The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
Good morning. Good morning. It is great to be here with you and to be with those of you in the prayer garden and those with you in Collingswood this morning. Uh, as many of you know, um, my name is Pastor Ben and I got back on sabbatical a month ago, and it is a real treat to be back with you all. And again, a couple things I just felt extremely grateful for this morning.
One is to be a part of a church that would give that privilege of sending my family and I on sabbatical, as you did with Mike last year. And the rhythm of that and the gift, undeserved gift of that, uh, was for our family. We thank you for that. I also, just this morning, am struck here in Mount Laurel as I often end in collinswood of the place of prayer.
That is in the worship. And that when we come together, we don’t come together to just learn, to just read, to just speak to one another. We come together to interact with God. And the amount of prayer that is in the worship service in both places brings me great joy. This morning we went to Columbia over our sabbatical, um, for seven weeks over there.
We went there with a two month year old and, uh, a a lot of trusting God is just like saying, okay, and we went over there with a two month year old trying to say, okay, God, we don’t know what this is gonna be like. My wife told me before we left, she’s like, I’m not worried about anybody medically in our family except for you.
’cause something always seems to happen to you. To which I. Treasured in my heart, all kinds of resentful thoughts like, nah, it’s gonna happen. Well, we had a wonderful time down there. We had an incredible time with a Adriana’s family, meeting them, her birth family, and, uh, have stacked in a lot of incredible stories, have seen a lot of miracles, um, that happened there at the end of the trip.
It got a little exciting. Uh, some of you may know that I had a. Uh, emergency surgery, uh, two days before leaving. And it, what happened was I started with the, the stomach pain, right? And some of you know where the surgery goes already here, it’s appendicitis, not bury the lead. But what happened is, like, I had this stomach pain, and, and the day before we had some friends who were from Chicago, they flew out and they have a nine-year-old who the day before had some stomach pain.
And so she was like laying down in the, the little house where we were and just kind of took a day off. So when I started having stomach pain the next day, all of us thought I had what Clover had. Clover is the nine year old. And as we went out to dinner and, and they said, you know, how are you feeling?
And all that kind of thing. And, and I love, I love being asked about how I’m feeling about, as much as my dad loves being asked about his back. Not much, right? So I come from a, a medically dismissive roots and I carry those on as well. So I am feeling worse and worse and everyone’s like, wow. Yeah, man, you and clover.
You and clover. And as things began to like get even more emergency ish, I’m just thinking how tough is clover, right? I am. I’m dying here. Right? I’m, and I can’t complain so much because 24 hours earlier the nine year old had it. And guess what? She seemed fine. Turns out what I had was worse than what Clover had.
But we actually went during, this is true during this time. ’cause I’m like, no, I’m fine, I’m fine. We go to the city and when we’re in the city, uh, my wife and Clover as so happens are getting their nails done. And then I am outside wandering around the car. Absolutely dying and I’m kneeling on the ground, laying on the ground, little fetal position mixed in.
All kinds of things are going on. The security guy comes up, he speaks as much English as I speak. Spanish, not much. He’s asking me, are you okay? In various ways, and I’m like, you know, various things. He uses the word, you wanna go to the infirmary. I don’t know what an infirmary is, but the answer to that question for me is always no.
So, Don’t go to the infirmary. Eventually we go back. At this point, I am in more pain than I can pretend to dismiss. And by two in the morning I ended up driving back down the mountain from where we were staying and getting the surgery. It was, this was Saturday and then we eventually, our plane tickets were Monday and that was my big concern, are you gonna let me on the plane?
Are you gonna let me fly? And so I’m looking up online, it says five to seven days after having an appendectomy. And I’m like, oh, I hope they have different rules in Columbia. They have different rules in Columbia. So I got outta the hospital on Sunday, we flew back on Monday and we’re in the security line and all of a sudden I feel something like I pulled a stitch.
And you’re thinking, oh man, is something bad gonna happen to him? That’s not what I’m thinking at all. All I’m thinking is, are we not gonna get on this plane? Right? I’ve got plane tickets for six of us that I don’t want to repurchase, so I’m just thinking if I bleed out, I just have to disguise it somehow because I’m the secure line.
So I’m literally thinking what I can kind of put in front of me. ’cause I don’t know if I’m gonna bleed. I don’t care if I die on that plane. We are getting on that airplane. So we didn’t bleed out. We made it home. Uh, but we had an amazing time and very grateful for God’s protection and very disappointed that my wife, again, was right.
