Monday, November 19, 2007


Acts 23 Your Stability in The Storms of Life

The background to this situation is found in the arrest of Paul in the temple where he had come to worship the God of his fathers.
Some of the Jews of Asia, from Ephesus who had been involved in a riot in the city of Ephesus saw Paul there and they stirred up another riot against him. The crowd had formed and the people were beating him to death. Right above the temple area where all this was happening, rises the tower of Antonio, where the Roman contingent was housed, sent there by Rome to enforce peace and quiet in Jerusalem. So when they saw the riot before them, they poured out of the castle down into the temple area and rescued Paul. The Roman chiliarch, the head, commanding officer of the contingent in Jerusalem, having discovered from Paul that he was a Roman citizen and could speak Greek, he acquiesced to Paul’s desire to speak to the maddening throng below.
So standing on the steps of the tower of Antonio, Paul begins to speak to the throng below in their own language, in Hebrew. The Scripture tells us that they listened quietly to what he had to say. As he closed that address he said: the Lord had told him: For I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. And they gave him audience unto this word. And then lifted up their voices and say: Away with such a fella from the earth. It is not fit that he should live.
The word of course, was the Gentiles. The use of that word infuriated these people. How could the Lord send a prophet or an apostle to the Gentiles? They were hated dogs.
So the chiliarch decides to take Paul and try him before the Sanhedrin to find out why the Jews were so intent on tearing Paul limb from limb.
So Paul is held before the Sanhedrin and a trial is commenced. This trial is supposed to discover why the Jews were so cranky with Paul, and to see if there was some serious crime he had committed for which the Romans could execute him.
Acts 23:1 Paul looked intently at the Sanhedrin and said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience until this day.” 2 But the high priest Ananias ordered those who were standing next to him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! You are sitting there judging me according to the law, and in violation of the law are you ordering me to be struck?” 4 And those standing nearby said, “Do you dare revile God’s high priest?” 5 “I did not know, brothers,” Paul said, “that it was the high priest. For it is written, You must not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”
Under stress we all react. Even Paul reacted angrily to the High Priest’s assault. But the difference with a Christian man is the recognition of rightful authority. And Paul affirms his submission to rightful authorities.
In the history of Josephus, this Ananias was sent as a prisoner to Rome bound in chains because of injustice and cruelty. And he was tried for his life before Claudius Caesar. In the trial he was acquitted and returned back to his office in Jerusalem. God shall smite thee, thou whited wall. That’s a prophecy. And this same Annias was assassinated at the outbreak of the Jewish War in A.D. 66 as a Roman sympathiser. He was murdered by the dreaded sicarii. They were men who mingled in the throngs. And in their flowing robes carried daggers and they murdered those who they felt proved unworthy of the confidence of the people. And this Ananias was so murdered by the sicarii. An unusual turn of fortune. Ananias was a Sadducee.
The Sadducees were political and religious opportunists. They took advantage of the devotion of the people in order to further themselves. They ran the temple and they received all of the tribute from the coffers in the temple. The Sadducees and the Pharisees hated each other. The Pharisees were the conservative group. The Pharisees were traditionalists. They were fundamentalists. They believed the Bible. They believed the word of God. But they added so much more to it. The only time you ever find them together is they agree on their hatred for Jesus and they agree here on their prejudice against Paul. Now, when Paul looked at them, and saw the Sanhedrin so divided, he said: I am a Pharisees. In the Bible there are many, many Pharisees converted to the faith such as Saul of Tarsus, this Paul. Or such as Nicodemus and many, many other Pharisees. Gamaliel was a Pharisees.
But you never read in the Bible and you never hear of it in history that there ever was a Sadducees who was ever converted to the Christian faith.
And Paul standing there said: In my acceptance of the word of God, in my belief in heaven, in my belief in angels, in my belief in the presence of God in power and in spirit and in my belief in the resurrection from among the dead, I am a Pharisee.
And again Paul puts the court into uproar, and again we read:
10 When the dispute became violent, the commander feared that Paul might be torn apart by them and ordered the troops to go down, rescue him from them, and bring him into the barracks.
But the storms got worse:
12 When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under a curse: neither to eat nor to drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than 40 who had formed this plot.

