This morning a woman from Africa wrote me that she read a sermon on the website from Amos in 2009: “It gave more understanding to my Bible study. This sermon is an eye opener and a blessing to my spirit. Thank you pastor Carl. That’s encouragement!
Encouragement brings peace and rest. Paul was desperate for encouragement. The last few chapters from Acts have been tough. Paul saw a bit of success in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, but he was also in prison, threatened and run out of town. His enemies travelled 100’s of miles to stop him. He went to Corinth, alone…In 1 Cor. 2:3 we gain insight into how Paul felt as he made the 50 mile trek from Athens to Corinth: “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.”
Two weeks ago in the message Chad spoke of change and how Paul cemented new patterns. Another theme in Acts 17: Paul was Encouraged. One of the wonderful blessings in Acts 17 is that Paul gains new friends, Aquilla and Priscilla ~ friendships are an important way God blesses us! Priscilla & Aquilla are also partners in ministry; they go with Paul to new places. How encouraging it must have been for Paul to have good friends. When times are hard, look for encouragement from the Lord. It may be a new friend. I’m thinking in the coming months there will be great opportunity in our church to make new friends, people who are not even here yet. Don’t pray for new people to join us, pray for friends that you don’t even know yet!
My favorite friendship story of all time: Kay Bishop died a few years ago in her mid 90’s. I saw her the day before she died at LHCC, hadn’t eaten for days, weak. she knew me and whispered a word. I wasn’t sure I understood so I spoke loudly with a question mark, “Glory”? Instantly her roommate drew back the curtain that was separating the two beds and said, “I’m Gloria, why is Kay talking about me?” Kay spoke up with a strong, loud, confident voice, “I’m so glad God has given me a new friend.”
In the first part of Acts 18 Paul is encouraged over and over again: there are amazing details in how things work out that can only be God, there is a much greater response, Paul finds a place to rest. Paul found receptive people who learned to love him and appreciate him as he shared the message to receptive people. The people of the church were messy, as Chad so wonderfully spoke about two weeks ago. I have discovered the messiest people are often the most loving and accepting. The broken have a way of understanding like no others….
Paul also found encouragement in a direct message from the Lord: READ Acts 18:9. When you are discouraged, listen for the voice of the Lord, listen for a God wink, an affirmation, a confirmation to keep on going… the voice of God tells Paul to keep on speaking, a promise of safety, and an affirmation he isn’t alone. As the story unfolds in remainder of Acts 18, things go right for Paul, it’s a time of encouragement. He is taken to court but the court case is tossed out. Things go right. A letter arrives late in 1926 that would have changed the history of a family/church, but instead it becomes a century of encouragement.
Paul is also given REST. In Acts 18:11 it says Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, and then as today’s scripture begins it is reemphasized that “Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time” (Acts 18:18). Encouragement comes through rest. When you are tired, feeling lost, look for a sign of encouragement, things to go right, affirmations from God, new friends/partners in ministry, rest. The Lord has many ways to encourage you. Paul is greatly encouraged in Corinth. The reset button of ministry is pushed, a fresh beginning. Encouragement has a way of greasing the wheels to get rolling. In Acts 18:18 the rested Paul charges forward to share the gospel. READ. Encouragement births energy. The wheels are greased. Paul is once more on the go.
The note about Paul cutting his hair is a delightful note added by Luke which is emphasizing that this is a new beginning for Paul. Apparently he had taken a temporary vow and let his hair grow, now it is cut off indicating the vow is finished. A fresh beginning. Encouragement brings energy. Paul enthusiasticly sets sail and cruises from place to place.
