Acts 13:12 “Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.”In Acts 13, Barnabas and Saul are on Cyprus ministering but Elymas the magician, demonically inspired, is opposing their ministry and leading the proconsul away from hearing the gospel. Paul, filled with righteous indignation curses Elymas with blindness for a season and immediately darkness falls upon him. The proconsul witnessed first hand the miraculous power of the spirit and the demonstration of authority through the apostle Paul. Not only was he astonished in his teaching but he believed that Jesus was the Christ. No one wants resistance in life but opposition is often the catalyst for supernatural intervention. Many of us pray for miracles but miracles are needed because of the contradictions and paradoxes we encounter in life. Growth in the supernatural is often birthed out of an encounter with opposition that drives us closer to God in faith and prayer. See resistance from Gods perspective and watch God move mightily on your behalf as you boldly step out in faith. Explosive Insights!
Philippians 4:13 “This one thing I do.”
One of the greatest challenges facing our generation is distraction. Many of us are weighed down by the burden of carrying too many roles, responsibilities and interests. This results in fatigue, stress, sickness and a lack of fulfillment. This is birthed out of saying yes to too many things and looking for superficial things to satisfy deep insecurities. Many of us are over stimulated and under prioritized. I encourage you to clear the clutter of your life and remove the distractions. Don’t weigh yourself down any longer with unnecessary clutter from media to possessions to time wasting tasks. Your time, energy and purpose is too valuable to waste on the trivial.
God hasn’t made you responsible for the outcome. That’s his responsibility. But He has made you responsible for the process. Often we work harder at trying to control the outcome rather than just putting the right ingredients into the process. Paul was the initiator of the process by planting and Apollos continued the process by watering what God had initiated through Paul. Planting and watering in all it’s forms made up the process but God was the agent who gave the growth. When you stop trying to control the outcome, you are freed up to give your best to the process and maintain peace along the way. Having to control the outcome is stressful and not in our job description. God says, “Trust me with the outcome by not leaning on your own understanding and focus on the process of what I’ve asked you to do and watch what I do with the outcome.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse in recent days. The reason is I’m training to compete in the Melbourne Ironman Triathlon in 2014. It’s a gruelling multi-sport, one day event that is filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth as competitors complete a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km marathon run just to finish you off.
Each day that I train for this event, as well as several half-Ironman races leading up to the big kahuna, I constantly have to keep coming back to this verse and remind myself to never give up. Every time I swim, bike, run, lift weights, eat healthy and focus on recovery, I have to keep the big picture in mind and remember that although I may endure pain and suffering for a moment, the end result of crossing that finish line is well worth it.
The Psalmist said it like this, ‘Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.’
The Apostle Paul in several of his letters used athletic imagery to point to spiritual principles relevant to all of us in the race of faith. Perhaps the most famous words Paul used in this context is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. In summary Paul calls us to run the race of faith to win… Don’t run merely to finish but finish well. To do so requires focus and discipline, no matter what discouragement or temptation comes our way.
Running the race of faith requires us to get over our petty excuses and focus ourselves on seeing the race God has called us to right through to the very end. Everyone at some point thinks and feels like quitting and sadly some of us do and spend years living with the pain of regret. Don’t give into your flesh but stay the course. It will be worth it in the end, even if you’ve got to grit your teeth and push yourself through the discomfort.
God’s watching and perhaps your refusal to never give up could lead to your finest hour.
What is the one thing, this year, that if you focused on it would add more value to your life or work than anything else? For some of you the answer to this question will come quickly to your mind. For others of you, you may have to probe a little deeper.
Whether the answer comes quickly or slowly, it is well worth the investment of your time. I’m in a rare and privileged position this year to spend my time purely on that which is in the bullseye of my gift mix and life calling. I have time to pray, study, preach, mentor, pray some more, prophesy, write, talk, spend time with my family and do all the other things that God will require of me as his servant and friend. I have never been presented with such options and yet I feel I am more accountable to God to be a good steward of that which he has entrusted to me.
