles!
4. Emotional and economical opposition did not slow or prevent the message from getting out!
III. ECCLESIASTICAL OPPOSITION Acts 18:6-17
A. Denounced! Acts 18:6
1. Ironically, Paul's opposition wasn't over ... emotionally, economically, and now the religious people oppose him!
2. The Jews opposed him to the point of being abusive! 18:6
a. This may have taken on the forms of physical abuse as well as verbal abuse!
b. Paul had probably read the passages about the Messiah in the Old Testament in the Synagogue and substituted the words in the text that refers to the Messiah with Jesus' name, thus identifying Jesus as the Messiah of God thus creating strong opposition to him by the Jewish audience!
c. This hadn't sat well with these Jewish worshippers ... they liked things the way it had always been, they weren't looking for the Messiah, just comfort!
3. Paul experiences great opposition
... just what he needed after
4. Paul is denounced, and so he clears himself of further obligation to these people so that he can continue ministry to those who will receive!
a. At some point, ministry needs to be evaluated and adjusted if there is no response.
b. Paul would move on by making himself available to those who will respond.
5. There is something worse than being denounced, that is quitting or just continuing to do something that is unproductive over and over again!
B. Devoted! Acts 18:7-11
1. Paul might have been tempted to do less at this point in time, arguing to himself that things just aren't going well, maybe he should do less ... he doesn't settle for less or second best however, he just moves operations next door!
ILLUS: A COMMITTEE ONCE ASKED THE GREAT SINGER ENRICO CARUSO TO SING AT A CONCERT THAT WOULD BENEFIT A CHARITY. THE CHAIRMAN SAID, 0F COURSE MR. CARUSO, AS THIS IS A CHARITY AFFAIR WE WOULD NOT EXPECT MUCH FROM YOU, YOUR NAME ALONE WILL DRAW A CROWD AND YOU CAN MERELY SING SOME SONG REQUIRING LITTLE OR NO EFFORT OF SKILL. CARUSO DREW HIMSELF UP AND REPLIED, "GENTLEMEN, CARUSO NEVER DOES LESS THAN HIS BEST!" SOURCE UNKNOWN
2. Paul's efforts were not totally in vain though he is badly mistreated in the Synagogue, the ruler of that synagogue responds to the message of Christ and he and his family receive Christ! 18:7
a. Crispus now also experiences opposition, it is not popular for the ruler of the synagogue to get saved!
b. Paul also experiences some encouragement by the fact that many Corinthians also get saved! 18:7b
3. Paul's devotion to the ministry pays off, even in the midst of religious opposition!
4. Paul's faithfulness to minister in spite of spiritual opposition results in the salvation of many people!
a. Instead of running away from opposition we must look for creative opportunities to continue ministry.
b. God can use the worst of situations in a positive way.
ILLUS: A CHRISTIAN YOUNG MAN FOUND HIMSELF IN THE MILITARY. AS HE HAD ALWAYS DONE GROWING UP HE WOULD KNEEL EACH NIGHT AT HIS BED TO PRAY. IN THE BARRACKS HOWEVER THIS MADE HIM THE FOCUS OF OPPOSITION, ESPECIALLY ONE MAN WHO TOOK PARTICULAR DELIGHT IN HARASSING HIM. AS HE WAS PRAYING ONE NIGHT AFTER A HARD LONG MARCH THROUGH MUDDY FIELDS, ONE OF HIS TORMENTORS TOOK OFF HIS MUDDY BOOTS AND THREW THEM AT HIM ONE AT A TIME HITTING HIM ON EACH SIDE OF HIS HEAD. THE CHRISTIAN SAID NOTHING AND CONTINUED TO PRAY, HE TOOK THE MUDDY BOOTS AND SET THEM BESIDE HIM WHILE HE PRAYED ON AND THE OTHERS WENT TO BED. THE NEXT MORNING WHEN HIS TORMENTOR WOKE UP HE FOUND HIS MUDDY SHOES SPIT POLISHED TO A CLEAN SHINE AND LAYING AT THE FOOT OF HIS BED, HAVING BEEN CLEANED AND SHINED BY THE CHRISTIAN DURING THE NIGHT. IT SO AFFECTED HIM THAT HE ASKED FOR FORGIVENESS AND AFTER A SHORT TIME HE TOO BECAME A CHRISTIAN! SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. Jesus Christ has a message for Paul in the face of all this opposition ... and so in a dream Jesus appears to Paul to tell him something important:
a. "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."
b. Added to this is the reason: "I have many
people in this city" ... meaning that the Lord had plans for many
people to get saved in
c. God will guarantee Paul success in ministry!
6. Armed with God's promise to be with him in opposition Paul stays on in Corinth for a year and a half, the second longest stay in one place for Paul in ministry that we know of!
7. The tables of opposition are about to be turned now ... Paul is about to experience a great deliverance from opposition and those who opposed him are about to taste their own medicine!
C. Deliverance! 18:12-17
1. The opposition didn't die down when Paul moved next door to the synagogue for ministry; frustrated, the Jews took him to court to tried to shut him down, arguing that what Paul preached was not the officially sanctioned Jewish faith, but some new cult!
2. New religions were against the law
a. Now Paul faces political opposition!
b. Before Paul can get a word in for his own defense the judge throws the case out of court, stating that he wasn't about to get in the middle of a religious argument that involved a few word changes, like "messiah" to "Jesus" in Paul's preaching and reading of the Scriptures! 18:15
3. At this point something interesting happens; those who opposed Paul suddenly are now the focus of being attacked!
a. Those who opposed Paul and the Gospel now find themselves the targets of opposition.
b. "Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court, but Gallio (the judge) showed no concern whatever!" 18:17
(1. This was either the Greek citizens who had become fed-up with these troublemakers and so took this occasion to have the judge rebuke those bringing these frivolous suits or
(2. It was the Jews from the temple themselves who were angry at their own leader for failing to succeed in the law suit and so they beat up their own leader for it!
(3. In either case, Paul goes free and finds a new freedom to minister in Corinth that he would never have had before ... now the local government made it official that it was ok what he was doing and preaching, this aided the cause of Christ and the church in Corinth!
c. Thus, God turned opposition into a great opportunity!
4. As an interesting postscript to this new synagogue ruler being beaten, this man Sosthenes replaced the one named Crispus that got saved under Paul earlier ... but notice that the Corinthian letter contains a greeting at the beginning of the book by Paul where he says, our brother Sosthenes. READ 1 COR. 1:1
a. The ruler named Sosthenes who is beaten here may well have been the same man named here at the front of the book he may have been saved after this court case beating!
b. He comes on over to Christ as a result of losing the court case and being beaten, possibly by his own brethren in the synagogue!
c. Paul then witnessed 2 heads of the
synagogue get saved, they probably played a large role in the new church that
God raised up in
5. What a mighty God we serve ... one that is always with us in opposition!
CONCLUSION: Today's opposition is tomorrow's opportunities! Though we will face opposition throughout our lives, we won't be crushed! God has given us His promise to be with us at such times ... we are not alone even when we feel like it! Hang in there saint, you will be the winner!