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Going--Within God's Plan
Scripture: Acts 21:37-40; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 2...
Track 13 of 14 in the Being with Him Compels Us to Go for Him series


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Sermon for Sunday, August 22, 2004
"Going--Within God's Plan"
"Being With Him Compels Us to Go for Him"
(Acts 21:37 - 28:31)
C. Sackett

Sometimes the ways of God just don't make much sense. One of the first persons that I met when I first became a Christian was a man named Jack. I've told you about him before. A man whose life was, I thought, fully given over to the Lord doing everything he could in order to serve him. One of my first experiences with him was driving his little Ford Fairlane into Seattle where he was going to be taking responsibility as the preacher of a church just north of there.

He was about fifty or sixty miles from me in Oregon when we were preaching and he became that person that I went to as the one who helped keep my sanity clear. He was the one who occasionally took the "proverbial two by four" and hit me with it because I was blaming everybody else for my responsibility.

I remember well when I moved back to Illinois to come to school. It wasn't long after that, that he moved to southern California and then we got word that his 14-year-old daughter had been kidnaped. Within about two weeks we learned that she had been tortured, murdered and thrown into the hills outside of San Bernardino.

You would think that when you are doing the things of God, everything would turn out right, the way it's supposed to.

You certainly sense that when you read the book of Acts that it becomes one of the dilemmas that the apostle Paul faces. Here he is. We've seen his conversion in Acts 9. We've seen the gospel spread across the world. He's gone on these very specific mission trips on behalf of God. He has taken the gospel in the places that God has directed him. He has followed God's leading. He has gathered an offering to go back to Jerusalem. He delivers it to the temple. He's in the temple. Gets arrested. There's a riot. He's about to get beaten when he appeals to the centurion as a Roman citizen and is taken out of the crowd and away from the beating. And you get this rather interesting comment in Acts 23. In the midst of all this apparent chaos, Paul hears Jesus say to him in Acts 23:11 "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome."

Strange way to get to Rome. And yet, very reflective of the kinds of things that Paul has been hearing from God in Acts 9, Acts 22. We'll hear it again in Acts 26. He reflects on it in 2Timothy 4 when he talks about his own relationship with God, that he was destined to be the apostle to kings, to Gentiles. That he would speak in God's behalf in places that no one else could speak. And yet, here he is under arrest.

You'd think if you were doing things for God, everything would turn out right.

There was a young medical student in Great Britain. Her name was Helen Roservere who sensed a call from God to go to Africa to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (it was called then) as a medical missionary. She went. Established a hospital. Was doing work among the people, when in 1960 civil war broke out in the Congo. It wasn't long until her particular missionary compound and hospital was overtaken by rebels. She was held captive for nearly a year, where she was brutally raped, repeatedly, by the soldiers. After nearly a year, she went back to England.

Sometimes the ways of God don't make a lot of sense. You would think that if you were doing the right things, things would turn out right.

Well we don't see that in Acts. At least not as clearly as we might want to see it. Here the apostle Paul is under arrest. There is this group of Jewish dissenters who hate him because he stands for Jesus and the resurrection and the new covenant and they make a vow that they're not going to eat or drink until they murder him. His nephew, providentially, overhears this conversation, goes to Paul, who sends him to the centurion. He's convinced by the lad's story and so there is a cohort of soldiers who transport him from Jerusalem to Caesarea, in prison, where he sits, in prison, for two full years under trial. The particular man in charge is a fella by the name of Felix. And Felix takes some delight in hearing the story. Over here in Acts 24 we hear how Felix responds.

Acts 24:24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, "That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you." At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

And then you get this phrase that he was there for two years.

Sometimes the ways of God are hard to understand and yet Felix seems to have understood them pretty clearly. He knew what he was supposed to do and yet, decided that he would just simply play the game, hoping that he would get something out of it. That if he would do this listening thing, Paul would eventually respond in some way by bribing him in order to turn him loose. Paul was not about to do that. He simply took every opportunity he had to preach the gospel to him. This man, apparently, repeatedly said NO to the gospel and as far as we know never did respond positively.

