Saturday, December 01, 2007
Acts 24 How To Manage Significant Opportunities
Mat 10:18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. 17 Because people will hand you over to sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues, beware of them. 18 You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations. 19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will even rise up against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
Have you ever had a panic attack?
I remember it as though it were yesterday. The chilly hand of fear griped at my throat. A sense of foreboding settled into the pit of my stomach. My throat constricted and I had difficulty speaking. My hands began to shake uncontrollably, and my knees suddenly weakened.
I was guided to a chair where my opponent sat across a solid mahogany table from me.
Inquisitorially he peered over his horn rimmed glasses and directed his cold grey eyes in a stair that shrivelled my soul. My eyes searched for a door by which to escape, but guarded securely, I could only face my nemesis and, like a mouse staring at a snake in stark horror, too terrified to move or run, I could only gaze glassily back at this powerful man, the source of all my fears!
Who was he? Where did this man come from?
Yes I knew he was a part of that ominous and secretive powerful organisation, the Roman Catholic Church, but he was more. He was the deputy principal of the Glen Innes High School. And I was the local Baptist Minister, sent on my first task from the local minister’s fraternal, to negotiate the teaching of scripture classes in this rural High school.
Somehow, all of the terror of my past 20 years of schooling flooded my soul, as the dam of stored memories broke.
Yes, there was the terror of standing outside the Principal’s office awaiting his terrifying decree.
Yes, there was the terror of concealed memory of receiving the cane. And oh the shame to the school boy who stood here in this place.
And then there was the terror of the responsibility with which I had been charged. School scripture had not been taught here for many years, and now I, a young Steve Grose, was facing the man who held the power of spiritual life and spiritual death for six hundred young people.
Have yopu ever felt the responsibility that goes with the wonder of knowing your sins are forgiven? The responsibility to tell other dieing men of the love of a Saviour and the forgiveness of our sins. Someone likened it to one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.
But then, sometimes we are called to stand, not just before our fellow beggars, but before royalty; those who have the power of life and death spiritually over a vast multitude of peoples.
And the responsibility brings with it a terror!
An American friend you met recently, who preached from our pulpit last month, emailed me last week. He had had some wonderful opportunities as he moved around the world seeking to open doors for evangelism. Just a few days ago he spoke to a queen in her palace in Romania.
Another friend of mine was contacted during the most stressful time in recent world politics and was invited to speak evangelistically in every province of Communist China to no smaller crowd than 4000 persons, mainly drawn from the ranks of the Chinese People’s Party. Three weeks of incredible tension and anxiety beset him. But God had opened a door!
A gentleman wrote to me some years ago, a Baptist pastor from another country, to ask me to check up on a man who had come to know the Lord from sitting beside him upon a jet. That man’s name was Alan Bond!
You and I may have opportunities to make an IMPACT for the Lord Jesus Christ.
We need to learn how To Manage Significant Opportunities.
What are the ground rules for effectively witnessing under pressure?
The apostle Paul gives us some wonderful guidelines for speaking about God’s kindness to us in the gospel. The Lord brought him before governor’s and kings, so that you and I can learn how to stand before governors and kings and make a significant impact in these terrifying opportunities.
A. You Can Manage Significant Opportunities By Being Courteous.
10 When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: “Because I know you have been a judge of this nation for many years, I am glad to offer my defense in what concerns me.
In the face of panic, recognise that how you conduct yourself is important. I advise all candidates going before committees for jobs to relax and enjoy the ride. The more relaxed the candidate is , the more likely he is to be understood. And the more relaxed you are, the clearer and more honest will be your answers. As you do this, you will be able to offer the appropriate courtesy.
The Lord Jesus said of such high stress times: Matthew 10:19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.
As you relax and speak courteously to the situation, you will discover that you are putting in the right efforts on the right priorities. And by concentrating on courtesy, you will be able to speak well for the Lord. For Paul, there was no soft soap here, just courtesy. Honesty and integrity.
One historian dismissed Felix’s character with the comment, “He exercised the power of a king with the mind of a slave.” But Paul recognised his office, and honoured his service to the Empire, such as it had been.
You need to be courteous because, People will not care how much you know until they see you are courteous to them.
No one listens to a rude and arrogant man. No matter how much he or she may know.
B. You Can Manage Significant Opportunities By Being Reasonable.
Paul responded to the charges against him with reasonableness.
The charges were put quite deceptively by a lawyer named Tertullus. These men presented their case against Paul to the governor.
