Saturday, September 11, 2010

Being Faithful to our God Given Dreams

A sermon preached by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Acts 28.
Preached at Precision Valley Baptist Church, North Springfield, VT on August 29, 2010.
Preached at Faith Community Church, Barre, VT on September 5, 2010.
  • Paul had been called by God to share the Gospel with those who had never heard and start churches for them to worship in. Paul was faithful to do this for many years despite unbelievable obstacles and difficulties.
  • But Paul knew that for the Gospel to change the culture of the Roman Empire, he would need to preach the Gospel in the city of Rome. Since Christianity was despised and illegal, this was going to be quite a challenge.
  • Paul ended up being arrested on false charges while he was visiting Jerusalem.
  • Paul defended himself in a number of different courts but his opponents twisted the truth to keep him in prison.
  • Paul was finally put on a ship with some other prisoners and they sailed for Rome to stand trial there. But they were caught up in a terrible storm and the boat was torn to pieces. The group found themselves shipwrecked. 
Verse 1 - Safely ashore, we then learned that the island was called Malta.
  • Paul and his companions find themselves shipwrecked on Malta.
  • Malta is an island in the Mediterranean Sea located 58 miles from Sicily and 180 miles from Africa.
  • Malta is only 18 miles long and 8 miles wide.
  • The name "Malta" means "refuge" and this little island certainly served as a refuge to Paul in a time of trouble. 
Verse 2 - The local people showed us extraordinary kindness, for they lit a fire and took us all in, since rain was falling and it was cold.
  • The local people were most likely Phoenicians and spoke a language considered gibberish by the more cultured people.
  • But they were friendly and cared for all those who were shipwrecked.
  • Education and money do not always equal kindness. Kindness comes from the heart. 
Verse 7 - Now in the area . . . was an estate belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us hospitably for three days.
  • Paul and his companions are taken to the estate of Publius, where they stay for three days.
  • Little is known of Publius, but he was most likely the procurator of the island. A procurator is sort of like a governor but with less power. 
Verse 8 - It happened that Publius' father was in bed suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went to him, and praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him.
  • Publius' father was sick with dysentery.
  • Dysentery causes severe diarrhea and rapid dehydration.
  • On Malta, this disease was often spread through a microbe found in goat's milk.
  • Dysentery can last days, or even weeks, and is extremely uncomfortable.
  • Dysentery can cause death if left untreated, especially in children and the elderly.
  • When Paul prayed for this man, the man was healed. 
Verse 9 - After this, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.
  • Once one person was healed, others came to find the same help.
  • The Gospel brings healing to our lives.
  • As each person's life is changed, their friends and family desire to experience that same change.
  • The Gospel should be life changing and contagious! 
Verse 11 - After three months we set sail in an Alexandrian ship that had wintered at the island.
  • We know from Acts 27 that the group could have spent those same three months at Fair Haven and not lost the ship or its cargo.
  • Greed and bad advice had caused them to lose everything and become refugees on Malta.
  • Greed and bad advice will always bring pain into our lives. 
Verse 14 - There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome.
  • Once Paul and his group got back on track, they discovered some other believers who helped them along the way.
  • When we are struggling to remain faithful, we NEED other Christians to help us along the way.
  • Times of difficulty are not the times to pull away from the church.
  • At long last, Paul came to Rome.
  • It almost seems anti-climatic after the terrible storm and being shipwrecked and living as refugees. But Paul finally got there.
  • Though it took longer than Paul thought it would and arriving as a prisoner was not in the original plan, Paul finally got to Rome, which was his life-long dream. 
Verse 15 - Now the believers from there had heard the news about us and had come to meet us . . . when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
  • Paul's story had beaten him to Rome.
  • Whether we know it or not, people are watching how we handle the difficulties that threaten our God given dreams.
  • Christians are being strengthened and encouraged as they watch us struggle to overcome the obstacles in our path.
  • Non-Christians may make their faith decision based on our response to difficulty.
  • When Paul realized he was not alone, he found the courage to keep going.
  • We must realize that we are not alone in our struggle. God is with us and so are many believers, some we may not even know. 
Verse 16 - And when we entered Rome, Paul was permitted to stay by himself with the soldier who guarded him.
  • When Paul finally made it to Rome, he was given an amazing amount of freedom.
  • He went from having to live in a dungeon in fear of being assassinated by his opponents to living by himself with just a single soldier guarding him.
  • Paul had been faithful to pursue his God-given dream despite all the difficulties he encountered.
  • God rewards faithfulness!
  • Are we being faithful to our God given dreams in life? 
Verse 30 - Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house.
  • For two years Paul was in his own home sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen.
  • Paul's lifelong dream had been to travel to Rome to share the story of Jesus.
  • Though Paul faced many obstacles and difficulties along the way, he was finally able to fulfill his lifelong dream.
  • If we have a God-given dream, we must not let go of it no matter how many difficulties we may face along the way.
  • If we remain faithful to God and pursue the dream He has given us, we will see it fulfilled. But we must remain faithful.
  • Faithful means doing it even when we do not feel like it. Faithful is NOT on again, off again. 
Verse 31 - And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.
  • Paul welcomed anyone.
  • Paul did not play favorites.
  • Paul proclaimed the Gospel with boldness.
  • Though Paul was in Rome under house arrest, he preached without hindrance.
  • God tends to work things out in ways we would never have expected.
  • The story of the book of Acts ends abruptly with this verse.
  • Luke (the writer of Acts) does not tell us what happened when Paul stood before Caesar.
  • Why does Luke not tell us the rest of Paul's story?
  • Because the book of Acts is not about Paul.
  • The book of Acts is about the Gospel going forth from Jerusalem to every part of the earth.
  • No matter how many challenges and obstacles Satan erects, the Gospel cannot be stopped.
  • Part of our God given dreams must include sharing the Gospel with others because it is not all about us.
  • Luke does not tell us what happened to the church Paul was trying to start in Rome.
  • Some historians think that Luke might have died before he could finish Acts because Luke does not tell us anything about what happened in Paul's life after this verse. All we know is that Paul preached unhindered.
  • Paul had a God given dream to preach the Gospel in Rome. What God given dreams do we have?
  • Paul followed that dream through every obstacle and every storm and saw the dream achieved. We must stay faithful to our own God-given dreams and they will come to pass.
  • Our God given dreams should include sharing the Gospel with others.

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