If you had an inordinate amount of free time available to you this year, how would you spend it and what would you do? Some may say, ‘I would go to the beach everyday’ (not in Melbourne). You might say, ‘I would spend it with friends’ (they’ll be at work though). You might want to invest your time at the gym or at your local church. Seriously think about what you would do.
I think there should be a direct correlation between the one thing that would add the most value to your life and your use of time. Focus more of your time and energy on the ONE THING that will add the most value to your life and work. Very few people spend their time doing what they don’t want to do. We all seem to find a way to do what we really want to do.
Don’t waste 2013 on lesser priorities. Find the ONE THING and focus on it and watch what happens to you and all around you. Increase and opportunity abounds. You just have to position yourself for it.
1 Cor 9:24 ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.’
I had a very engaging conversation with a friend and peer of mine recently who discussed with me the idea of being completely comfortable and secure in your own skin, as being a vital key to impacting ministry. I definitely agree.
I think there is a lot of imitation in ministry because people really don’t know to the core of their being who they are or really what God has called them to accomplish. Whilst we are all under construction and hopefully changing to be more and more like the character of Jesus, the truth is our gift mix and unique personality is largely fixed. We need to embrace completely whom God has created us to be if we are going to be able to minister into other people’s lives with what God has put into our hearts.
I love John the Baptist. He was a voice and not an echo of all the other voices around him. He wore camels hair, a leather belt and ate locusts and wild honey and yet didn’t flinch or miss a beat. He had his own unique fashion, diet and message, repent for the messiah is coming. Even when his own team tried to pressure him to do something because Jesus’ ministry was blowing up, he didn’t let it change who he was. He responded with, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegrooms voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase but I must decrease.’ (Jn 3:28-30)
What incredible security and confidence John had in the Father’s purpose and call on his life. We must come to the same point in our relationship with God too. Security is a relational thing, not a situational thing. Too many of us measure ourselves by our image, reputation and circumstance. Jesus made himself of no reputation. Paul could care less what he even thought of himself, let alone what other people thought of him. God wants us to get so caught up in our relationship with Him that we lose the need to prove anything other than live in the love, grace and call of God made freely available to us.
It’s time to be 100% YOU. That doesn’t mean you excuse yourself from growing and if necessary repenting but it means you get real comfortable with who you are and the skin you’re in. You’ve got to live with you, you may as well be at peace about it and even celebrate it. If you don’t enjoy being you, no one else is going to be you.
Acts 13:27 ‘For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognise him nor understand the voices of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.’
Have you ever thought about how much of the bible is made up of prophecy? Approximately 50% of Scripture is prophetic literature. A lot of OT prophecy is contained within the Gospels themselves, with Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah, more than any other OT prophet.
For believers who are planted in a local church and hearing God’s Word regularly preached, are we really hearing God’s voice and obeying it or are we so distracted by our own stuff that we, like Israel, miss His voice?
There is ‘The Voice’ in the prophets which may be missed, a meaning not apprehended. The ‘voices of the prophets’ in Acts 13 implies something just beyond mere words but the very voice of God. It’s the ‘VOICE’ of the prophets we need to hear. Big things hang upon hearing God’s voice above all the other voices.
Failure to hear may lead to irreparable loss, such as it did for the Jews when Paul announced in Acts 13:46 that he was turning to the Gentiles, due to the hardness of heart in Israel. The Gentiles response in Acts in V48 to Paul’s announcement is indicative of that fact that it is a great thing to hear and obey God’s voice.
I personally believe that the most important word in the bible isn’t love, faith or grace but ‘HEAR’. Everything in the kingdom is predicated upon how and what you HEAR. The Parable of the Sower emphasises the central importance of HEARING God’s Word.
Are you hearing his voice or are you present bodily but absent spiritually when the prophets are being proclaimed from the pulpit? I pray that God would give us an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church in this generation.
Corinth was a city, not unlike Melbourne in that it was the epi-centre of everything cool, cultural and sexual. Recently, I came across a stat that said there are more brothels in Melbourne than McDonald restaurants. This is indicative of the sexualisation of our culture and its idolatry of it.