It was me who needed the surgery. We’re gonna pick up today in the Book of Acts. Um, we are in Acts 23. Paul has gone on three missionary journeys and now he finds himself back in Jerusalem and he’s having a heck of a time because people are angry with him. We’ve got different factions of people who are fighting over him.
Interestingly enough, almost all of them don’t like each other, but they also don’t like him. So they have a con common enemy in Paul and in one another, and it’s this whole tumultuous scene as a collision of worldviews are hitting in Jerusalem. I’m gonna start in verse 11, and then go from there. This is after Paul has already faced, uh, tremendous persecution and almost death.
The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, take courage for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem. So you must testify also in Rome. When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath to neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There was more than 40 who made this conspiracy.
They went to chief priests and elders. Instead, we have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now, therefore, you, along with the council, give notice to the Tribune to bring him down to you as though you are going to determine his case more. Exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.
Now the son of Paul’s sister, that’s a nephew, for those you keep wrecking record heard of this ambush. So he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, take this young man to the Tribune. He has something to tell him. So he took him and brought him to the Tribune and said, Paul, the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you.
And he has something to say. The Tribune took him by the hand and going inside, asked him privately, what is it that you have to tell me? And he said the Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him, but do not be persuaded by them for they’ve bound themselves by an oath to neither eat or drink till they have killed him and now they are ready waiting for your consent.
So the Tribune dismissed the young man charging him. Tell no one. You have informed me of these things. Then he called two centurions. Get ready, 200 soldiers with 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen, and go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. Which is 9:00 PM. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix, the governor.
And he wrote a letter to this effects Claudius Lisia, which is an amazing name by the way. Claudius Liss to his excellency, the Governor, Felix. Greetings. This man was seized by Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen and desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their counsel.
I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent ’em to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him. So the soldiers, according to their instructions, Took Paul and brought him by night to Antipas, and on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with them.
When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province was he from, and when he had learned that he was from cea, he said, I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrived, and he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s pre auditorium.
Pray with me this morning.
Lord, we ask you for your help as we enter this text and this story. I know it feels like a lot to read, all those verses. We pray that you might guide us and direct us. We remember the scripture of Proverbs three. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding and all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.
My prayer simply this morning is through the life and story of Paul, that you might show us how to do that. You might let trust not be a vague concept out there somewhere, but you might help us better understand how to do that for our lives, how to approach the fall that way. How to live the daily difficult and good things with the daily practical trust.
We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. I wanna start the sermon, the start that the conversation about Acts 23, uh, with a proverb. Proverb nine. Proverbs 1921 says this, many are the plans of the person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purposes that prevail. If there was a thesis statement to put on Acts 23, it is Proverbs 1921.
Proverbs 1921 gives us language of what happens in Acts 23. There are the plans or plots of the humans, of the person’s heart, and then there are the Lord’s purposes which ultimately prevail. We’re gonna look at differences and if you have your little, uh, sermon note thing, you’ll see a grid, and we’re gonna look at what’s the difference between the plots of the human heart and what’s the difference between trusting in the plans and the plans of God plots and plans plots we’re gonna define as this, which we see in our text, well intended every day or long-term plans that are made and carried out without the help of God.
Now we see that we did it well intended every day, long-term plans made without the help, um, and carried out without the help of God. And we say, we, we don’t wanna live that way. We, we don’t wanna live a guy a, a life that Pastor Mark calls as functionally atheistic of, yes, I might trust him. Yes, I might even know him in a theoretical sense, but, but to live my life with everyday plans that are without him.
We don’t want to live that way. If you’re anything like me when it comes to planning your life, you don’t want to live without the help of God. But it is often how we end up living. It is often how we end up setting our goals. It is often how we determine what we do in each step of the way. We can tend to live as functionally atheistic and just operating on our own plans as opposed to knowing how to trust in the promises of God promises.
We’re gonna call this biblical and personal promises that God gives to his people. That always require walking in difficult and delightful trust. If you have spent time walking in trust with God, you know that it is not partially difficult and partially delightful. It is most of the time deeply both of those things, not slightly but deeply.
Both of those things. How do we live in the promises of God and and how do we know? How do we know? Is this my idea or God’s idea? This seems like a good one. I’m, I’m planning this for this fall, or I’m planning this for the future, or I’m, I’m thinking this for possible marriage. I’m thinking this for, for possible, um, setting up education or job thing.
