IT GOES WITH THE JOB!
By Cooper Abrams
INTRO: This message is for preachers, missionaries and those who serve the Lord. It comes from the Apostle Paul a preacher God chose to write most of the New Testament. There is often a misunderstanding concerning the reality of the what it means to be a preacher of the Gospel. In a love for the truth and with a deep desire to encourage I prepared this message.
The real test of the genuineness of one's commitment to the Lord and one's understanding of the Bible is witnessed when one finds himself under pressure, provocation or persecution.
It tests our knowledge, understanding and trust in God's Word.
1. Our real character or lack of it is revealed when unexpected changes and problems come up.
2. Our reactions reveal our spiritual condition. It is God's POP TEST which shows how we are growing and maturing in Christ.
3. When pressures and difficulty comes what we really are inside comes out. It show what we really believe and trust in.
4. Contrary to popular opinion preachers and pastors are subject to the problems and troubles just like everyone else....the only difference is...I believe the problems come more often and come in greater magnitude.!!
5. All of us will at times get to go up on the mountain top where things go good. It is a beautiful place without stress and difficulty. It is peaceful too and so very relaxing. It is a nice place to be, but it is a place we visit, I don't know anyone who lives there!
6. We hear of preachers and missionaries quitting the ministry all the time. We hear of pastors many pastors having difficulty, burn-out and discouragement. When I hear of a brother falling by the way side I wonder if he truly knew what God had called him too. I wonder if he understood what being a preacher of he Gospel truly entails. Maybe if he had known he would not have become a castaway.
When we see men having great difficulty and suffering because of their ministry, in our minds we think, "What a tragic thing, how terrible, this should not be, what can be do to stop it or keep it from happening.
I think this shows a serious flaw in our understanding of the job that preachers, pastors and missionaries have been called. I think we need a BIBLICAL understanding....a Scriptural UNDERSTANDING OF THE MATTER OF PROBLEMS AND DIFFICULTIES THAT COME FROM THE MINISTRY GOD HAS CALLED US TOO.
ILLUS: A pastor friend of mine, (Brother Jack Gassaway) preached for me one Sunday night on the "Storms of Life." He said, "You are in a storm, getting ready to enter one, or just passed through one!" How true that statement is.
7. Over the years I have talked to a lot of pastors who are very discouraged. I know a number of preachers who were once good sound men who had fruitful ministries serving the Lord. Many now out of the ministry, shipwrecked in God's service.
a. I do not have an instant cure to offer you. Not because cure cannot be instant, but because most times we are slow to obey, and at times hard to be taught. Most of us are at times weak in faith and it hinders God's ability to strengthen us and keep us going.
b. But by fellow preacher, there is a cure!!! There is a soothing healing balm, that works to effect a perfect and lasting cure. It is the Word of God itself which instructs and directs us. It is God's very word, and He only He who called us, to whom we serve, who created the job we do, only He can help us. That help comes in understanding the nature of the job we have been called too. We judge our situation, success or failure by His standards and His alone.
c. For the Christian, the preacher called of God to be busy about God's work.....it is God's own word on the matter. The Master we serve instructs us in the task He calls us too.
d. God is always faithful and in His word the BIBLE He has given us much instruction which will shed light on the matter. The Lord who called us did not leave us without proper instruction.
The problem is sometimes we miss it even when regularly studying, preaching and teaching God's Word.
I. GOD SAYS THAT MANY TIMES THE TROUBLES AND DIFFICULTIES WE EXPERIENCE ARE A PART OF HIS PLAN FOR OUR LIVES AND MINISTRY.
A. Paul said in Phil. 1:12, "the things that happened, happened to me for the furtherance of the Gospel!
1. That verse is saying the difficulty and suffering Paul was experiencing was GOOD! AM I CORRECT?
2. When Paul wrote this he was in prison, in chains in Rome awaiting trial that could end in his death.
B. How many of us would think things were right on schedule, on course, going according to God's plan if our pastor or missionary writes and says he is a prisoner in jail.
