What do we need most this coming New Year? The answer in the bible is courage of conviction and great faith. We find, in Acts 21, a demonstration of that in the Apostle Paul. And we have learned here, that an example is maybe even more instructive than what we hear and learn from his writings. So, we have benefited by looking at the historical narrative and extracting from it, principles that can be applied to our own lives.
We have studied this little slice of the life of Paul, a trip from Miletus to Caesarea. As he concludes his third missionary journey and goes to Jerusalem, we have seen a great illustration of the tremendous commitment that he had, to the call that God had given him. This subject of commitment and dedication is something that should be expressed, in all kinds of ways and all walks of life.
The dedicated and the committed people; the people who are willing to pay whatever the price, are the ones who make the difference. And face it, most aren't, so most people are just spectators. As someone has aptly said, "There are the people who make things happen, there are the people who watch things happen, and then there are the people who don't know what's happening.
In Hebrews 11, you have that great chapter on heroes of the faith. Verse 24 introduces us to a man named Moses, "By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." Now, Moses had risen to the heights of Egyptian society - he was a prince. And he had all of the wealth that went along with it. But, "he refused it, says in verse 24.
Verse 25 says, "Choosing rather, to suffer affliction with the people of God, than you enjoy the pleasures of sin, for a season." He was faced with a decision. According to Hebrews 11:23-25, it says that Moses knew that he had been called of God, to lead Israel out. So, on the one hand he had his position in Egypt and all of its wealth. On the other hand to become the leader of Israel, he would sacrifice everything. It was a difficult choice.
But he choose the call of God to be the leader of the people of Israel, and so he made his choice. Verse 26, “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” Moses believed that the reproach of being God's anointed, was of greater value than all the treasures of Egypt. In other words, he would rather be hated, and be God's anointed than be loved and belong to Egypt.
And the reason he choose that way, at the end of verse 26, "For he looked to the reward.” He was willing to sacrifice temporary riches for eternal reward. He knew the pleasures of sin were only for a season, and God's reward was eternal. So verse 27, "By faith, he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing him." He didn't worry about a visible king, he knew the invisible God.
There was another person. Hebrews 11:31, "By faith, the prostitute, Rahab, did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace." Here was a lady who went against her whole society. Against all of the politics in city of Jericho, she chose to have faith in God, and believe those spies, and make a sacrifice. And she hid those soldiers at great risk to her life but she was willing to pay whatever price for what she believed in, and God honored her.
That woman was a prostitute, and that is bad. But she was also a Canaanite, and an Amorite, that's worse. All the Amorites and Canaanites were devoted to destruction. But do you know that God's grace has always been wider than Israel, and that Amorite Canaanite Gentile prostitute was induced into the line of the Messiah? She was the mother of Boaz, the great great grandfather of King David. That is God’s grace, Amen?
There were others. Verse 32, "What shall I say more? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon.” A judge who faced the Midianite army with only 300 men who had no weapons but only pitchers and trumpets and torches. But he believed God and he was willing to stake his life on it. And then there was, Samson, who won so many victories over the Philistines. And David, who conquered Goliath, and so forth and so on.
See, they always believed that the eternal reward was far greater than any sacrifice. In Romans 8:18 Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” That's the ultimate choice, you obey God and there is an eternal dividend. Or you hang on to what you have in this world, and you will be eternally separated from God.
Verse 36-37, “Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” All these people suffered, because they believed in a goal that God had given them, and they were willing to die for it. That is commitment.
And look at verse 38-39, “Of whom the world was not worthy." They were too good for the world system. “They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these having obtained a good testimony witness faith, did not receive the promise.” And they did it all by faith alone and they gave their lives for a hope that they never saw.
And now God is asking of us, that same level of commitment for a hope that is already a fact in history. Christ was here. He did live, He did die, He did rise again, and He reigns at the right hand of the Father, and He will work His will and power through us. Do you believe that?
So, we learned that there are different kinds of commitment levels. There is an incomplete commitment, you never give it all to the Lord. There is an insincere commitment, you are a hypocrite and then there is an intermittent commitment. You’re committed today, but who knows about tomorrow. Now God wants a commitment to His cause that is constant. And as we study Acts 21, we see this kind of commitment in the Apostle Paul, and it just grows in the verses we look at tonight.
And we have four points that help us understand the courage of conviction. The courage of conviction knows its purpose, can't be diverted, pays any price and affects others. Now, the courage of conviction knows its purpose. You can't be courageous unless you've got a conviction you're fighting for. Now, Paul had a conviction, verses 1 to 3, he was on way to Jerusalem to deliver this money to the saints in Jerusalem, they need it and it will help unify the church.