You'd think that if you were doing the right things for God, that things would turn out right.

The late 1700's, another young Britain decided that he ought to go to the mission field. In fact, he pioneered missionary work in the country of India. William Carey(??) left for India and some years later his wife suffered from dementia. In essence, she went mad in the mission field because of the pressure. After a number of years, she died. He buried her in India. A few years later he remarried. By the way, he buried that wife in India as well.

For twenty years he spent learning the language and translating scripture into a particular Hindu dialect. After twenty years of storing hand written notes, converting God's word into the language of the people, there was a fire in the compound. He lost all twenty years worth of hand written notes. You realize, of course, in the late 1700's there was no Xerox machine down the street for him to be able to take advantage of getting a copy made.

You would think that if you were doing things for God, things would turn out right.

Well, the apostle Paul spends two years under Felix' jurisdiction. Felix listens to him often but doesn't want anything to do with the message of the gospel and when the transition in power comes from Felix to Festus, there is now a new trial.

Now these Jews down in Jerusalem have all of these two years been simply sitting back simmering over this hatred they have for Paul. During this transition, they use this as an opportunity to say, "We want to try him again." Festus gives him the opportunity to go back to Jerusalem to be tried, at which point Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen, "I don't want to go back to Jerusalem. If I can't get a fair trial here at Caesarea, I want to appeal to Rome." That was his right as a citizen to go clear to Caesar and so he made the appeal to go to Caesar.

Festus was one of those fellas who also listened repeatedly to Paul. In fact, over in Acts 26 you finally get a sense of where Festus is in all of this discussion.

Acts 26:24 Paul, by the way, in Acts 26 is making the third of his personal testimonies. He's before King Agrippa. He is explaining his relationship with Jesus, why he believes what he believes, why he stands where he stands and in Acts 26:24 Festus interrupts Paul's defense. You are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you insane!

Sometimes the things of God are a bit hard to understand. But apparently Festus didn't have any trouble understanding them. He only had trouble accepting them. He saw it as some kind of mental insanity that Paul could believe the kind of stuff that he apparently believed. And so, he rejected the message.

You would think that if you were doing things for God, everything would turn out right.

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to do a wedding for Rick and Chris and then over the next three or four years I had the opportunity to try and help hold that marriage together. It did not start well. I do not know exactly what all happened. Maybe it was the guy who did the wedding. I'm not sure. . . .didn't say the words right or something. I remember the day that I got a call and actually beat the ambulance to their house when their child went into a seizure and into the hospital. But they got it together, and pretty soon Rick was in Bible college and the next thing I'm hearing (after I moved out of the area) is that Rick and Chris have joined a team of missions, of missionaries and they're on their way to go to Brazil with the gospel. The next thing I heard is, they had been there about eight or nine months and her health problems were so significant that they had to turn around and come home.

You would think that if you were doing the right things for God, things would turn out right.

Here the apostle Paul is. He's trying to live faithfully before God as carefully as he knows how. He's been on trial now for two years. Been in prison. There's been the transition from Felix to Festus and now the king of the area, Agrippa and his wife Bernice show up and they want to hear this story too. So Festus invites Paul in one more time to make a defense of his faith in Christ to basically explain why he's in prison.

Acts 26 is this lengthy speech that Paul makes. He reminds Agrippa that he's heard this story before. This is not new news to him. He knows about Jesus. This was not done in a corner. He talks about his conversion experience. He talks about his call before God. Festus interrupts the speech and says, Saul, you're crazy. Your learning has made you mad. And then, just after that Agrippa speaks. Paul says in Acts 26:25

"I am not insane, most excellent Festus." "What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. It was not done in a corner, (and he turns to the king and he says in Acts 26:27) King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do." Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

Paul replied, "Short time or long--I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains." And then the king gets up and leaves.

Sometimes the things of God are a bit hard to understand. And yet, Agrippa understood them perfectly. He knew that in the midst of this testimony Paul was calling for some kind of decision on his part. His response basically was, NOT NOW, THANKS, I DON'T THINK I WANT TO DO THIS. I don't think that you understand that I have some objections here. You think that just because you preach one sermon to me that I'm supposed to somehow respond and I'm gonna become a believer.