As I read Acts 18:19-23, then Acts 19:1, guess how many miles this journey covers. READ. Ephesus full circle and back to Ephesus, about 1500 miles. Paul is no longer lonely, defeated, weak… he is superman cruising from place to place. Every-where he goes he finds a wonderful reception. The people of Ephesus want him to stay. What a difference in the atmosphere compared to the previous stories where Paul is run out of town over and over. [sidenote: anyone want to guess in Acts 18:22 where the church was that he greeted READ. ________ I believe this is Luke’s way of affirming there is a shift in the Christian movement of the message of salvation going to the ends of the earth. This has to be Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the mother church, the birth of Christianity, isn’t mentioned by nameLuke is subtly showing us that the Christian movement is bigger than any place or any people…
Encouragement gives strength to the weary and builds enthusiasm to go forward. Encouragement is a wonderful gift that is part of the DNA of ministry. We’d be lost without moments/seasons of encouragement. Encouragement helps us regroup when we face difficult times, and encouragement prepares us to go forward, like the grease on a wheel.
Luke now introduces us to someone new: Apollos. Acts 18:24 begins, “meanwhile”… This is Luke’s way of telling us the Christian faith is not all about Paul. The Spirit is at work in other places besides the chain of stories unfolding in Acts up to this point. God is at work through Apollos. Many lessons from Apollos… He is from Africa in well established community of jews in Alexandria… Apollos ministry is encouraging. God can use anybody God wants. Paul and Apollos are similar: strong personalities, educated, bold followers of Christ. Apollos is fascinating in that while God uses him to teach others about Christ, in the beginning he doesn’t fully understand. That is good news for all of us in that God can use us even if we feel our understanding of the ways of Christ is limited. READ Acts 18:24-26. You cannot reduce Christian ministry to a formula. Paul is not the only spokesperson for Christ ~ God can use anybody from anywhere with any background.
One of the great lessons from Apollos is that God uses him even though his understanding of Jesus is limited. He knew the scriptures. He was a great teacher. But Acts 18:25 says he only knew the Baptism of John. Apparently he was a follower of John the Baptist, who initiated people into the truth of Christ, but he was lacking in the full story of Christ. Did he not know the cross? The resurrection? The Coming of the Spirit… the Bible isn’t specific so it’s not important exactly what he was lacking. I’m thrilled God may use me even though I am certainly lacking in something.
Another really amazing lesson from Apollos is that he is teachable. For all of his boldness, eloquence, and knowledge of the scripture, he is willing to listen to Priscilla and Aquilla. [sidenote: the names are switched] READ Acts 18:26b. P & A are tentmakers, and Apollos is highly educated, and he listens. Apollos is Humble. St. Teresa of Avila in the 1400’s commented on humility: . “True humility…does not disquiet or disorder the soul. It comes with great peace, and great serenity, and great delight. Although we should see our utter wickedness, how we truly deserve to be in hell… yet true humility comes with a certain sweetness and satisfaction attending it…”
May we find encouragement in the example of Apollos, a very learned and bold man, eloquent words, qualities we may or may not attain, but his chief virtue IMHO is his humility. Apollos is surprisingly humble. May we find encouragement to go forward in humility… with all the confidence and satisfaction it brings, knowing we must always strive to keep walking in that path.
Apollos ministers among some of the same believers as Paul. He goes to Corinth. Apollos and Paul are both larger than life. Paul later addresses a division that rose up among the people where some wanted to put Apollos on a pedestal and others wanted Paul. Paul will have none of it. Thank you Lord for Paul’s humility as he writes the Church in Corinth: READ 1 Cor. 3:3-6. What a tremendous example. We cannot be in competition with others, whether it be individuals or churches. Christ comes first. Thank you for Paul and Apollos and their humility to make it all about Jesus Christ.
Encouragement is desperately needed in our world. Encouragement gives strength to the weary and builds enthusiasm to go forward. Encouragement is the grease on the wheel of faith that keeps on rolling. For the weary God provides friends, a word of hope, things that go right, rest. The H.S. will bring energy to go forward, often new ways, new ministry. Not in competition, but blessing others in the same work like Apollos and Paul. It takes humility. Encouragement brings healing from past wounds and leads to greater things that are coming. Amen