How do we know, is this my own plot or is this God’s plan? So this morning we’re looking at Acts 23 asking the question, how do we practically lead a life that is based not on our own plots and plans, but according to the promises and direction of God? First thing, you’ll see this in your chart if you wanna put this in the one a spot, the, when you look at the plots of man, what we see here in this text is the product is what matters.
Right. We have in verse 14 that these, this group of people, this 40 plus group of people went to the chief priests and elders. They went to the people in charge. They were not hiding this from, from the people who were in charge of the law. They were going and saying, this is what we are doing according to what we think we should do.
So they go to the chief priests and to the elders, the very ones that would hold them to the oath that they were making. We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath not to taste any food or drink any drink until we have killed this man. They are passionately zealous about wanting spiritual things. They, they are passionate in their approach to this.
They are dedicated, willing to risk their life for the sake of killing Paul, and, and they can’t accomplish what they think they should accomplish by the ordinary means. In verses six through nine that we looked at last week, we see the legal, some of the legal proceedings by which the people were trying to convict.
Paul, the very thing that Claudius Lisia. Again, awesome name. Writes the letter to Felix and he’s writing this letter saying, Hey, I looked at what was going on. It didn’t seem enough to put him to death or to keep him in jail. And so that’s in his letter that’s found out in the six through nine passage.
So they can’t get him in prison to, to keep him quiet by the normal means of conviction. So, so then there’s almost a public riot. Verse 10 says that the dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. It’s this violent, this charged of an event that’s happening.
So he actually puts Paul in prison to keep him safe because the plot of, um, or the, the legal proceedings were not enough to convict him. The public riot was not enough to kill him. So now they plan to murder him themselves. What is interesting is what they’re going to do is violate their own law.
They’re gonna violate their own virtues. That deep inside the law is not only do not murder, it is not the right process of someone being imprisoned or put to death to then go and just murder them, them yourself. This is not the right process according to the law that they are passionate about defending.
If you would bring them one by one, one the 40 plus people in, or you brought in the chief priest or the elders who all got behind this plot and said, Hey, what do you think about just taking the law into our own hands and, uh, violating the commandment? Do not murder and violating the commandment. Uh, do not lie because in the text they go, and the part of it is deception.
Elders and chief priests are gonna go say, Hey, we need to question him some more, and on the way he’s going to be killed. They’re using the classic, the ends justify the means in their mind, in their passionate minds. They see that Paul must die. This threat must be gone. And towards that end, everything else doesn’t matter.
We just have to get to the ends. Justify the means. There’s a podcast that many of you have. Uh, Heard, uh, about the rise and fall of Mars Hill by Mike Cosper. And, uh, and Mike Cosper looks and evaluates, uh, the danger of living as a church community or as a person of faith in a way that the ends justify the means.
And one of the episodes of the podcast, he talks about Bobby Knight. Anybody know Bobby Knight? Right? Bobby Knight is the the chair guy, the punch, the one of his players guy. He’s an Indiana basketball coach who was incredibly effective at winning games and incredibly destructive in the way that he would do that.
But there was all of this controversy because Indiana University wanted to win a lot of basketball games. But the way that Bobby Knight did it was he would put chains on the doors during practices, chains and locks. No one was allowed in. He would, uh, be screaming, berating his players, uh, eventually would punch one of his players.
Kick a chair. He’s angry. Angry man. But he won a lot of basketball games, and so it left the University of what to do. Um, and, uh, in the podcast, Mike Cosper talks about a book by fete. He says, this, fete Remi recalls the moment that encapsulate the calculus, the one that knight made. It’s what justified the culture of fear, the bullying, the unhinged brashness.
After the Indiana, Illinois game, during which Bob kicked and slammed a chair, kicked a cheerleader’s megaphone. Dave Kindred, a superb columnist for the Atlantic Constitution, wrote that he was disappointed to see Knight acting in this way. Kindred, a longtime friend of Knight’s, ended the column by writing.
Once again, I find myself wondering when it comes to Bob Knight, if the ends justify the means. A few days later, Knight called Kindred. You need one more line for that column, Knight said, you should have finished by saying, and one more time, I realized that it does. When our good goals become our idols, we will justify just about anything to serve them.