1. I honestly believe that most times, when we hear of difficultly in a church or in a preacher's life we conclude automatically that the preacher is some-how in fault.
This exposes how that we often misunderstand how God chooses sometimes to work.
2. If we study the Bible...we will find it was the rule rather than the exception for the Christian and especially God's preacher to find himself in some kind of trouble or difficulty.
a. Look at the stormy ministry of Moses.
b. In fact of most of the prophets of God in the Old Testament were hated for being and doing what God had called them to do and say. Read Heb. 11:36-40.
c. Christ's ministry was one of great opposition. They tried to kill Him on many occasion and though clearly they knew Him to be the Messiah they rejected Him and crucified Him on the cross.
d. They killed John the Baptist and Stephen. They sought to kill who Peter, John...they were beaten and thrown in prison. In fact all the Apostles except John were murdered for their faith.
e. Paul's ministry was one of every conceivable trouble. I think when you and I come under the weight of persecution and he difficulties associated with preaching the Gospel we should read about what Paul suffered.
Most of use when troubles come throw up our hands and proclaim..."Woe is me!" We lapse into a good old pity party and feel so bad because we have been abused or hurt. Often we conclude God is not fair...are we not serving the Lord? Why then all the trouble?!
That is quite different that what Paul did. Can you believe it? Paul said he would glory, yes glory in his infirmities!
Let me interject one thought...I'm not referring to the problems caused by ourselves! We are called the "Fighting Fundamentalists." Some of it is not of the Lord, and we need to make absolutely sure of what is the true cause of our difficulties. We should not be spoiling for a fight...or looking for one, but always be ready to contend for the faith. More importantly, should make absolutely sure that the source of our difficult is not us.
3. Paul addresses the difficulties associated with the ministry and in Phil 1:12f, says...not to worry! He writes to the Philippians and says, my being in prison is working to the furtherance of the Gospel.
4. Paul had for a long time wanted to go to Rome and preach the Gospel as Acts 19:21, Rom. 1:15 tell us.
a. Acts 23:11 recorded that God told Paul to be of good cheer because you are going to Rome. The verse assures Paul and God says He was standing with him!
b. Now note when it was that God told him this? Let's look at the circumstances. Let me warn you, the situation looked bad. Paul was arrested, in prison on trial for his life.
Acts 23:10 says the Jewish religious leaders were so mad with Paul the soldiers had to take Paul by force from these people to protect him from their tearing him to pieces!!
Forty men, bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink till Paul was dead.
; What was Paul great offense. What had he done that was so terrible that men wanted to kill him and tear him to pieces? The answer is simple: He preached that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, who had come and died for the sins of the world and because He was God was resurrected on the third day. Paul's great crime was that he told men they could have forgiveness for sins and received eternal life if they would believe, repent of their sins and let Jesus Christ be their Savior. That all he did....yet he was vehemently hated for his message.
Wow, what a mess, how terrible a situation we would cry. Yet....everything was right on schedule...he was in God's will....where God wanted him....doing what God wanted him to do! My friend do you see that in God's word. He was completely in God's will.
c. Not a very encouraging situation. Boy, I would have hated to have to write a prayer letter to my supporting churches explaining all that! Acts 23:12-13
4. Paul's plan was to preach in Rome. He has a burden to preach in the very heart of paganism of his day. He wanted to proclaim Christ in the capitol of the whole world. He wanted to see Romans saved and Christ magnified in this pagan and wicked city.
a. I am sure he have made plans and thought about how it might be done. He had a burden for souls and sought how he might carry out the task.
b. Yet, God had plans too. There were not the same as Paul's and I doubt Paul had any idea he would be going, not as a visiting preacher, welcomed by the folks there, put up in some good church members home or a nice motel...
But shackled to a Roman guard, a prisoner under guard, to be tried for his life!!!
C. That was not all Paul's problems. Acts 16: records how God sent Paul to Phillippi and the Gospel was first preached in Europe. What a wonderful thing had happened. Paul had tried to preach in Asia Minor to visit churches there he had started but God stopped him. He then wanted to go to Bithynia, God again God would not allow him to go there either. God then sent him a vision in the night of a man of Macedonia say, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us." Immediately Paul and those with him headed westward, crossed the Aegean sea and went to Phillippi.
