Months ago when we began this wonderful book highlighting the birth of the church and the mission of expanding the gospel of Christ, I nicknamed the series, “The AXE of the Holy Spirit,” the H.S. takes an axe to how to purposefully soldier forward, leading people to go to places they’ve never gone before in ways they’ve never done before. Sounds perfect for our church, as we actively engage more with our community.
Paul relentlessly goes from city to city, region to region; he has momentum. When you have momentum on your side, it is an exciting time of growth, outreach, satisfaction. Any sports fan knows the power of motivation when a team is behind gets a rally going, timely defensive stops, every ball tossed up seems to find the hoop ~ often the coach calls a timely timeout to try and halt the momentum of the other team. Momentum is the intangible motivator that brings a thrill to the game. But for more exciting than sports is to see momentum in the church, in the faith community…. The feeling that nothing can stop us. To watch the H.S. take an axe to everything old and watch as new people reached, new insights gained, a new spirit. The application of today’s message is simple. Pray for momentum in our church and in the greater kingdom. (That’s the blank…) Do a new work Lord because we want to be a part of your Kingdom growth!!!! ….Pray for momentum. Pray that we can gain confidence that with the Spirit nothing can stop us! Today we look at some of the ways momentum manifests itself. The Big Mo does not mean everything is successful, it means we keep on going no matter what…
Paul and his companions clearly have the confidence that comes from the Big Mo: Motivation. I’ve heard it said momentum is the great exaggerator. It makes everything look bigger, better, exciting. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things! On the other hand when we lack momentum obstacles seem greater than they are.
the power of momentum (this illustration has stuck with me for 30 years!): A train going 50 mph will smash through a five foot steel reinforced was like it is nothing. On the other hand, put a 1 inch block in front of the wheel of that same train at a standstill, and that block will keep the train from moving. That is the exaggerated power of momentum. When you got it, nothing can stop you. When you don’t, the tiniest obstacle will keep you stagnant. Pray for momentum.
Momentum will cause people to respond, draw more people into the kingdom, create greater acts of service. Momentum will fill your tank with energy to do more than you thought possible. God uses the power of momentum! Pray for the Big Mo!
Last Sunday Chad finished Acts 16 and some of the dark themes brought out as Paul travelled to Europe and landed in the strategic city of Philippi. Paul and Silas were put in jail, but they still had momentum as they were miraculously released. Momentum is often aided by the amazing, the miraculous. As you pray for momentum, pray for God to do miraculous works. That was last week. Obviously the enemies of the gospel wanted to halt the Christian faith by jailing the leaders, but they did not understand that the head of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead. God is still in the business of raising the dead. I believe in miracles,// and miracles, anything that goes beyond your strength/wisdom, will translate into motivation to keep on with God’s purpose of bring light and salvation to all people.
Acts 17, from Philippi, Paul and companions go west to Thessalonica, a distance of about 100 miles. It says in Acts 17:2 READ. “As was his custom…” The thing about the H.S. and momentum, it doesn’t mean everything is brand new. Paul has momentum, he knows his purpose of telling people about Christ, and he begins with what to him is ordinary and makes sense. He was familiar with the Jewish synagogues. He loved his fellow Jews. He wanted his own people to embrace Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior. Momentum comes when you keep going with what makes sense. If we aren’t sure how to gain momentum, start in our church by keep on going….If you are not sure what God’s will is… do I do this or that… what I know is that God’s will is always to go forward! If he closes a door then go through another one. God’s will is to press on…
Paul is bold as the Bible says he explained and proved that Jesus had to suffer and rise from the dead (Acts 17:3). He is confident. I imagine for him the proofs consisted of the Hebrew scriptures. The scripture then says Paul PROCLAIMS Jesus is the Messiah ~ a definitive statement of confidence. Momentum comes to those who are unequivocal in their faith. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the answer to those who are presently suffering and searching? You need to answer that question, because as we emerge from corona virus, your answer will make all the difference as to whether or not we see momentum build. Momentum comes to focused people who tell others what they are about because others want to join something worthwhile. Jesus Christ is life changing. Do you believe it? Look at those who hear the message and accept Jesus Christ: READ Acts 17:4. That’s momentum at work: Paul goes to the Jews, but more than Jews hear and says YES. The big mo is powerful, lifechanging.