But what happened was, he decided that, in fact, that Paul was innocent of the charges. There was nothing to this. There was no criminal action on Paul's part and he says to Festus, if it weren't for the fact that Paul had appealed to go to Rome to see Caesar, we could let him go, but, since he's already appealed to Caesar, to Caesar he must go.

Well, you'd think that if you were doing the right things for God, that everything would turn out right.

Roberta was a high school girl who lived about twenty miles from the church. We use to, with regularity, go up the coastline, pick up kids along the way. The last stop on the way was Roberta's house. Roberta was faithfully coming to church, getting interested in what it meant to become a Christian. In fact, was at the point that she was ready to give her life to the Lord, be baptized. And her parents decided they didn't want her to come to church any more. What to do?? Well, be faithful to your parents, obey your parents and the Lord.

So we never knew from week-to-week whether, when we showed up at her house, she'd be allowed to leave or not. . . . . .most of the times NOT! What to do?? Be faithful. Hang in there. Read your Bible. Pray. Study. Worship. Wait.

You'd think that if you were doing the right things for God, things would turn out right.

Paul appeals to Rome. Agrippa says well, we really don't have any choice except to send you to Rome and so they make arrangements for leaving Caesarea, taking a ship through the Mediterranean over to Rome. It's the wrong season of the year for sailing. Paul tries to warn them. This is not gonna be easy. He has a vision. This is not gonna be successful. We're gonna lose everything. They insist on traveling anyway. They travel down a certain route. They get caught in a major storm. They're in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. They're dropping anchors and simply going with the flow. The next thing you know, they're throwing stuff overboard. Then Paul has a vision. We're all gonna be okay. We're gonna lose the ship and we're gonna lose the stuff but we're not gonna lose any lives. And so, they have supper together after fourteen days of not eating. And they spot an island, Malta. Well, they never make it to Malta. They shipwreck on a sand bar. The ship breaks up at sea. They're going to kill all the prisoners and the centurion, who's become a, well, at least a respecter of Paul said, No, we're not going to do this. We're gonna get everybody to the beach. They all, as a matter of fact, managed to get on the beach. The locals helped them build a fire to dry themselves out. Paul is gathering wood. Throws the wood on the fire. He gets bit by a poisonous snake. Well, ultimately, he ends up in Rome. And the last thing we hear is that he is under house arrest for two years in Rome.

So now, he's been in prison for four years plus because of a false accusation in the Jerusalem temple. All based on this promise, Paul, hang in there, be patient because you're gonna go to Rome and preach for me.

It's a strange way to get to Rome. Sometimes the ways of God are a little hard to understand. Although, apparently these people understood. Look at the end of Acts 28:23 Paul, the text says, Luke says They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

"‘Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving."

For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'

"Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.

People understood. Some of them accepted it. Some rejected it just as Isaiah the prophet said they would.

You would think that if you were doing the right things for God, things would turn out right.

For nearly a year in 1990 and 1991 I had the privilege of preaching for Second Church of Christ over in Danville. One of the fellas that I got acquainted with over there was Mike Claypool(??), Mike and Cindy and their son and daughter. Mike ended up coming to school as one of those non-traditional students. Married, already had a career. Decided that he felt a call from the Lord to preach. Mike ended up going to Newburg, Indiana to preach for a church there. It is a rapidly growing congregation or nearly 2,000. Some of you recognize his name because you get our prayer email. Several months ago you prayed for Mike. He was in the hospital battling Leukemia. His Leukemia went into remission and everybody rejoiced. That lasted for about three months. He is in the hospital today in Indianapolis in the midst of a nine day recovery from bone marrow transplant, waiting to see if it worked.

You would think that if you were doing the right things for God, things would turn out right.

Sometimes, I confess to you, that the ways of God make no sense, at least to me. And yet, my friend Jack. . . . . I forgot to mention to you that about six months after Wendy's body was found in San Bernardino, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Told to get his life in order. He probably had less than six months to live.