2 When he was called in, Tertullus began to accuse him and said: “Since we enjoy great peace because of you, and reforms are taking place for the benefit of this nation by your foresight, 3 we gratefully receive them always and in all places, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 However, so that I will not burden you any further, I beg you in your graciousness to give us a brief hearing. 5 For we have found this man to be a plague, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the Roman world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes! 6 He even tried to desecrate the temple, so we apprehended him [and wanted to judge him according to our law.
Tertullus uses some soft soap tactics and then brings the charges, put quite deceptively. He begins with where the governor would be interested.
Well this sure would have gotten Felix’s attention.
2. Sectarianism. Maybe Paul could be a dangerous cult leader?
3. Defiling the Temple. This would have been of minimal interest to the Romans.
Paul’s reasonable responses led allowed him to defend himself and also provided an interest factor for Felix.
Paul defended himself of the three charges quite admirably.
Paul flatly and directly denied the charge.
11 You are able to determine that it is no more than 12 days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. 12 And they didn’t find me disputing with anyone or causing a disturbance among the crowd, either in the temple complex or in the synagogues, or anywhere in the city. 13 Neither can they provide evidence to you of what they now bring against me.
He reminded Felix that the incident had only occurred a fortnight before, and the Jews could find no witnesses to this event. If it had truly happened, there would have been witnesses. And with a mob, there could have been countless witnesses… but the witnesses all pointed to the Jews raising the riot, not Paul.
This is a good ploy by the Lawyer… he is trying to cast Paul in the darkest light. Yet, with a clear view on it, it becomes obvious that Ananias the high priest was the real sectarian and not Paul. Ananias the high priest was a Sadducee; those who had formed a party among the Jews who didn’t believe in the resurrection, the judgement or that God could be involved in everyday life. They were the real sectarians, forming a party to take control of religious affairs. Paul contrasted himself saying
14 But I confess this to you: that according to the Way, which they call a sect, so I worship my fathers’ God, believing all the things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets.
He says it’s the Way.. showing its link to historic Judaism. Paul doesn’t view Christianity as an offshoot of Judaism, but true Judaism fulfilled.
Then he reminds Felix and Ananias where the differences really were between Judaism and Christianity. In fact, Paul was still so Jewish that
17 After many years, (he said) I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my nation,
15 And I have a hope in God, which these men themselves also accept, that there is going to be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous.
Finally, as regards the court, Paul reminds Felix that all the Jews had to go on was hearsay. He hadn’t stirred up the riot, the Ephesian Jews had.
17 After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my nation, 18 and while I was doing this, some Jews from the province of Asia found me ritually purified in the temple, without a crowd and without any uproar. 19 It is they who ought to be here before you to bring charges, if they have anything against me. In the end, Paul had been acquitted by the Jewish Sanhedrin when they broke into an argument over Paul’s beliefs.
Either let these men here state what wrongdoing they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin, 21 or about this one statement I cried out while standing among them, ‘Today I am being judged before you concerning the resurrection of the dead.’
Paul’s direct, concise, quiet appeal to the court led Felix to the right conclusion. Paul was innocent of the charges made against him 22 Since Felix was accurately informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.”
But, being innocent and proven innocent doesn’t always mean that justice is done.
Paul needed to accept God’s Sovereignty over the situation. Felix is fearful of the power of the Sadducees. He is also too just to hand Paul over into their hands. There is a conflict in Felix playing out. So he delays on the pretext of awaiting more information from Lysias. You need to be reasonable in your witness with people, because no one will listen to someone who just rambles on and on thoughtlessly.
c. You Can Manage Significant Opportunities By Being Patient.
Sometimes our distresses and stresses are put into place to further our witness.
What had the Lord promised Paul?
Acts 23:11The 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 Romans were going to pay for Paul’s travel plans.
And this was how it was all going to work out. 23 He ordered that the centurion keep Paul under guard, though he could have some freedom, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from serving him.
You need to be patient in your witness with folks because you don’t know what God is doing or why or when.
As you speak remember 19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.
This is not your battle it’s the Lord’s. It’s not up to you, it’s up to the Lord.
The Lord is more concerned about your successful witness than you are!
The Lord is more concerned about building His church than you are.
Do you remember my meeting with the Deputy headmaster at Glen Innes High School?
I discovered that the Lord had gone before me in this matter.