The plots of the human heart, the product is what matters. But what we see in Paul is trusting and relying in the promises of God. It is the process that matters. In verse 11, sets up this whole text. Actually, verse 11 sets up the rest of the Book of Acts. The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, take courage for as you testify to the facts about me and Jerusalem.
So must you testify in Rome. This, this little nugget, this little passage right here. This transition is, is given in transition between different stories in the text, but what God is saying is, Hey, as you have done it here in Jerusalem, you’re gonna do it again in Rome. And, and the primary command of the, the imperative of the text is not Paul, go to Rome by any means possible.
It’s not. Paul, I want you to get outta here, escape by night. Here’s where we’re gonna do the, the, the, the exact, uh, here are the exact details of the plan to get you to Rome. He’s saying, Paul, your job, take courage and be willing to testify about the facts that you know about me and I will get you to Rome.
What’s the promise in the text? The promise is that God is going to deliver him to Rome. This is, I think we have a map. That we can show. Rome is very, very far from Jerusalem. It is further than Bismarck. North Dakota is from right here. Okay? If we think about traveling to Bismarck, north, North Dakota, by means of the way Paul did, he did a lot by sea.
Can’t do that to Bismarck. Um, sorry, disappoint, but this is where Paul would have to go from Jerusalem. In this text, he ends up in Caesarea, and then in the following chapters we have this promise fulfilled where he will go. He gets shipwrecked in there somewhere over here by Malta. I think there’s some snake action that happens there.
Then eventually he’s gonna get back all the way to Rome. Why? Because God promised that Paul was going to Rome. Well, while, while, while the. The p pragmatic approach to saying, oh, we, we see a goal and we wanna get it there. And we see, we see what we want to have, and we’re gonna go after it. He’s deeply human.
I love what God does with Paul. He doesn’t clarify the timeline. He doesn’t tell him this is the, this is the step-by-step process. He says, you take courage. You trust in me and I’ll get you to Rome. Living a life of trust doesn’t include a clarified timeline. It’s not a linear plan that’s laid out. We’re often not given the script before the beginning of the show.
A life of trust involves keeping our hands open. One thing that, uh, on sabbatical that God let me do, um, I I’m gonna just say is I, A lot of things God doesn’t let me do. I don’t, A lot of times I’m an idea guy and I’ll come to the Lord and be like, Lord, I just think this could be so awesome. What do you think most often the Lord’s like, no.
Or Wait. And then I’ll have another great idea. And then somehow he doesn’t always fall for my great ideas, but I said, I’m working on him. I’m working on him. But, and when, when I hear no from the Lord, I don’t take it like you are so wise. You know what’s best for me, right? I take it like a toddler, like, but I really want to, this last year I turned 40 and I, I, um, I’m one of those nerds that like really wants to, I’m a, I’m a goal setter.
Like, okay, by 40, these are my four words I’m gonna go by in the next 10 years of my life and all that kind of stuff. Trying to figure out what was the Lord. And one of the things that I wanted to be a part of my life was to begin writing. And I turned 40 waiting for the beautiful Shakespearean inspiration to come where all of a sudden I would just start beautiful writing and I, throughout the next months I wrestled with it and the Lord asked me and he told me no.
And actually he told me no enough times that I got, I have a note on my phone where I’m like, things the Lord asked me to lose this year. There was nine and I wanted all of them. And he asked me to live a life of accepting, loss, accepting no. And by his grace, I had to say, okay, because when I am just product oriented, I’m gonna blow through things and hurt people and, and miss and neglect.
But I have to trust the God of process. And I, and I say that because finally, finally, and that’s exactly how I felt. Um, while we were on sabbatical, uh, in Columbia, the Lord said, Hey, why don’t you start writing? And I was like, okay. So there’s still eight things that I felt like the Lord caused me to lose.
Um, but I was able to finish a book while I was on sabbatical. And that’s, uh, been an incredible faith building process for me to remember that following God is not just about setting goals. It’s or about forcing our way to them. It is the process of living a life of trust. Secondly, plots, plots are self-sufficient.
What we see in this, in these 40 individuals that they were, are going to try to kill Paul, that go to the chiefs. And elders who buy into this plan is not based upon deep prayer. They did not pull open the Torah and try to look through, is this, is this something that’d be a wise decision or not? It is an impulsive decision, not based upon prayer or thoughtful reflection.
And what’s interesting is there is zero faith required to pull this off. Their success or failure is based upon the quality of the details and the execution of the leaders. So often that’s how we evaluate our thinking about our lives, right? Going into the fall, okay, let’s get the details right and let’s make sure the person in charge of getting it done gets it done the right way.
