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Pioneers Wanted
06/01/2008
Scripture: Acts 21:26-29; Acts 16:6-10; Philippians...
Track 2 of 6 in the Philippians-A Life of Joy series
Running time: 1 hour, 01 minute, 25 seconds.


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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

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When people are asked what produces joy, the world and even Christians probably will be all over the board as to what gives them joy in life. As I taught earlier, joy is not something we muster up inside ourselves, joy is produced by the Holy Spirit and he produces it in us as we allow him to live in our lives. But the question still remains, what things give you joy in life?

What does the phrase mean, “Watch what you pray for, you just might get it?”

Have you ever prayed like this and received what you asked for but it all came in a much different way than you expected?

More than anything else, Paul wanted as a missionary to preach the Gospel in Rome. Sharing the Good News about Jesus produced Joy in Paul’s life. Rome was the hub of the Great Empire. Rome was the key city of its day. If Paul could conquer Rome for Christ, it would mean reaching millions with the message of salvation. It was critically important for Paul’s agenda. In several of his others letters, Paul referenced that he planned to visit Rome and serve the Christian churches there.

The Church in Rome was not founded by Paul. By the time Paul arrives there, the church is already growing and having influence on parts of the great city. Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but instead he went as a prisoner! Acts 21:17- 28:31 records how all of Paul’s problems got started and how he ended up in Rome. What he prayed for and how he longed to go to Rome happened in a way Paul didn’t actually expect. But when God presented the opportunity for Paul to travel to Rome, Paul took it without any regrets.

Paul returned to Jerusalem with the offering he was collecting from the churches all over Macedonia and other regions. In a number of his letters he mentions this offering. Even the Philippians participated in the offering. The offering was to help the poor and persecuted Christians in the Jerusalem church. While he was returning, there were some Jews who spread a bad rumor about Paul that he had forsaken his beliefs as a Jew and were telling Jews that they needed to turn away from Moses.

James suggested that a way to end this rumor was for him to participate in the purification ceremony with 4 others who had already agreed to do this and to pay their expenses to demonstrate that the rumors were not true. All of this was done so not to place a stumbling block in the path of the Jews so they could be approached about the Gospel.

Acts 21:26-29 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.” (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)

Not only was Paul in trouble for what was assumed as bringing a Gentile in to the Temple, the Roman guards thought Paul was an Egyptian renegade who was on their “most wanted” list. Paul became the focal point of both political and religious plotting and was arrested and put in jail in Caesarea for two years. What caused Paul to be moved to Caesarea was the speech he gave to the Jews after he was rescued by the Roman guards.

It was while in Caesarea that Paul ended up declaring his right to appeal his case directly to the Emperor. Acts records Paul’s trip from Caesarea to Rome and the events along the way. God used that trip to expose many people to Paul and the Gospel. All along the way Paul met many people and won several to Christ including many Romans and Roman guards. To many, all of this would look like failure, but to a man with a “single mind” concerned with sharing Christ and the Gospel, it was an answer to his prayers. It was an answer to his prayers that eventually led him to his death in Rome.

This week we are going to look at how furthering the Gospel produces JOY. Paul did not find joy in ideal circumstances; he found his joy in winning others to Christ. And if his circumstances promoted the furtherance of the Gospel, that was all that mattered.

The word “furtherance” means pioneer advanced. It is a Greek military term referring to army engineers who go before the troops to open the way into new territory. Instead of finding himself confined as a prisoner, Paul discovered that his circumstances really opened up new areas of ministry.

Have you ever found your self in situations before when you really wanted to do something or go somewhere but things just didn’t work out? No matter how hard you tried, the doors were shut and you had to go a different way? Why do you think those types of experiences happen? Do they happen just by chance or is there another agenda in mind?

Here is a very important note, God wants us to be pioneers and sometimes he arranges circumstances so that we can be nothing but pioneers.

Here is something I want you to think about for a minute and the rest of this week. Take some quiet time (Meditate) and just think about the circumstances you experienced lately and if God placed an opportunity in it for you to be a pioneer to someone for Christ.

What is really interesting, this is exactly how the Philippians were won to Christ. This is how God caused Paul to travel to Philippi. Paul wanted so much to go eastward to Asia but God kept closing the door. God wanted Paul to travel westward to Europe.

Acts 16:6-10 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

God sometimes uses strange tools to help us pioneer the Gospel. In Paul’s case there were three tools that helped him take the Gospel even to the elite Praetorian Guard, Caesar’s special troops.