Secondly, the courage of conviction can't be diverted, no matter what happens. And that was Paul in verses 4-6, he arrives in Tyre and they all said, don't go to Jerusalem. He said, goodbye anyway, and left for Jerusalem. But he couldn't be diverted. If it is the will of God, it is to be fulfilled in spite of what other Christians say.
Thirdly, courage of conviction pays any price. It can't be diverted at any price. Think of Daniel, he did what he always did. He prayed to God. Nothing diverted him, and he would pay any price. He wound up in the lion’s den. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were told to bow down to false gods, and they would not do that. And they walked right into a fiery furnace. That's paying the price.
However in each case, God delivered them. God honors those who are willing to stick by their commitments. You're always safe in the middle of His will, no matter what's going on. And if you don't belief that, you just read Acts again, and watch how those people went from one fire to the next, in the middle of God's will, and were protected from ever being burnt. It's exciting.
Caesarea is the last stop before Jerusalem. Verse 8, “We who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.” Remember Philip from Acts 6, chosen to be one of the deacons of the church - one of the seven - full of the Holy Spirit, full of faith and men of wisdom. And he had been first a deacon and then an evangelist.
Phillip’s headquarters was in Caesarea. It was a Roman city. The Romans occupied it with their soldiers and their forces. In fact, it was the place where the fortress was and it was occupied by Herod. Now Philip had four daughters who were virgins. And it says, "They did prophesy." And so as Paul is waiting, verse 10 says, “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.”
Well, the fact that he was a prophet is interesting. He is a prophet, not in the Old Testament sense, but in the New Testament sense. In the design of God, for the early years of the church, there were two key positions for men. They were "apostles and prophets" according to Ephesians 2:20, “The apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church.”
Now as foundational men, they had a limited time ministry that they ceased to be. In fact when Paul writes for the instruction of the church, he turns the leadership of the church over to pastors and elders, and there's no mention of apostles, and the term evangelist, all of a sudden comes into use. And so, the apostles and prophets were replaced by teaching pastors and evangelists.
The Apostles' revelation was for the most part doctrinal. They wound up writing the New Testament epistles, as well as the gospels, but the prophets had a practical kind of revelation. Paul as an apostle gave revelation concerning doctrine. Agabus as a prophet gave revelation concerning the practical life of the church. In Acts 11:28, he gave revelation about a coming famine. And now he shows up again now and gives another prophecy.
Verse 11, “When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” He says, Paul, when you get to Jerusalem, you're going to get bound and delivered to the Gentiles. And that is precisely what happened.
God gives us at times a vividly illustrated lesson. For example, King Solomon was a failure and afterwards the Kingdom of Israel was split up. Look at 1 Kings 11:29-30, “It came at the time when Jeroboam went of Jerusalem that the prophet Ahijah found him in the way." Jeroboam is going to be the new king, and "he is clad in new garments, 30 and Ahijah took the new garment and tore it into 12 pieces.”
And he said in verse 31, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you.” A very picturesque, illustration. Look at another prophecy like that in Isaiah 20:2, “the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.” And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.”
Verse 3-4, “Then the Lord said, “Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, 4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.” It's a sign of the total defeat that's going to come to Ethiopia and Egypt. And it was a sign to Israel, because they always looked to Egypt for support instead of trusting God.
Now back to Acts 21. So God has used His prophets, to communicate messages of impending suffering, and they were vividly illustrated. Verse 12, “Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.” Here is Paul and of all his friends at Philip's house all the Caesarean Christians and they all cried and pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Verse 13, “Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” He reaffirms the courage of his convictions at this point. Many friends of Christians have done, perhaps as much as the enemies, to deter them from accomplishing the objectives of God.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” And moms and dads, someday you may have to give your kid up to the mission field. Be objective enough to accept the fact that if he is in the will of God, he is as safe as the sovereignty of God, and he is strong. And that is all you need to worry about. Let us not talk people out of doing what God wants them to do. We all have to be willing to pay the price.
Paul says, "I am, ready." He was ready to do whatever needed to be done. That's why sometimes the Lord can't use everybody, because everybody is not ready. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul said he was, "ready to die." There were only two kinds of execution in Rome, the most torturous kind crucifixion or the merciful kind, that Paul got, which was chopping off your head with a sword.
Verse 14, “So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” Verse 15-16, “And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem. 16 Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us.” Here you see that courage is contagious. He was going to be imprisoned and they were going to be identified with him, but they became courageous because he was.
Do you have a spiritual conviction in your life that you are willing to follow no matter what? If you have the courage of conviction, God will use you to affect the lives of others. If one person could make that commitment to another person, certainly we should make it to our Lord, right? Let us pray.