Before we continue, an important sidenote: When Paul goes to a new place, the first thing he does if possible is to go to the synagogue. In Philippi there was no synagogue. But he looked for Jews. Paul’s deep theological conviction: God set the Jewish nation apart for a special purpose. He goes to the synagogue because God’s commissioning to the Jews is that they are called to be a light for all people everywhere. Isaiah 49:6 is powerful prophecy speaking about the coming Messiah Jesus Christ who says, “I will make you a light for the gentiles (nations), that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 affirms the calling: READ. Paul went to the Jews first because he wanted them to have the honor of sharing the message of salvation to all people. The original promise was given to the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham, in Gen. 12:3 when God tells Abraham that his descendants will be a blessing to all people on earth. The promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ when he dies and resurrected to new life. Paul goes first to the Jews because it is His custom, but also because he desperately wants them to have the honor of joining him in their great privilege of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to all people. (back to the marks of momentum…)
Momentum is built through those that have a vision, who are bold, who are relentless, who are unafraid to share the message. Momentum is often aided by miracles.
What happens with Paul in Thesolonica? Paul is partially successful in what he expected would happen, he also has some unexpected success, and he also sees failure. Some Jews do come to faith, happy dance… surprisingly, so do god fearing Greeks and some prominent women, that’s an awesome bonus. But he also sees failure. While some Jews believed, as a whole the people of the Jewish synagogue rejected Paul. READ Acts 17:5… they made stuff up about Paul…. Crazy times. Paul and Silas were spirited away in the night 45 miles west to Berea. This is not success.
And it gets worse. I won’t go into detail, but more or less the same pattern unfolds in Berea as Thessalonica. Only this time, the enemies of Paul from Thessalonica travel to Berea when they hear what he is doing so they can run Paul out of town again. READ Acts 17:13. When you have momentum, be prepared to stir up passionate enemies, but godly momentum will carry you through. Satan is powerless to stop Godly momentum…
Momentum is exciting, exaggerating everything… built upon miracles, built upon our patterns but letting God take over in unexpected ways, built upon people who are unwavering in the conviction that Jesus Christ is the savior for all, the big mo cannot be stopped by enemies.
One more observation: We make our plans, but God has the final say. When you dare to ride the wave of momentum, be prepared for God to take places you never imagined. Pauls plan A was to go first to the Jews, and while he had some success with individual Jews who became followers of Jesus Christ, the message was rejected. God forced Paul to go with plan B. (In truth, I believe our Plan B is in reality God’s Plan A.) We’ll talk more about Paul’s Plan B next week when Paul lands south of Athens, about 140 miles: Paul starts in the local synagogue, but this time he doesn’t wait to be run out of town in Athens, but instead goes directly to the gentiles. READ Acts 17:17. This is a turning point in Paul’s patterns. Plan B. He didn’t wait for the Jews to get on board but decided its time to go directly to the gentiles by design. Paul’s Plan B is God’s Plan A…
Momentum is powerful. As a church, or if anyone is listening from other communities of faith, make a plan A, but don’t be surprised if the H.S. leads you into plan B, plan C, place you never imagined. Maybe God will do great things through the Thursday pre-school group, the continuing work of the Clothesline, the development of our worship service, let get going, God may have miracles waiting for us, undoubtedly enemies will rise up as they did with Paul, but let’s keep on going with passion and the conviction that Jesus Christ is the Savior for all, not an option, but Jesus Christ is necessary to bring peace and contentment to a stress filled world. As we ride the coming wave of momentum, may we be prepared to go with God’s plan B to new people in new ways we never imagined. Pray for momentum to build in our church and in the greater kingdom, that the message of salvation will change lives, bringing peace through Jesus Christ. Amen.