He found Lydia and some women praying down by the river on the Sabbath day and preached Christ to them. They believed and the Phillippian church was born. However, the Devil was there to and was mocking him through a woman who had a demon. Paul cast out the demon which seemed to be a wonder thing, but she was being used by men to tell fortunes and with the demon gone from her they lost their income. Angrily the attacked Paul.
1. Paul and Silas was beaten with many lashes and thrown in prison.
[ Has any preacher, Sunday School teacher, or godly Christian here had the folks your are trying to share the Gospel with beat you with a whip?]
It look like failure, a terrible mess. All the little wimpy compromising, neo-evangelicals, and liberals were elated! The enemies of the Gospel had won....right? Paul and Silas were in prison and suffering terribly.
But Paul and Silas trusted God. They were suffering yes, but in the night the walls of the prison rang with the sounds of men praying and singing songs of praise to God. The walls began to shake and there was a great earthquake that loosed all the chains that bound them.
Folks did God hear their prayers and songs of praise? Did God forget them there? It certainly looked bad...beaten, thrown in a filthy prison, chained to walls. Yet, everything was as it should be, Paul and Silas were in God's will, experiencing exactly what God wanted them too. It look terrible, but all was in reality perfect. You know what happened? That night the Phillippian jailer and his whole family were saved....!!!!
How many of us would plan to start a church like this? Yet that was God's plan and people were saved and a church was established there! Are you beginning to get the picture?
After Phillippi Paul heads for Thessaloncia. Again he began to preach the Gospel. Many Greeks and women were saved as Acts 17:4 records.
Yet, Paul did a great work for God there for the Lord, but they ran him out of town with the devils crowd hot on his heels. The devil's crowd cheered and smugly said, "We showed him, we got rid of that old fanatic."
Yet all the time the Word of God was growing in the hearts of those saved and the church was planted!
The devil's crowd seemed to have won the day, but they later learned better. At this moment they burn in Hades, awaiting the final judgment, yet Paul and those who believed God and trusted the Lord Jesus, who received the message Paul was delivering, are basking in the presence of Christ Jesus the Lord!!
2. They ran Paul out of Thessaloncia...they would have killed him if he stayed as Acts 17:1f tells us.
If I did not know better I could almost believe in reincarnation when you read Acts 17:5, about these men the Bible says they were, "lewd fellows of the baser sort!" Over the years I think I have met some of these fellows! Well, maybe it was their decedents or more probably they had the same father whose name is the Devil?
With these men hot on his heels Paul slips out at night hiding under the cover of darkness. OH, I CAN HEAR THE CRITICS, THE KNOW IT ALLS. Look! Paul is shirking his duty, I knew he would fail and come to no good end. Paul's let the Devil defeat him!!
Yet, Paul was right on schedule exactly where God wanted him to be perfectly in God's will.
Not a very noble way to leave town, but it was very practical!
God started a church there, Christ's name was exalted and soon many in the town had heard the GOOD NEWS and were saved!
3. At Berea, things look pretty good for a time. Paul found men who searched the Scriptures seeking God's truth. (Acts 17:11) I know that lifted his spirits, especially after the opposition at Thessalonica. It any one needed some encouragement it was Paul and he needed it then. What a bless to find those who would honestly consider the Gospel message.
But the Devil's crowd was on the job, and the crowd from Thessalonica found him and again Paul is running for his life. He certainly was not on the mountain top very long was he?
Again, most folks would say....failure, gross failure! Look at all the trouble Paul is having. God is punishing him and chastening him.
Seems like you find that same response to another man who loved the Lord and suffered greatly for it. He too was criticized by the "friends" and false accused of sinning and being out of God's will. You remember the man named Job?
Yet, God was working...Paul was on course on time in God's Will.