Is the goal realistic? Is the goal, uh, possible? Can we achieve this? It’s easy to set those goals. And it’s easy to hold ourselves accountable to, to finding and filling, fulfilling those goals. But I would argue that a life built upon trust is not built upon self-sufficiency. There’s a haunting thing I heard as a pastor, but a guy who planted a couple churches and after he planted a couple churches, he went on to really meet Christ in a powerful way.
And he looked back and he said, I planted both of those churches without the help of Jesus. The churches were pretty successful. That’s scary to me. Why? Because we, humans are, we’re pretty interesting and neat people. We, we have the image of God and we, we are, we have that creativity. We’ve got the ability to write and accomplish goals, but it is easy for people who believe deeply in God.
To set up their life in a way that’s based upon their own talent and capacity. It’s easy in this information age, right? We’ve got so much information to, to trust in that next article that we read to get out our, our cell phones and say, what’s the, the, the latest piece of data that will unlock the cheat code of parenting or wealth or relationships or happiness.
How do we get, what do we do? How do we shape and, and our scripture stays dusty. Our prayer is bland. ’cause we really think that next bit of information will lead us to our own sufficiency, to conquering as opposed to a life of trust. Plots say that I know what needs to be done and I’ve come up with the resources to get us there.
Plots in the end are all based on me. And while this has the good feeling, the happy feeling of the illusion of control, this way of living has so much pressure because it is all up to me to create and execute the plans on my own. Living a life according to the promises of God always is the second to be always requires the help of God.
I This text, the way God did this was on a string and a prayer. Paul is going to be murdered by these men. This plot is a good one. It makes sense and this plot very likely would have gone through except for Paul’s sister’s son. We didn’t even know Paul had a sister. There’s zero mention New Testament like who Paul’s sister’s son finds out about this plot.
Then all of the, the, the promise of God, of, of God, preserving Paul and getting him to Jerusalem is in the hands of, of, of his nephew and his nephew is allowed into the barracks. We don’t know if that was a hard thing or not to be allowed into the barracks and eventually tells Paul, then Paul, now the information is in Paul’s hand.
Paul’s own life is in his hand. And he turns to a centurion, he turns to a soldier and says, Hey, please take this boy and take him to the commander with the awesome name. Um, take him to the commander. And, and now the whole story is in this soldier’s hands. Right? This soldier has the opportunity to say, you’re a prisoner.
You know, I, I don’t need to listen to you. Lifeguards don’t usually like listening to the person who causes all the horseplay, right? Like he, this is the soldier is most likely to bulb blow ’em off. But he is like, alright, I’ll do it. It’s in the soldier’s hands, then it takes from the soldier’s hand, then it goes to the commander’s hands.
Another person who could eliminate it. Eventually, this would go to Felix’s hands. We’re gonna see in chapters ahead that this before he gets to Paul. Paul’s gonna go through fests hands and a grip’s Hands and the hands of the Angry Sea, but see the promises of God. That means for Paul that, oh, he’s in his nephew’s hands.
Centurion’s plans Commander’s Hands, Festus, Felix Agrippa. God’s promises never leave God’s hands, that God is the one who sustains and keeps his promises. Paul’s life was always in the hands of God. Living by the promises of God means we are always needing his help. Perhaps the greatest question to ask ourselves of, are we truly living a life trusting in the plans and promises of God, is to ask this simply, do I really need his help?
Is how he is asked, or how I’ve set up my life, have room for his help? We are more than servants of the King. We depend on the help of the king, major E. And Thomas says, God will never lead us to independence. But I’m just gonna be honest with you. I want independence in everything. I wanna be financially independent.
I want to be like, have everything set up in my life with my kids, with my relationships in my world, so that it is kind of a fortress. So it’s independent of anything else that can happen. God will not lead us into a place where we have enough control and strength on our own to carry out our lives. Well, this is what is delightful and difficult about trusting him.
Third plots of men, the plots rely on the on passion and force of the will. Imagine being one of these 40 dudes, right? These 40 guys. What are they risking their lives? What are they risking imprisonment? What they’re doing is a Roman crime. What they’re going to do to Paul could, if they are caught, put them in prison or put them be put to death because of what they are going to do.