I met him two or three years later at a breakfast restaurant in Boise, Idaho when he said, "Ya know, one of the strangest turns of events has just occurred. I went to the doctor the other day and he said, ‘You don't have cancer any more.' ‘You need to go get a job.'" He said, "you know it's really awful when you've decided you're gonna die and you don't have to worry about retirement. Now I've gotta figure out how to make enough money to be able to retire on."

He's preaching at a church in northern California.

Helen Roservere, after spending a year in England recovering from that brutal attack by the rebels went back to the Congo, established a hospital, trained doctors and nurses and there are literally hundreds of converts in the Congo because of her efforts.

William Carey, the man who buried two of his wives, lost all of his written material in India became known in the history of missions as the Father of Modern Missions. He left translations and schools and literally hundreds of churches in India and a whole world full of missionaries followed in his footsteps.

My friend Rick Hockshire(??) came back from Brazil. He and his wife settled back in the Granite City, Madison County area and he now preaches for one of the fastest growing Christian churches in Madison County.

Roberta, Roberta, the high school girl whose parents said, "You can't go to church. No you cannot be baptized." held out faithfully for two years and when she turned eighteen, they gave her permission to become a Christian. I hear from her every Christmas. She writes about the faithful church involvement of her own children now.

Mike Claypool, I don't know. I appeal to you to pray for him. This I know, whether he recovers from Leukemia or not, there is a hospital full of people who have heard the gospel preached at his bedside because of his nature and his character.

Paul, well, Paul spent at least two years in a Roman house arrest. Do you know what the book of Philippians says? The entire palace guard heard the gospel.

In fact, next week we'll look at the last verse in Acts and this is what it says, Paul preached without hindrance.

You would think that if you were doing the right things for God, everything would turn out right.

You work hard at being a believer and trying to live out your faith at work and you end up getting laid off or fired. You do your very best to be a Christian husband or wife. You do your very best to live your home life the way you think it ought to be lived and the next thing you know, there's nothing but chaos. Your children rebel or your spouse decides to leave. You spend your life working in a church doing everything you can to try to be faithful and do the things that God wants you to do and the next thing you know, you're battling cancer or somebody you love is. You go to school and you do the very best you can to be a faithful witness to your friends and it seems like everything around you falls apart and nobody wants to pay any attention.

You would think that if you did the right things for God, things would turn our right.

They do. It just depends on how you define right. Because God in his faithfulness always, always has things turn out right. It doesn't always feel like it does it? There are those moments in your life when it feels like all HELL has broken loose and you're wondering what in the world is going on. I just have one word for you. TRUST! Because that's all you have. You just trust him because he knows things you don't know. He knows the future, you don't. He knows the heart and you don't and when the whole world crumbles around you, you don't have any alternatives except to TRUST him. Does it make the cancer go away? NO! Does it mean that all your friends are gonna be the kind of people you think they ought to be? NO! Does it mean that everything is gonna go right according to the world standards? NO!

What it means is this. The one person who can make a difference is the one you're counting on.

Messed up your life? Think you have made such a mess of it that God can't do anything with it? TRUST him! He can fix it.

If you need to be redeemed. . . . . do you need to have your life turned around, your sin forgiven? And yet, when you read Scripture and he says, "Believe in me, repent, be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus." that makes no sense to you? TRUST him! He knows what he's doing. When things don't make sense, you have one and only one response. TRUST him!

Let's stand. . . . .

"At All Times"

Father, we confess to you that sometimes it's hard to trust you. The world doesn't make a lot of sense. Yet you've given us this promise. That wherever we are you are with us and that you are greater than he who is in the world and that you take all those things that happen and you work them together for good to those who love you and called according to your purpose. And so we stand in your presence committed to trusting you when life doesn't make much sense. . . .we trust you.