FOLKS EVERYWHERE THE GOSPEL HAS EVER GONE IT HAS BEEN OPPOSED!!! EACH TIME IT DOES LOOK BAD!....YET,THE DEVIL'S NOT WINNING!!!!
BUT THE DEVIL WANTS YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE TO THINK HE IS!!
D. Many of these modern day wimpy preachers wring their hands and will do anything to avoid trouble. Yes, they too are ready in an instant to judge you if you are not in their eyes having great success. These "friends" are about as bad as enemies. In fact with friends like these you don't need enemies.
No one wants trouble, we surely don't look for it....but if you are true to the Word of God....trouble will come.!
Does not 2 Timothy 3:12 say, "Yea, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, will ESCAPE persecution and trouble?"
It this the Word of God and does He not say, those that live godly SHALL suffer persecution.
No God hater, hypocrite, false preacher, or compromiser will ever want their sin, their false doctrine mentioned or exposed...they will kill you, if they can to silence you.
Jesus said John 16:2 to his disciples that the day would come when those that kill you will think they have done God a service.
Note who is doing the killing and persecuting...the religious unbelievers. Gentlemen, I have served since 1986 in Utah among the Mormons, but it is not the Mormons who give me trouble, but some the religious leaders who claim to stand for God yet do not believe this Bible.
E. In these many years I have been preaching I have learned a few things.
I have learned that you can tell a good deal about what a man stands for by what he opposes.
I have learned too that there are not many Silas' around who will stand with their fellow preacher of the Gospel when times get tough. I believe Silas and the other men who served with Paul were a great strength to him. I too know that even though you know the Lord is always with you, it helps to have a friend and brother in the Lord who will understand and take the beating with you. Sadly, I say this. It has been my experience that most preachers will avoid you like the plague if you are having trouble. Like Jobs "wonderful friends" they are really to counsel you, but few will stand with you in times of trials.
F. Paul proclaimed he suffered trouble, falsely accused as an evil doer, even to bonds, but he proclaims the Truth: (2 Tim. 2:9) but he says...God's Word is not bound!!!!
1. At Jerusalem, the scribes and Pharisees rejoiced to see Paul taken away to Rome as a prisoner. Yet the Word of God was not Bound! It lived in the hearts and lives of those who heard an received it.
2. They thought they had stopped Paul, stopped God's using him....yet all they did was give him free passage to Rome where God wanted him.
How about that? The Devil's crowd was responsible for providing the missionary's passage money!!
3. From Jerusalem the Gospel spread throughout the Middle East !! Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D. and God's headquarters moved to Antioch, and the Gospel went round the world.
II. GOD NEEDS PREACHERS and MISSIONARIES WHO WILL NOT BE DISCOURAGED, WHO WILL STAND FIRM, KNOWING THE TRUTH...THAT GOD'S WORD IS REAL....ONLY IT CAN SAVE A LOST AND DYING WORLD.
A. When God calls man to preach...persecution and opposition goes with the job!
1. Folks the Mechanic has to contend with grease and grim, the plumber must deal with sewage, the farmer - dirt, the carpenter-splinters....and the preacher....opposition!!
2. "YEA, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. God says that evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."
B. Did you not know that the Gospel has went around the world in adversity.
1. I am deeply grateful to my Baptist forefathers who were true to the word of God and the Bible. Many did so at great personal risk....many of them died terrible deaths.
Forgive me for saying this but I don't have much use for this wimpy crowd today, who see no evil, hear on evil and say they do no evil. The "always positive" crowd who would rather see a man die in his sins and go to hell, rather than preach against sin....thinking that all trouble and opposition is bad.
2. Many preachers today appear to be blind to the Word of God they say they are called to preach. They have no understanding of the Devil and his devices.
3. I am as guilty as any man called to preach. I get discouraged too. I stump my toe on the rocky road God has put me on. I need a greater faith, I need to be more trusting.
C. God wants a preacher who will in the love of God, and with a love for the Truth, and in love for the folks God sent him to shepherd, to stand firm....to preach God's Truth.
The standard the preacher should live by is found in 1 Cor. 16:13-14, and says, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong, let all your things be done with charity."