They are passionate about this. They believe in this. They believe this is the right thing to do before God. I really believe that they have a, they are fully passionate and fully wrong. Proverbs 19, two says, it is not good to have zeal without knowledge or to be hasty and miss the way passion, and I, I think we, we rightly say, right, we wanna be passionate for God.
And passion has a place in the person’s life. It has a place to, to, to motivate us, to, to seek him. But I think that what can happen is we can become dependent on those feelings of passion in a way that, um, doesn’t last a life based on passion. Must be the icing, not the cupcake. A life base on passion is two great weaknesses.
Number one, it’s flashy. And by what I mean by that one is that it’s exciting. Anyone who has been on fire for God, you know, it is an exciting feeling to, to be, to be really sold out to one thing, to be giving your life to God alone. There’s, there’s a simplicity, there’s an excitement, there’s a beauty that comes with, with living passionately.
The hard thing also is it’s often temporary. People who, whose goal is to live on fire for God, don’t know what to do when it rains, because the part of walking towards Jesus is just putting the next brick on the wall. It is just the daily obedience. A life based on passion can be flashy, it can be fully passionate, but still lose its strength.
Secondly, it’s powerful. Uh, power is not a evil thing, but whenever we are around power, we must be very careful. What else is powerful? Anger. Anger makes me feel powerful, right? Who wants to take a nap when they’re angry? Nobody. Why? ’cause they’re strong. Strong. It’s a strong feeling. Passion is a strong feeling.
No one can stop us. And passion can rely and feed even in Christian circles. It can feed the ego and it can lead to a mob mentality. Passion, while being a great thing, cannot be the source of our faith. It is not how we make disciples. Um, three B, how we require how we live and trust is simply. We require p promises of God require daily pro trust.
It can feel as we’re in the book of acts like this is a nonstop Paul passion ministry ride. Paul’s derailed all the time in this book. He’s two years in Corinth. He’s, he’s a, he’s a year here. He’s stuck there right now. What’s gonna happen, he’s gonna go to Caesarea and he’s basically gonna sit in a jail cell or inherit pre auditorium for two years.
No bible books are written in those two years, and then eventually he’s gonna go, it’s gonna be five years before he even gets to Rome to fulfill the promise that we have here. There’s long periods of emptiness in Paul’s life where he doesn’t just have the highlight reel and the Hillsong track in the background, but what he has is the daily faithfulness.
A life of the Christian includes dark seasons, confusing times, and passionless obedience. We need more than a passion for God. We need faithfulness that outlives when the good feelings of passion go away. Eugene Peterson writes a book, long Obedience in the Right Direction. He says this, there’s a great market for religious experience in our world.
There is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue. Little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what early generations of Christians called holiness. Fourth, living according to the plans of God or the plots of men. Plots are often foiled plots often go awry in the text.
This, this well intended but evil plot. It does not go through. It does not go. So what happens to these people? Do they starve to death, die of thirst? And some people have looked at that and said, yes, they made this oath. They took it to the elders and chief priests who would bind them by this oath, and so they would have died not being able to fulfill it.
There are four different oaths that they could be released from. This appears to be within one of the four oaths that the chief priest could release these people from their carrying out. So I don’t think they died. I think they were ultimately released. But their plans, no matter what, were foiled and man, do we hate it when things go bad, when things go different than we imagined them.
It’s not a fun thing to look back on the New Year’s resolution list and say, oh wow, those 20 pounds are still here. You know, like it’s, it’s hard to have plans go the wrong direction. But the promises of God, and I love this in the text, the promises with God. Come with backup, right? Look what it says in the text.
This promise of God that’s on a wing and a prayer that’s like held by a thread through the centurion and through all of the different leaders that, that Paul will go through before he gets to Rome for this promise to be fulfilled. This is how he, this is how he carried it out. Then he called two centurions and said, get ready.
200 soldiers with 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen to go as far as Caesarea in the third hour of the night also provide mounts. This would be more than one, multiple horses for Saul to ride, to bring him safely to Felix, the governor. The guy’s like, all right, you wanna play with 40? I’m sending 470 to guard this man.
This is a battalion, a a, a giant amount of argument. There would even be less security in Jerusalem because of all of the people that are being commissioned to go with Paul. But God made, I promise to Paul. Oh, and God’s promises come with God’s backup. When God’s promise is something God delivers. It’s, it’s a pretty bold thing to, to have things in scripture, like to say that God always keeps his promises because it only takes one broken promise to one person for that not to be true.
