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The Un-Known People
05/20/2012
Scripture: Acts 9:18-30
Track 5 of 15 in the Paul: Grace & Strength Mixed Together series
There is something powerful in a group of people called The Unknown. In fact, in our culture, the unknown have played a significant role in establishing our liberty, our freedom, our independence that led to the Constitution of the United States. Think about all the unknown people to you who have over the centuries sacrificed, bled, suffered and even died so you and I have today the freedoms we have. The same is true in Christianity. Throughout the years from the beginning of the church, faithful Christians, unknown to you and me built a heritage that we enjoy today.



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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.

View all sermons by this speaker.


The Un-Known People

Someone describe for me the American Spirit. What words can we use to describe what it means to be an American? Give me the virtues of living an independent life? Do you value your independence?

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. William Ernest Henley, 1849 - 1902 / Gloucester / England

For many in America today the last stanza of this poem is the theme of mankind. In fact, when Timothy McVeigh was asked right before he was executed by lethal injection how he was able to maintain his eerie, calm composure, not once showing even a shred of remorse or regret for killing 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing, it was this poem he recited explaining how he was the one who controlled his fate.

These are chilling words from a man who actually believed that his soul was unconquerable – that he was in fact, in charge of his own destiny. Thankfully most Americans will never take an independent spirit to such hostile extremes. We’re not dangerous people, most of us. Yet the subtle influences of that sort of thinking counteract our ability to depend on the Lord and each other. Many of us grew up under the belief that we are to be our own man. We are to make it on our own…don’t be dependent on anyone especially the government. Listen to our election campaigns this year and count how many times you hear the theme how we are to be accountable and be able to stand on our own.

True or False: God is never pleased with an independent spirit.

For many like me who grew up under the belief that I was to be my own man, this truth cuts against a lot I was taught and believe. If this is true, then I have to take a very careful look at what motivates me and what drives me in my definition of success. Can I be the man God wants me to be and have an independent spirit? If not, then how should my life change?

True or False: You know what the Bible says; God helps those who help themselves.

What is fascinating, no place in the Bible does this idea ever exist. In fact, the opposite is true. God waits to assist those who finally come to the point in their lives where they can not help themselves. In order to become a Christian, we have to come to the point where we surrender living the independent life and say, “you win, and you take over. You are the master of my fate; you are the captain of my soul.”

Are we really that independent after all?

Saul was very much the Timothy McVeigh type before he met Jesus. After surrendering to Jesus his heart was different. I doubt that the independent spirit he once had went away instantly. It probably took all the three years he spent in Arabia learning from Jesus how to live. But having a dependent heart is much different than actually having to live a dependent life. Very quickly after Paul starts his ministry, dependence on God became his way of life.

True or False: True dependence on God is usually manifested in our dependence on one another?

Can a Christian be dependent on God and not be dependent on other people? How does God help those that are dependent on Him?

We will see that God taught Paul how to live a dependent life through a series of events that made him totally dependent on others.

Acts 9:18-25 He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

The scene opens up with Saul preaching in the synagogues of Damascus. He’s amazing people with his remarkable preaching. You might wonder where he received his ability to preach so effectively. Of course a lot was from the power of the Holy Spirit but I also believe that Saul knew Jesus and the teachings of the Christians very well but instead of fighting Christianity, he started preaching Christianity. There was no question; Saul was a highly intelligent person who totally surrendered his life and intelligence to be used by God to preach the Gospel of Jesus.

Saul was a smart and gifted young man. It had to be a breath of fresh air not only to know that the evil Saul was no longer chasing after Christians but his preaching was inspiring and lifting up the church. Saul’s ministry grew and his popularity grew right along with it. But what goes around comes around and very quickly, the one who did the hunting now becomes the hunted. Just because Saul’s hatred for the Christians went away didn’t mean the Jews hatred for Christians changed. And just like the Christians Saul hated, he too was hated and a plot to kill him was put into action. From this day forward, Paul was a hunted man.

There is something powerful in a group of people called “The Unknown” In fact, in our culture, the unknown have played a significant role in establishing our liberty, our freedom, our independence that led to the Constitution of the United States. Think about all the unknown people to you who have over the centuries sacrificed, bled, suffered and even died so you and I have today the freedoms we have. For some we might know their names, for others we only have a picture. But there are some true unknowns that we honor every day.

The same is true in Christianity. Throughout the years from the beginning of the church, faithful Christians, unknown to you and me built a heritage that we enjoy today.

Think about this, what do we have today that was built through faith in Christ by those we no longer know, or even think about? How important are the unknowns?

Acts 9:26-30 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Can you imagine the stir that accrued when Saul of Tarsus appeared in Jerusalem for the first time since was won to Christ in Damascus? What must have been the talk around town by the Christians? What about the Jews?

How important was Barnabas to the life of Saul in the church? What did he do for Saul? Why did he do this? Can you name for me the Barnabas in your life? Was there someone who got you started in your ministry here at MPCC? Who are you a Barnabas to here at MPCC?

True or False: It requires more faith to accept the help from others than it does to give help.

We can learn a lot from the lesser-known’s in life and from Scripture. There were a lot of lesser-known players in Saul’s life that made him who he was and helped him in his ministry. They were the critical people God provided to Saul so he could learn and be dependent on God.

First: Value Others Learn to appreciate and embrace the value of other people. Don’t try to do things on your own but accept the help from other people. Remind yourself that others will play a significant role in your survival and success.

Second: Humble Yourself Don’t race into the limelight, we need to accept our roles in the shadows. Don’t promote yourself. Don’t push yourself to the front. Don’t drop hints. Let someone else do that. Better yet, let God do that for you. Trust me, in God’s time you will be found.

Third: Trust God If we are in a hurry to get your ministry going, often times we make it work our way. Our stuff may even get big. Then we start to believe that we are indispensible. Remind ourselves often, it is the Lord’s work, not ours. It is to be done the Lord’s way, not ours.

I want to close by going back to what William Henley wrote, he was absolutely wrong and so was Timothy McVeigh. Our lives are not caught “in the fell clutch of circumstances”. We are not the masters of our own fate nor are we the captains of our souls. We are wholly, and completely dependent on the mercies of God if we want to do God’s work God’s way. Paul had to learn that. The big question is, are we learning that?