Encouraged – Acts 18:1-18

by Roger McCay
6 September 2020
Sermon Passage: Acts 18:1-18
Link to Audio Version

Atomic Bombs. C.S. Lewis, in his unique way, speaks to how we should react towards such a threat:

If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds. [1]

The last part of Lewis’ statement seems apt today, considering the deathly fear of COVID 19 we have seen across our community and nation. Still, Lewis’ point rings true whatever fear might be the fear of the day.

Fear is very real, and there is no shame in it. It can be helpful, causing us to be prudent in our actions. And, if you think about it, without fear, how could you have courage? Yet, Fear is also at the heart of discouragement, and it doesn’t have to be fear of global threats, either. The anticipation of something, in fear, can quickly cause misery and wasted time, time that is to never to be recovered, when we would be much better off doing something worthwhile, getting on with life.

Fear can raise its ugly head, too, at the beginning of an endeavor—setting out to do something, perhaps something bold. Fear in the worry that we won’t be good enough, that we might fail. Fear that we will be abused for our efforts. Fear that we won’t be appreciated. Fear that we are alone in our efforts. Fear that God is not with us. Such fearful dwellings can cause anyone to become discouraged to … inaction, in just about any endeavor—like being lost at sea, in a sailboat with no wind.

Likewise, disciples of Christ can get discouraged, at times, as we seek to obey the Lord, doing his will. Even when we have a great success in our efforts for the Lord’s Kingdom, we remain under constant pressure and assault from those who oppose Christ in the seen and unseen realms. So, our existence can have the feel of glorious ups and then depressing downs. We are human after all, with all the human weaknesses. At times we get tired, mentally down.

Sometimes, in our strivings, we just don’t see how our faithfulness is bearing any fruit at all. In our limited perspective, we just can’t place how our faithfulness fits into the whole plan of God. As a result, we might find ourselves holding back, refraining from reaching out to someone for Christ; or ministering to someone in their need; or simply remaining silent when we should speak, due to fear of rejection or abuse—even persecution—maybe because it has happened to us before, or we’ve seen it happen to others. The Scriptures warn us about such troubles.

So, like those alluded to by Lewis, who are huddled around worrying about bombs, fear and its discouragement tempts us to follow the path of easy grace and comfortable Christianity—inaction, rather than living the full life of faith and obedience to which Christ has called his people.

But, this is nothing new for Christians. Even the apostle Paul felt discouragement and fear. We see this when he was in Corinth. Take a look at vv. 1-4 again.

1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

I have a good friend whose name is Lou Best. He is retired Army, and, a number of years back, he and his wife planted a church in the Fort Hood, Texas area. He often refers to planting that church as a “parachute plant.” There were no other churches of our denomination in the area, and he and his wife jumped in to start a church from scratch. They parachuted in, so to speak.

This is kind of like what we see here with Paul. After his time sparring with smug intellectuals in Athens, with, seemingly, very little success, he headed to Corinth. He travelled alone, heading to a place where no Christian church existed.