Scripture teaches your life, teaches God keeps his promises. It is so easy to see the angry mob. It is so easy to see the overwhelming odds. And something that’s interesting, I, we sang this earlier. We don’t face Goliath, but we face our own giants. I love that because like, I’m not a giant and I can’t defeat a giant.
A giant’s bigger than me, right? Gene told me this morning, I know Gene is, gene told me this morning, he says, you’re shorter than I thought. And I thought, you know, like I, I, I can’t defeat a giant. That’s a good thing. But God’s promises come with backup. It is okay if we live a life that is bigger than ourselves, as long as we live it according to his promises.
Because when God promises he comes through Proverbs 1921. Again, many are the plans in the person’s heart, but is the Lord’s purposes that prevail. Just some quick practical things for practical things of, of living out this trust, living out this trust in a daily sense. One, use broken plans as a divine diving board into the goodness of God.
When your plans are foiled, because guess what? We’re gonna make human plans. We’re gonna do it again. Of like, oh, I set up my life again with without needing the help of God. But when those plans are foiled, let that be a moment to say, I have a chance to transition from plots to promises. Use it as a diving board into the goodness of God.
Secondly, always be mindful and increasing your prayer to worry ratio. The amount of time that our minds are worried about the future, the next thing for me, it’s significant. It’s just, I’m just good at it. I’m good at worry, right? So to increase, wow, I’m worrying again about myself, about things for myself, about how I could accomplish it, my own strength to use those times.
Say, okay, I’m gonna increase the prayer time. Now what am I gonna pray about? I’m gonna pray about what I was worrying about. Increase your prayer to worry ratio. Third, when you’re tempted to collapse in despair, stand on the promises of God. When you feel like, I just can’t do it. I just can’t face it. All is lost.
The mob is too big. Stand on the promises of God. There’s a moment where Joshua comes before God and he’s on his face flat before God, which is like, yeah, that’s exactly where I’d be before God. And, and God in this, in really powerful moment in the book of Joshua, you know what he says to Joshua? Joshua, stand up.
Because yes, you need to kneel in, in fidelity, and yes, you need to to to be dependent upon me, but when you’re in my presence covered by me, you can stand in strength on the promises of God. Lastly, Spend time listening so that God can promise you something. Specifically, I believe if we truly believe in what the Bible teaches, that we have a God who truly speaks to his people.
I don’t believe I do. I believe that, that we’re still writing books to the Bible. I don’t do I believe that the Holy Spirit specifically speaks promises to his people. I do. I don’t. I don’t see how you cannot, when you look at the pages of scripture, God speaks and, and I know for some in here, it’s like, what is Hes?
What is that like? Well, it does take time to know him. It takes time to recognize his voice. But if you spend time listening and seeking him, seek the Lord with it. Say in the book, Jeremiah, you’ll seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart. God does speak, but that does mean we need to listen.
Pray with me. Father, we thank you for your guiding hand, your continual promises, the way that you have, uh, looked out for us. Lord, this is a sea of people in collingswood, in prayer garden and in this gym that has, has seen the promises of God come through time and time again. We worship you for that. We even take this time to sing to you.
In light of that, we give you ourselves, we ask you that you would gently dismantle a lot of the plots that we have going, and you might help us to know how to daily walk in trust and courage to follow you. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen. We have here in Mount Laurel, uh, people up here that you could come and pray with as we sing.
Maybe as you’re heading into this fall, you’ve analyzed and reanalyzed your goals of how to get to where you’re going. Might be optimistic, but you realize you’re running on your own strength towards your own goals and have not laid them down before the king. Or maybe you’re here and you’ve worried, you’ve logged your time in the worry machine, you’re ringing your hands at all the things that could go wrong, and you look and you see an angry mob in front of you, and you’re here this morning saying, I don’t wanna leave this building ’cause I know what I have to drive to.
I know what I have to face Monday and what you’re facing seems bigger than you are. Maybe you spent your time in the house of despair and collapse. Counting all that is potentially ahead of you for each of us. And these prayer partners are here to just help you cry out. Lord, help me. These things are too big for me.
I have no idea how I’m gonna face this relationship. Financial burden, spiritual confusion, fusion, mental health difficulty. I don’t know any more than Paul knew about how in the world he gets to Rome. I need you and I need your promises. Why don’t you stand with us and sing? And you’re welcome to make use of the prayer team up here as well.