I have had a couple of threats on my life over the years.
The first, when I helped a few folks get rid of 2 million dollars worth of Marijuana. I heard it back through the grapevine that this fellow was coming to get me. An absolute madman who had been imprisoned for trying to blow up a police station (with dynamite strapped to his own chest). I rigged up every door in the house with things that would rattle and sat up for 3 nights straight with a lump of wood in my hand, expecting him to blast through the door with a shotgun. I couldn’t call the police or I’d most certainly endanger his young family.
Another time a man who had assaulted disabled kids threatened to kill me after a church meeting put him out of church membership.
Another time a drug dealer was trying to use the premises at the East Hills Baptist church as his shop. I called the police, and while we waited the half hour for the police to arrive, he threatened to rape and murder Lorelle.
Death threats are no fun. But Paul hasn’t just got death threats. This is the whole box and dice! These fellas absolutely intended to slay Paul, even if it meant forfeiting their own lives to the Roman soldiers in their attack. These were madmen!
How can you stand up under such pressure? What do you do if there is extreme opposition?
Some of us have trouble with neighbours. Some of us have trouble with work colleagues.
Some of us experience this trouble because Satan has stirred it up in someone’s heart to just malevolently hate us.
November 1st 2007 The two owners of the Enoch Group, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel and Eliza Ng, were even put under house arrest from October 12 to 25, 2007. Their cell phones were confiscated and they were not allowed to go out of their house at the Panyu district, Guangzhou, Guangdong province. High level government sources told CAA that some of the central government leaders were upset that the Enoch Group has hired a large number of Chinese Christians. The Chinese leaders suspect that the Enoch Group uses its company motto, "love, peace, joy and faithfulness" to promote Christianity. Sources said the rather harsh tactic made against Enoch Group is to send a strong warning signal to other foreign businesses in China owned by Christians. The Enoch group is a well-established ecological company which produces environmentally related products. Mr. and Mrs. Ng are both naturalized Australian citizens, who emigrated from Hong Kong.
What do you do? How do you get your composure in these times? Can you get some sleep through all of that?
Paul discovered what believers in all times and situations have had to discover in the furnace of opposition.

1. The Person of God Will Sustain
Acts 23: 11 The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
The intervention of God in the crisis of human life. You find it again in the story of the three Hebrew children. Cast into the fiery furnace, heated seven times above what it is wont to be heated. And these three young men, bound and thrown into the furious flames.
And then in the 27th chapter of Acts, "For there stood by me this night the angel of God Whose I am, Who I serve saying, `Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar.'"
"For there stood by him the Lord saying." And then again, "And there stood by me the angel of the Lord."
37th Psalm avows, "I have been young and now am old. Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread." Hebrews 13 so beautifully avows to us, "The Lord hath said, `I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'"
David "And the same Lord God that stood by me as I face the lion and the bear is the same Lord God that shall stand by me as I face this giant Goliath." And the lad replied, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield. But I come to you in the name of the Lord God Whom thou hast defied."
He is watching, caring, overruling, guiding, remembering, loving. That's the Lord Who never forsakes His children.
So I go on, not knowing. I would not know if I might.
I had rather walk with Christ by faith Than to walk alone by sight.
I had rather walk with Him in the dark, Than to walk by myself in the light.

When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me.
When the world is tossing me Like a ship upon the sea,
Thou Who rulest wind and water, Stand by me.
In trials and tribulations, Stand by me.
When the hosts of hell assail And my strength begins to fail,
Thou Who never lost a battle, Stand by me.
In the midst of falls and failures, Stand by me.
When I do the best I can And my friends misunderstand,
Thou Who knowest all about me, Stand by me.
When I'm growing old and feeble, Stand by me.
When my life becomes a burden And I'm nearing chilly Jordan,
O Thou lily of the valley, Stand by me.