Father, there isn't a time in our worship, at least, that says any more that we trust you, than when we give you our financial resources. We have come in this country to be so dependent on our money, that to give it away doesn't make much sense and sometimes what we give, makes it look like we're not going to have enough to live on, but we give. We give because we trust you, that you'll take care of our needs and that you'll take what we give and you'll use it to advance the gospel of Jesus around the world. So please, as we place our gifts in these trays, please see them as statements of our trust in you. In Jesus name. Amen.

offering - - - - - - - -

August 1, 1985 my mother had surgery. On October 1, she died of cancer. On October 11th of the same year my father died of cancer. On December 4th of that year our house burned and we moved into temporary quarters that lasted for about five months. In July of that year we came home from the North American Christian convention to discover that our house had flooded and we were going to be moving out again while they rebuilt it a second time. The Fall of that year my father-in-law died.

I knew in my head that God could be trusted. It's a long ways from your head to your heart. One of the sustaining events in my life for the next two years until I came back to life again was this table. Every week, back to this table reminded that the god of the Universe loved me so much that he sent his Son to die for me, and I may not have been able to feel that in my heart but I couldn't get away from it in my head because I was faced with it week after week. Jesus died for me. Sometimes life is hard and the heart goes numb and Jesus invites you to this table to be reminded that when all else fails, "trust me, I love you."

Father, we're so grateful for this table. . . .for the message of bread and juice that so clearly paints a picture of body and blood. And the reminder that you, the God of the Universe loved us to much that you sent your Son to die for us, that no matter how confusing life gets, you are still on the throne and yet, love even us.

So while these trays come by, we just want to say thanks. Thanks for being patient with us and for being a God that we can trust. We pray this in the wonderful name of Jesus. Amen.

I don't know about you but I am deeply blessed by worship. What an opportunity to come into his presence. There are a lot of ways to leave here in his presence as well. Lot of things for you to do as a statement of our worship in other arenas besides just when the church gathers so let me go through just a handful of those.

Don't forget September 12 we're gonna be in the Park. We're still looking for oh, 25 or 30 or 40 of you to sign up to take charge of a block of cleanup. You do realize that's what we're doing. We're worshiping at 9:00 together, collectively in this kind of worship out in the park and then as soon as that worship is over we're gonna break up and worship in a new way, by cleaning up and giving a contribution to our community and we need people who are block leaders so there's a sign up sheet out these waiting for your name on it. So, be patient in line and if their waiting in front of you, just sign up. If you want a tee-shirt, sign up for that as well.

Just to let you know our Monday night softball team won the Round Robin tournament. They're to be congratulated for that, shortly after that, one of our players, Robert, who is a deaf man who comes here, left and then had a heart attack. I don't think those are together. I don't think there is a connection, but he's doing okay. He's in the hospital, but we want you to pray for him. His last name is Magartland(??), ah, Roger Magartland(??). So please keep him in your prayers.

Ah, let's see. September 1st for those of you who are parents, grandparents or no children. We're having an open house giving you an opportunity to kind of take a look at what our children's areas of ministry are all about, please take note of that. We'd love to have you come out, take a look at what's going on around here. Meet some of the volunteers, find out the kinds of ministries that you could bring your children, grandchildren, friend's children to as we share the gospel with them.

It won't be long until our Wednesday evening services will be back in full swing. One of the things we're going to do is a marriage enrichment class. Ah, Evan Horner will be teaching that. It's limited to the first twelve couples. Now that can be married people or engaged people, so sign up if you want to be a part of that marriage enrichment class on Wednesday nights. Otherwise, we'll have another class being offered also.

Next Sunday morning during third hour, the people who went to Haiti are going to be giving a report on their Haiti trip. We want to encourage you to come and hear about the kinds of things that God has done in Haiti and did through them on their journey. Please make plans for that.

Ladies, today and next Sunday is sign up for the Women's Bible Study series for this Fall. Please take advantage of that opportunity for your own discipleship.

If we're not had a chance to meet or if there's something in some way that we can help to meet a need in your life, I'll be down in the hospitality room, which is down that hall on the far side. Please, in between services, step in and let's get acquainted or pray or whatever it is that you would like for us to do.

Would you stand with me?

We bid you go into our community, into our world as an act to your worship and service.