Focus on Praise Not Problems

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

—Acts 14:27

At the end of Acts 14 Barnabas and Paul gave an account of their first missionary journey. While I am sure they shared much from their trip the thing the Bible emphasizes is that they praised God for what He had done in opening opportunities to share the Gospel.

It must have been an easy trip. Surely they didn’t have any problems and were blessed to preach and see hundreds saved. It was an ideal mission trip. Right?

Well, no.

At the beginning of Acts 13 they were sent out by the Holy Spirit from Antioch to start their first journey. It was during this trip that John Mark left them. They did see many Jews begin to follow them in Antioch in Pisidia (Turkey) after preaching in a synagogue. However, the next week when the Gentiles gathered to hear what Paul and Barnabas had to say the formerly friendly Jews became angry. They didn’t think the Gospel should have been preached to the Gentiles. They kicked them out of their city.

The team packed up and moved on to Iconium. The Bible says many Jews and Greeks believed on the Lord. Not all believed however. The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and planned to stone the missionaries. They moved on to Lystra. Though worshiped a short time as gods, they were eventually stoned in that city.

Yes many were saved, but there were hardships as well. They retraced their steps encouraging the ones who were saved in their first visit. They returned to the church in Antioch in Syria from which they were sent.

Verse 27 is essentially their prayer letter/mission trip report. Did they focus on the problems they had? The Bible says they told what had happened, but then it finishes the verse with them telling “how He [God] opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”

In their missionary prayer letter they focused on praise to God, not on the problems which came their way. As we share with our friends about the ministry opportunities God gives us we should focus on the praise and not the problems. Yes, there will be problems, but we should view them in light of God advancing His ministry through them.

“Beloved, We Are King Makers, Not Kings”

I recently returned from The Latin Bridge conference which focuses on church planting efforts in Latin America. This was hosted by Jason Holt, a missionary in Chile.

One of the speakers for the conference was Randy Stirewalt who has been a missionary in Kenya, Africa for over 30 years. Bro. Stirewalt challenged the young missionaries to go to the field and train men to plant churches. While the missionary can, and should, plant a church, more work can be done if the missionary will train others to plant churches while he is in the process of planting one himself. This multiplies the missionary’s efforts many times over.

Bro. Stirewalt challenged us from these verses in 1 Samuel:

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

—1 Samuel 18:1-4

Jonathan knew that the next king in Israel was to be David. Even though Jonathan’s dad was king, God had already told Saul in 1 Samuel 13 that his children would not be king after him because of his foolish acts. In chapter 15 God rejected the fact that Saul was even king. The next chapter Samuel anointed David king, even though he would not take the throne for many years.

In these verses Jonathan recognizes the kingship of David. He gave David his own royal robes. He even gave David his sword, bow and girdle. Not only did David get the royal robes, but he was equipped with everything he would need to be king.

Bro. Stirwalt’s challenge was this:

Beloved, we are king makers, not kings. Our job is to take off our robe and give it to another.

Give them the Word of God. Teach them principles of leadership. Help them to stand and represent Jesus with their life. But we must step aside and lower ourselves like Jonathan did to David, stand beside them and say, “You are the king.”

Obviously, as children of God we are all kings. God promised that to us in the first few chapters of the book of Revelation (1:5, 6; 5:10). The point Bro. Stirewalt was making is that we don’t go to the field as missionaries to be the king over our own domain. We go to equip others to be kings. Like Jonathan, we have the royal robes that we can pass on to other men with everything they need to do God’s work–the Word of God. We don’t go to be the king, we go to train others to be kings.

“Beloved, we are king makers. Not kings.”

 

A Church Focused on World Missions

Philippians 4:10-20

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

In verse 19 God promises to bless churches that have the right focus on world missions. We see that from the very beginning the church at Philippi was concerned for Paul and the missionary effort.

Photo of a world globeA church that is focused on world missions has a concern for others. (v. 10)

The church at Philippi had a concern for Paul and the work he was doing. They were a church that looked for opportunities to be a blessing to those who needed the Gospel. Paul says that they were full of care for him and the ministry, but they didn’t know how to give and help.

A church that is focused on world missions is content in the Lord. (v. 11-13)

Paul said that he did not need anything from the church because the Lord gave him the strength and ability to endure the ministry. There were times when the ministry was easier than other times. Paul was content in the things the Lord brought to his life. He was teaching this great missions-minded church to be content in the things they are called to do.

A church that is focused on world missions is committed to the work of Christ. (v. 14-16)

This church partook in the ministry of Paul. He had traveled from place to place and this church looked for ways to be a help and a blessing to him. They were committed to the Great Commission. They were as committed to the cause of world evangelism at the time Paul wrote this as they were when Paul started his ministry. The church at Philippi was consistent in their commitment.

A church that is focused on world missions has credit in God’s accounting. (v. 17, 18)

The Philippian Christians would benefit from the work Paul was doing. Paul said that he was thanking the church for their gifts to him—not because he wanted more stuff from them, but because he wanted them to have fruit (rewards) to be added to their account in God’s eyes. Paul said that their offering was a sweet and acceptable offering to God.

A church that is focused on world missions exists to see God and Christ glorified. (v. 20)

The whole point of this passage is not to glorify one church or to lift up the missionary, but to bring glory to God.

Are you missions-minded?

Are you:

  • concerned for others?
  • content in the Lord?
  • committed to the work of Christ?
  • receiving credit in God’s accounting?
  • glorifying God?