He needs men who will stand firm, do what God called them to do and let God work out the success or failure of the matter.
III. WEAK OR COMPROMISING PREACHERS BUILD WEAK CHRISTIANS AND UNSOUND CHURCHES.
A. BECAUSE of Paul's trust in the Lord he was bold in this faith and it was a testimony and a manifestation of the Grace of God in his life and others seeing his trust in God waxed bold also and were greatly encourage by him.
1. Today, many times preachers are like a pack of dogs....ready to turn and destroy one another. Some even keeping a record of failed preachers and dirt they hear.
2. They saw Paul's firm stand in the assurance of God's power to save and protect and they also stood.
3. In V15, Paul says sure...there are those who preach out of envy and strife (the word is rivalry).
V16, some preached out of contention, not sincerely, and thinking they added to Paul's affliction.
AT Robertson suggests there were those in the church who had been leaders who were jealous of Paul's prominence and their lessor prominence.
These made a show of spirituality yet their motives were not sincere and what they outwardly presented as spiritual was a sham and they used it to hide their envy and strife from others....and he adds...maybe even to themselves.
4. Paul said that even that is a credit to the Lord! Because even for these misguided reason...the Gospel was preached! By the way, these men knew the truth and in fact were preaching the truth. Paul would have never made that statement if they were preaching false doctrine.
Thus the source of trouble was from men who were preaching the truth....and living for the Devil.
B. Nothing get to me more than this "holier than thou" crowd with all their false outward spirituality.
1. They say, "we love the Lord too, however we are more loving, and not judgmental as you are though your rigid preaching against sin and false doctrine sin.
2. They say you preach on sin to much, you are not loving and kind as a preacher ought to be.
3. How much love can one have for another, that he would be honest enough to tell a lost and dying world of sin and its end. They Devil never wants to truth told of what is sin and what it will do to you.
How much more love can one man have for another than to bear scorn, shame, persecution and trouble to tell people the truth and turn them away for an eternal burning hell.
I feel at times like a man by a railroad track, waving my hands, trying to warn the approaching train that the trestle is out....but to little or no avail. The train speeds by, the people looking out the windows wave and wonder what is that nut doing? All the while headed to doom.
4. The Devil's greatest trick is to try and get his followers to be outwardly more piteous than true Christians.
Who does the Bible say were the greatest opposers of God? It was the religious zealots who killed the prophets of God,
apostles and preachers.
IV. PREACHER, Sunday School TEACHER, GODLY CHRISTIAN, THE DEVIL HAS YOUR NUMBER.
A. Those who opposed Paul knew he was set to defend God's Truth!!
1. They knew where he was headed and they went ahead and lay a trap for him.
2. They set snares and ambushes for him.
B. Paul's response is in V20.
1. My earnest expectation and hope is that in nothing I shall be ashamed! Ashamed before who? The Lord!
2. What could he be ashamed of???? Paul the Man of God, What???
3. Of not preaching the Gospel....of not preaching in boldness and magnifying Jesus Christ our Lord.
C. Paul's plan is shown in V21.
What kept the Apostle Paul going and doing a work the Lord is the same thing that has kept every servant of the Lord faithful. We proclaim with Christ, "not my will but thy will be done oh Lord," and with Paul......."To live is Christ, to die is gain."
Phil 1:28, In nothing be terrified of your adversaries!!
1. Paul says that fact they attack you is evidence of their coming destruction.
2. But to you...opposition is a sign of your serving God and even doing the will of God.
3. V29. For unto you it is given in behalf of Christ.
Not to believe only...But also to suffer...for His sake.
4. Circumstances do not cause one to be spiritual or unspiritual.
Success cannot used all the time to determine whether you are serving God or not. Most time the opposition and persecution you face is a better test of whether you are in God's will.
5. Gentlemen, opposition is normal, no opposition is abnormal.
Take heart if you are finding serving the Lord difficult. Take your encouragement from God's Word, be encouraged in the promises of God and of His ability to see you through any circumstance and use it for His glory.
READ Heb. 10:35-39