The new Deputy-head master that I feared so much was a catholic. And he did go to church. And he did read his Bible, and he was a friend of one of the laymen who set up bible study groups in that church. And that layman asked me to write the Bible studies for their bible study groups. And 600 catholics attended those Bible study groups on the book of Romans each week. And that Deputy head became a good and respected friend to me in my time there in Glen Innes. We worked together for the gospel for 4 years until he was transferred as headmaster of a college in Tamworth. He called me into his office the week he was to leave. He’d invited me up to have a cup of tea with him before he left. Just he and I. And he laughed at my obvious panic attack when we first met. We shared together how our friendship had firmed up over the years, and how much we valued each other’s witness for the Lord Jesus Christ in that place. Be patient. Trust God for what He is doing in people’s hearts and minds. You can’t see what is going on. Only He can. And He is building His Church on His Programme and in His way. And you and I may not even have the faintest inkling of the great things He is doing through our witness in times of stress and trouble.
D. You Can Manage Significant Opportunities By Being Courageous.
Mat 10:18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
I personally cannot think of anything more frightening.
You may not be aware, but there are some situations in public speaking that frighten me.
I get enormous pain across my lower back, excruciating pain, if I have to address a Baptist union Assembly about any controversial matter. To stand up for our rights before an association meeting is extremely difficult for me.
I can imagine how difficult it would be for you to stand up before bosses governors, rulers, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. But we must.
How? We have to be courageous. I guess one of the best examples of this that I have ever seen is that of Hugh Latimer.
Hugh Latimer Before Henry VIII
“In Oxford, England, which I visited recently, stands a striking statue of three men burned at the stake there in October of 1555: Thomas Cramner, Thomas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer, three of the most visible victims of Queen Mary’s persecution. Latimer had been twice imprisoned for the faith in the latter years of Henry’s reign, but he had remained a staunch defender of the Reformed doctrine of justification. He once wrote, ‘If I see the blood of Christ with the eye of my soul, that is true faith that his blood was shed for me.’
Most famous for his preaching at St. Paul’s Cross, Latimer was called before the king one day and demanded to offer public apology in a church service for what Henry found offensive in Latimer’s message. As the story goes, he read the same text he had used the previous Sunday and then said aloud,
‘Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest: therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest – upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God, who is all-present and who beholdeth all thy ways, and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.”
With that, Latimer began the same sermon he had preached to his congregation.
We are called to be courageous in our witness. So was Paul:
24 After some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus.
You need to be courageous in your witness because just as faint heart never won fair maid, so faint heartedness will never speak up for the Lord Jesus Christ, and will never win a soul.
E. You Can Manage Significant Opportunities By Being Direct
25 Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come,
Paul wanted to awaken Felix to his Defects.
His marriage to Drusilla was not normal.
Sadly, we too have to do the difficult thing and awaken people to their sin. Does God consider immorality sin? We do people no favours if we don’t put before themj their lost situation. And we do this by making them aware of God’s righteous demands upon their lives.
For this we are seen as being judgemental and condemnatory. But we have to do this with sincerity and with love. We are condemning them, and ourselves for that matter. We are showing the need for a Saviour.
righteousness, self-control, .. why that was Felix’s problem with Drusilla!
Paul wanted to awaken Felix to Dread.
righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come,
The judgement to come is a very real factor in our witness for Christ. “..and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid”
You need to be direct in your witness because people need ot hear and understand the gospel. Getting to the bottom line is very important. There is no one going t be won to Christ without you really getting to the bottom line about sin and hell.
F. You Can Manage Significant Opportunities By Being Urgent
and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I find time I’ll call for you.” “when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” KJV
A Convenient season… right!
Delay is a Decision Its saying No! to the mercy of God! It’s a right now NO!! to God.
Delay is Delusional It’s not sensible to live in Denial. Denial is not just a river in Egypt! If you live in denial about your bank account balance you wind up in court for bankruptcy. If you live in denial about your worn breaks you wind up in hospital or in a coffin. If you live in denial about your eternal soul you may wind up in hell.
We need to be direct with folks.
Delay is Dumb There is no good reason for it!
Delay is Destructive The longer someone puts off salvation the more sins they will have to regret and the less likelihood there is of repentance.
Delay is Deadly Luke 14 16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. 18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse.
17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his slave to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ 18 “But without exception they all began to make excuses.
…. “Then the master told the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!’ ”
You need to be urgent in your witness because people are going to hell. They must be led to see that they must decide for Christ and they must decide now.