In v12 Paul is quoting what the Corinthians would say when arguing for freedom of sexual expression. Just because it seems like everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right or even helpful. The stats tell us that 86% of men and 83% of women believe sex before marriage is ok. Society says, “We are 2 consenting adults and we live together and we’re married in our hearts. So whats the problem?”
The problem is we are approaching our bodies, sexuality and relationships from a fallen and misinformed perspective, rather than Gods perspective. Gods standards are higher than the culture around us.
V12 asks us to consider 3 questions when thinking about sex:
- Is it Lawful? Does the sexual act violate Gods laws and societies laws?
- Is it helpful? Does the sexual act pull a marriage together or apart?
- Is it enslaving? Does the sexual act promote obsessive, unhealthy behavior?
Grace! (More to come this week)
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 “We do not want you to be ignorant brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. for we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
One of the key questions I get asked as a pastor is, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?”
Well, the bible teaches us in Genesis 3 that suffering is a result of sin entering into the human heart due to our own rebellion against God. To be alive after Genesis 3 means you and I will suffer in some way. It’s not a question of “IF” but “WHEN”.
Jesus confirmed this when he said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation but take heart I have overcome the world.” This doesn’t mean that you and I will escape suffering but that we will in fact have Gods grace in the midst of the suffering we endure. Suffering won’t be avoided because you have a lot of faith or neither is it necessarily a punishment for your sin (however, we can suffer for making poor choices in life or willfully living in sin).
It’s important that before we move to a therapy of how to deal with suffering, we develop a biblical theology of suffering. A theology of suffering precedes and informs the therapy of suffering if we are going to understand and respond appropriately to God’s purposes for us in our suffering.
The key question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not the suffering we endure will be purposeful (something to be accomplished) or purposeless (nothing accomplished)? How we respond to suffering determines whether or not we gain anything from it. Will you suffer in a way that allows God to do something good in you or not? God encourages us to not waste our suffering because suffering can turn out to be for the benefit of God’s work in us and through us, if we respond from a Gospel perspective.
3 Questions to ask yourself when facing suffering:
- Will you see your suffering as a God-allowed opportunity to advance the gospel?
- Will other believers grow in their faith because of your suffering?
- Will unbelievers become believers in Christ because of your suffering?
The biblical response to suffering always comes back to rejoicing in Christ. What the…? Yes, that’s right, REJOICE! The Apostle Paul said, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Phil 1:12-18).
Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Paul was given grace by God and he recognized the grace God had given to him. Paul then exhorts us to not rate ourselves higher than the measure of faith that God has assigned to us. This is an interesting thought. From God’s perspective, we are to think about ourselves in accordance with the grace and measure of faith, heaven has assigned us.
When was the last time you ever thought about yourself in this way? I’ve observed that I sometimes think about myself in relation to how I’m feeling that day or what I have or haven’t accomplished in my life. Sometimes we think about ourselves in relation to other people’s opinions. But God says, ‘none of these are valid filters to measure yourself through.’
God assigns to all of us a measure of faith. This measure can grow based upon our hearing of Gods word and our obedience to it. The potential for growth in grace and faith challenges me to position myself before God in a way that I can access more of him to fulfill the call he’s given to me.
Romans 12:6 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” One of the things I have observed about ministry gifts in the Body of Christ is that they are all ministering out of the grace God has given to them. I think too often we think that our ministry is all dependent upon our efforts and works. It’s true, faith apart from works is dead but I’m coming to realize more and more that our ministry sphere of influence is directly connected to God’s grace upon us and the measure of faith we are currently exercising.
What must be our response to this? I believe that we must discern the grace God has given to us and soberly measure the faith we currently have, whilst we are being diligently faithful to the assigned sphere of influence God’s grace has extended to us. Much can come from little in God’s economy but we must position ourselves to maximize the grace God’s given to us and fully exercise the faith we have been assigned. Here’s some basic tips to do so:
- Honour spiritual authority
- Increase your intimacy with God
- Hear God’s Word and obey it
- Develop your gift and use it to its fullest potential
- Trust God’s plan for your life and ministry