2. The Plan Of God Will Stand
Acts 23: 11 The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
Where ever you are the Lord stands by you. He will take you places you could never imagine to proclaim His gospel. He said to Paul, you’re going to Rome. You’re not going to die in Jerusalem!
I thought of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha. II Kings 6:8-18 When the king of Aram was waging war against Israel, he conferred with his servants, “My camp will be at such and such a place.” 9 But the man of God sent [word]to the king of Israel: “Be careful passing by this place, for the Arameans are going down there.” They were in a little town called Dothan. In the middle of Samaria. So the king said, “Go and see where he is, so I can send [men]to capture him.” When he was told, “Elisha is in Dothan,”
14 he sent horses, chariots, and a massive army there. They went by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do?” 16 Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the Lord opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 When the Arameans came against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Please strike this nation with blindness.” So He struck them with blindness, according to Elisha’s word. 19 Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will take you to the man you’re looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.
Can you imagine Gehazi the servant? He came to Elisha the prophet and said: Wake up. Wake up. My soul, says Elisha, the soldiers of the enemy are all around us. Lord, my master, we’re done for. We’re done for. This means our head is cut off. This is the end of the way. Elisha, unperturbed. I wonder if he even got out of bed. Elisha said to Gehazi: Gehazi, they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And then Elisha prayed a little prayer: Lord, open the eyes of the young man. Help him to see. And God opened the eyes of Gehazi. And he looked. And the mountains and the heavens and the whole world above it was filled with horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
God’s Plan for Elisha would stand, even if there was a whole army armed and directed to kill him. God’s Plan will stand!
God’s plans always Stand! Where ever you are the Lord stands by you. He will take you places you could never imagine to proclaim His gospel. He said to Paul, you’re going to Rome. You’re not going to die in Jerusalem!
I think of Richard Wurmbrand, and Haralan Popov pastor in Bulgaria during the Communist regime, Haralan Popov recounts the testing of his faith during 13 years of persecution in Communist prisons. It truly is hard to believe what he was able to endure in those dark years--but that just stands as a testament to the power of God to sustain him through this awful ordeal, by his faith in Christ. Haralan Popov was a successful minister in Bulgaria when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment as an American spy, at a widely publicized trial in Sofia. Enduring torture and brainwashing in communist prisons and labor camps, Haralan Popov remained faithful to God. After his release, Dr. Haralan Popov founded Door of Hope International in 1972. "Tortured For Christ" by Richard Wurmbrand,
There was, however, much unique to Popov's account and his story, such as the different tactics of the Communists in torturing or extricating information from the prisoners, and also the difference in the prisoner's ability to acquire portions or even entire Bibles while in prison. He also describes the laborious but joyful work of many who toiled to reproduce and covertly distribute hand-copied bibles to the underground Christians, to replace those destroyed by the Communists.
Born in Bulgaria, a land called “Little Russia,” he was the pastor of the largest Protestant church in the nation, and was one of his country’s foremost spiritual leaders. After the Communist occupation of Bulgaria, his very prominence as a devoted Christian brought him severe physical and spiritual torture at the hands of the Soviet KGB and their Bulgarian puppets.
In 16 different prisons and slave camps, Pastor Popov continued his work for God despite the suffering he knew he might have to endure. Once Popov was forced to stand facing a blank wall for 18 hours. And knowing that if he flinched he would die. To know the Lord stood by him in that situation brought strength and courage and hope.
After the miracle of surviving 13 years and two months in Communist prisons, he was finally released. Despite threats of re-arrest, he continued organizing secret church services and Bible teachings because the official church had been infiltrated and had fallen under total Communist control.
Later, at the urging of his family living in Sweden and through the power of prayer, he made his way to the Free World. From there he focused all his energy to awaken society to the plight of persecuted Christians and their needs.
God’s Plans will Stand

3. The Purpose Of God Will Strengthen
Acts 23: 11 The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
When you focus on the task at hand, God gives you the grace.
Paul focussed on his one mission, to Christ and to make Him known! He had only one priority: 1 Cor 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Paul limited himself. He could have focussed on so many things. He could have focussed on his judicial training. He could have focussed on the injustices of his situation. He could have marshalled his arguments ready for the onslaught before the Sanhedrin. He could have worried about the future. No. All he had to do was focus on the one task God had given him: as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in… wherever. It really didn’t matter where, as long as he did what God had for him to do.
Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
This is what you need to be concerned about, nothing else.
Some people ask me why we can stand up under incredible pressures at the moment. Pressures with the Preschool, pressures with the HDBA, .. well it isn’t just pressures. There are priorities.
If you have the Lord’s one priority uppermost in your mind, you can endure almost anything.
I remember when a fellow pastor was falsely accused of something, something for which he could well go to jail. In the circumstances of the times, he would most certainly have gone to jail. I remember thinking to myself, ‘What would I do if I was falsely accused of a crime, and found guilty, and sent to jail? How would I cope? How would I look at the situation in the light of God’s sovereignty?” I decided that if that was the case, I would just anticipate that God had some people in some jails that He wanted saved, and that I would have to endure whatever the situation was just so these people could get saved.
Listen to 2 Tim 2: 8 Keep in mind Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, according to my gospel. 9 For this I suffer, to the point of being bound like a criminal; but God’s message is not bound. 10 This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Now put yourself there.
What if God called you to endure some indescribable situation, absolutely abhorrent to your sensibilities, could you endure it for the sake of the gospel?
Is the gospel really your number 1 priority?
Or is it yourself. Your plans and your purposes?
You can have the Lord stand by you. Or you can stand by yourself.
It’s your choice. What are you going to do? Joshua said Josh 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

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