1st Tool: Paul’s Chains Philippians 1:12-14

Philippians 1:12-14 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Have you ever had the experience when something that was meant to hinder you ended up helping you? Can anyone share a time when great disadvantage worked to your advantage?

Little did the Romans know that the chains that were designed to bind Paul actually freed him to do things for Jesus. But the only way this worked was for Paul to have an attitude that was looking for opportunities to advance the Gospel.

Think a minute, what would you say is the #1 thought on your mind in a given day? What do you think about the most? Where do you focus most of your attention?

Paul’s #1 thought and focus was on winning the lost for Jesus. No matter where he was or what was happening to him, he used his circumstances to his advantage so others could know Jesus. Paul did not complain about his chains because he gave them over to Jesus so his chains could provide him with an advantage.

What advantage were Paul’s chains to him? How did he use them to win others? They gave Paul contact with the lost. He was chained to a Roman guard 24 hours a day. The shifts changed every 6 hours which meant Paul could witness to at least 4 Roman guards each day.

Imagine yourself as one of those guards. What do you think it was like being chained to Paul 6 hours at a time?

His chains also gave him contact with another group of people; the officials in Caesar’s court. He was in Rome as an official prisoner and his case was an important one. In preparation for Paul’s case, Roman officials had to study and determine the official status of the Christian faith. Was it merely another sect of the Jews or was it something new and possibly dangerous for the state. Can you imagine how pleased Paul must have been to know that court officials were forced to study the doctrines of the Christian faith to prepare to hear Paul’s appeal?

God sometimes puts chains on his people to get them to accomplish a “pioneer advance” that could never happen any other way. What might be some of the chains God could use? Stay at home mothers.

What is the secret to all of this? When you have a single mind for Jesus, you look upon your circumstances as God given opportunities to further the Gospel and rejoice at what God does and what God is going to do rather than complain about what God did not do.

But look at this passage, besides giving Paul the opportunity to share the Gospel, what else did his chains do? It gave courage to the saved. They Christians in Rome when they saw Paul’s courage, they too were encouraged to speak the word without fear.

Philippians 1:14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

The word “speak” here does not mean “preach.” Rather, it means “everyday conversation”. Paul’s case was being discussed by many Romans similar to the way OJ’s case was. His situation allowed Christians to share their faith and take advantage of conversation. Discouragement has a way of spreading, but so does encouragement. Because Paul had a JOYFUL attitude about what was happening to him, the believers too were JOYFUL and took fresh courage and witnessed boldly for Christ.

Imagine how things might have been different had Paul demonstrated a different attitude that was negative. How might that attitude affect the church in Rome and elsewhere?

2nd Tool: Paul’s Critics Philippians 1:15-19

Philippians 1:15-19 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

It is hard to imagine but Paul did have his critics. There were some in the church who rivaled him. Others, for their own purposes used his imprisonment to advance their own personal agendas. Paul talks about an interesting thing going on within the church, “religious politics”. It happened back then and it still happens today.

A person like Paul who has a “single mind” for Jesus looks beyond their critics. As in Paul’s case, he just saw his critics as another opportunity to further the Gospel. The secret for Paul is simple when dealing with his critics; he is not spreading the Gospel for his own glory. He is doing it to give God the glory. His JOY comes when he knows the Gospel is being spread, even if it is being spread using the wrong motives.

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Paul shared in the pioneer advance of the Gospel in Rome through his chains and his critics; but he also had a third tool he used.

3rd Tool: Paul’s Crisis Philippians 1:20-26

Philippians 1:20-26 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

It was possible that Paul would be found a traitor to Rome and then executed. At the time Paul writes this letter, his preliminary trial had gone in his favor. The final verdict was yet to come. But Paul did not consider his body his own and his only desire (single mind) was to magnify Christ in his body.

How does a Christian, a mere human magnify the Son of God? We act as spiritual telescopes. We bring what seems far away and bring them closer. The believer’s body is to be a telescope that brings Jesus close to people. Many times, it is how Christians handle crisis that shows the lost world who Jesus is and what he does for us and compels them to want Jesus also. We are the lens that brings Jesus into clear focus and up close to the lost.

Paul is not afraid of death. But what is interesting, Paul is not afraid of life either. From these verses, what keeps Paul from fearing both?

No matter how you look at it, nothing can steal a man’s joy if he possesses the single mind. That is the first secret to experiencing joy. You won’t have it if you remain a person with a double mind. We each need to ask ourselves this question and fill in the blanks:

“For to me to live is ___________ and to die is ___________. Fill in the blanks yourself. Some might say money and to leave it all behind. Fame and to be forgotten. Power and to lose it all.