[This is adapted from a message preached by Daryl Wilson at Faith Baptist Church in Jefferson City, TN.]

3 Ways to Pray for Missionaries From the Apostle Paul

Paul is talking to the church in Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3. He asks for prayer in three areas for himself and his fellow missionary partners in verses 1 and 2.

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

God’s Word Would Have Free Course

Paul asked the people to pray that the Bible would have “free course” as the missionaries go out to preach. This phrase carries with it the idea that God’s Word would run freely and swiftly in the places it is preached. That the Bible would not be hindered in its mission.

Pray for missionaries (and anyone preaching the Gospel) that the Bible will accomplish its task. Pray that as it is preached it will freely penetrate the hearts of men.

God’s Word can be hindered because of worldly influences over the lives of the hearers. Culture, superstitions and human nature are factors in keeping the Bible from being accepted. Religion can play a role in hindering God’s Word too. When people have been taught half-truths concerning the Bible, it can cause confusion in the mind of the listeners. They may be convinced that they are just fine before the Lord because of the good deeds they have accomplished. The truth is that we are wicked sinners who are in need of a Savior.

The Bible Would be Glorified

The people in Thessalonica should pray that God’s Word would be glorified—honored or lifted up. The idea is that the Bible should have value placed on it. The Bible is often de-valued, not by the hearers, but by those who are preaching it. When a missionary does not place proper value on the importance of the Bible, then those who are listening to God’s Word being preached won’t value it either.

It is important for missionaries to maintain a proper testimony. No one expects the missionary to be perfect. He is a redeemed sinner like anyone else in the church. However, people do look to pastors and missionaries as examples of how to live. When a leader does not value God’s Word enough to obey it and preach it with authority, then it is hard for the followers to do the same.

God Would Protect Them From Wicked Men

Finally Paul asked that the church pray that they would be protected from wicked and unreasonable men. Our warfare on this earth is not with flesh and blood; however, spiritual warfare is often manifested through people.

Pray that missionaries would be spared from people trying to hinder the work. Missionaries face daily trails just like anyone else in the churches back home. However, every struggle seems to be magnified when working in another country. Roadblocks in ministry can be seen as personal attacks on the missionary. Of course this is often a matter of perception. But it is easy for a missionary to get discouraged and the work of God to halt its forward progress.

As a missionary in Mexico I was involved in an accident which resulted in me spending several hours in jail. I had no opportunity to personally argue my side of the story. In Mexico the law is that you are guilty until proven innocent. I spent 7 hours waiting for my innocence to be proven by the testimony of others and by the evidence available. Fortunately I was released with no further problems. But that could have gone another way. I could have been wrongfully charged for something that was truly a freak accident. I believe God spared me from that because of the prayers of supporters. God saved me from the hand of people who had no interest in my success as a missionary.

Do you pray for missionaries? Paul asked that the church in Thessalonica pray for him and the other missionaries with him in these three specific areas. Will you pray for the missionaries you know that God’s Word would accomplish its task, that it would be glorified and that the missionaries would be spared from wicked and unreasonable men?

Feeding 5000 in the Midst of Doubters

The story of the feeding of the 5000 in John 6 shows Jesus accomplishing His purpose even though the disciples had their doubts. Philip and Andrew were the spokesmen for the group in this story. One doubted that there was enough money to accomplish the task and the other doubted that there were enough laborers. However, there was one little boy who gave all he had and simply trusted the Lord.

Philip Doubted There Was Enough Money

In verse 5 Jesus asked Philip how they were going to buy enough bread for the crowd that had gathered. The question wasn’t because Jesus was worried about the outcome. We are told in verse 6 that Jesus asked because He wanted to test Philip to see how he would answer. Jesus already knew what He would do.

Philip said that there was not enough money to feed the crowd. I imagine there wasn’t even a corner bakery to buy bread. A few verses earlier the Bible says that Jesus and the disciples had gone up to a mountain. If they weren’t in a city then it was unlikely that there would have been a place where they could buy bread for 5000 people.

Andrew Doubted There Were Enough Workers

BreadThere was one little boy who had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. They needed more people with more resources to accomplish the task. Andrew asks the question in verse 9, “what are they [the loaves and fish] among so many?”

Can you imagine Andrew walking up to Jesus? He was probably embarrassed with what he had to say. “Um, Jesus. This probably sounds a little silly considering there are 5000 people here. But, this little boy says he has a couple of fish and some bread. He’s willing to give it to you if you think it will help.”

The Little Boy Offered His Resources to the Lord

The Lord had the disciples get the people seated. Then He took the loaves and fish and thanked God for them.

Everyone ate until they were full and the disciples gathered up the remains. While they started with just a few loaves, the Bible says that they gathered 12 baskets full of remains (verse 13). I can’t tell you if they were little bread baskets or big containers, but what I do know is that there were 12 of these baskets full of unused bread. The Lord took the few resources and multiplied them to be more than sufficient.

What Task Do You Doubt the Lord in Today?

God can work great miracles. In this story He chose to do it via a few loaves of bread and some fish. While Jesus did not need to depend on what the little boy could provide, He did in this case. Are you the one God could work a miracle through? Are you willing to give your lunch to the Lord and allow Him to accomplish His purposes in the world? Does the task seem too large for your small donation to make a difference? How about you just hand it over to God and let Him do with it what He pleases.

What resources do you have that you could surrender to the Lord’s control? It might be $5 or some skill that you possess. You may not consider it to be such a big thing compared to the task of sharing God’s Word with the world. Hand it over to God and let Him decide what value it might have.