Seize the Moment
INTRO: The last time I brought a lesson we saw Peter being miraculously released from prison by an angel of the Lord. He turned up at the house of some of the believers who were amazed when they saw him standing there at the door.
We also saw how Herod was enjoying all the praise from men and women but he didn’t give credit where credit was due to God. An angel of the Lord struck him with an illness which ultimately led to his death. While this was going on Barnabas and Saul were still busy working for the Lord and His people.
I heard a funny story about a sideshow strongman who was exhibiting his skill and as a final trick he squeezed the juice from a lemon between his hands and then offered ten dollars to anyone in the audience who could squeeze a single drop out of what remained.
Several husky men tried, to no avail.
Finally, a small bespectacled man came forward. He took the lemon in hand, and to the delight of the audience, managed to squeeze one more drop from the lemon.
As the strongman paid out the ten dollars, he asked the man, "What is the secret of your strength. How did you manage to get that last drop?"
"Oh," the man replied, "I was the treasurer for a church for 30 years."
Much as I like the story I think that if we have to squeeze money out of people to help others, then there is something seriously wrong with our hearts.
A few weeks ago we left Saul and Barnabas in Acts 11:30 delivering a special offering of money which was taken up for the needy saints in Jerusalem.
I. Today we’re going to catch up with them on the return trip beginning in Acts 12:25-13:3 – “25. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark. 1. Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'' 3. Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”
A. Luke tells us that right after Barnabas and Saul had completed their task of delivering the gift of money for the needy saints in Jerusalem, they returned to Antioch. This time they took John Mark with them which according to Colossians 4:10 was Barnabas' cousin.
1. Remember that Mark's mother was Mary and Luke had just reported that the church met in her house for prayers while Peter was in prison.
2. Luke tells us that the church in Antioch was blessed to have Barnabas, the son of consolation, Simeon, also called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who was somehow closely associated with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. These men were called prophets and teachers.
B. As these men were carrying out their various ministries for the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit called for Barnabas and Saul to be set apart for their specially chosen work. According to Luke the whole church fasted and prayed as they sent them on their way.
1. Some time ago we looked at the subject of the laying on of hands. We discovered that the laying of hands was done for one or two reasons. The apostles would lay their hands on some people to pass on miraculous capabilities but sometimes they would also just lay there hands on people to show their approval of the person they are laying their hands on. It wasn’t always done to pass on miraculous gifts.
2. The reason I brought up this point is because the laying on of hands mentioned here in Acts 13:3 was not done to pass on any special gift but it was done as a sign of the agreement they had with the good work to be done. In other words, Barnabas, John Mark, and Saul were being shown that the other disciples approved of what they were about to do.
C. Following on in Acts 13:4-5 Luke records, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia (say-LOO-she-uh), and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.” Luke says that they first went to Seleucia, which was the port city of Antioch. It was located about 16 miles downstream.
1. Then they sailed approximately one hundred miles to Salamis, the largest city on the eastern end of the island of Cyprus.
2. Luke tells Theophilus that Barnabas and Saul preached in the synagogues in the city and John Mark served as their assistant. Just as a matter of interest, history tells us that around 50 years after Barnabas and Saul were there, there was a Jewish uprising in which 240,000 Gentiles were slaughtered. A famous man named Hadrian, who would be a future Roman emperor, put down the rebellion and expelled the Jews from the city. That has nothing to do with our sermon, but I thought you might find that interesting.
II. Let’s continue in Acts 13:6-7 – “Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.”
A. They crossed over the island to Paphos, which was the capital city and the home of the proconsul Sergius Paulus, Luke tells us he was a wise man.
1. Sergius Paulus had a Jewish adviser known as Bar-Jesus or Elymas, who Luke tells us was a false prophet and sorcerer, one who used magic and incantations.
2. When Sergius Paulus heard that Barnabas and Saul were in town, he sent for them because he wanted to hear God's word. Luke tells us that Sergius Paulus was an intelligent man and we’re going to see why in a moment.
3. I remember reading a story about a manager of a novelty shop, who was located in a popular area with a lot of tourist traffic. His shop attracted customers from all over the world. One day, a well dressed man came in and started browsing. He spotted a ventriloquist's dummy and asked the manager of the shop, "Do you have one that speaks Spanish?"
4. I suspect that intelligent people in the world are not necessarily always people with degrees and high qualifications. The most intelligent people in the world are those who recognize that there is a God. The most intelligent people are those who recognize that the planet on which we live had to have a creator.
5. The most intelligent people are those who recognize that they are created in God’s image and they have a sin problem. The most intelligent people are those who recognize there is a God and want to search for and obey the truth of our creator.
III. That’s’ why Sergius Paulus was called an intelligent man. He wanted to hear God’s word. Acts 13:8-11 – “But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? "And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.'' And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand.”
A. Luke tells us that Elymas did everything he could to deter the proconsul from hearing these preachers. Why he didn’t want the proconsul to know about God I’m not sure, possibly because he feared he might lose his influence.
1. Luke also tells us that Saul, who was also known by his Greek name, Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit when he challenged the sorcerer.
2. Do you remember in Exodus when God was displaying His power to Pharaoh?
B. In Exodus 7 we find this display of God’s power. Exodus 7:10-12 says, “So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the Lord commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.”
1. Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing as Moses but God displayed His power over them by having Aaron’s staff swallow up their staffs.
2. In Exodus 7:20-22 we read, “And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the Lord commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said.”
C. While we are looking here let’s look in Exodus 8:6-7 we read, “So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt.”
1. In thinking about this I have to ask of what earthly help was this action of Pharaoh's magicians? The last thing they needed was more frogs! It shows that even the efforts of God's enemies aid God's purpose. If those magicians had been able to remove the frogs, that would have helped. Their enchantment to produce more frogs was a self-defeating act. These magicians thought they could match God’s power by using their secret arts but look what happened next.
2. Exodus 8:16-19 – “ So the Lord said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Stretch out your rod, and strike the dust of the land, so that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.' '' And they did so. For Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth, and it became lice on man and beast. All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. Now the magicians so worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not. So there were lice on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God.'' But Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had said.”
3. Folks, no one can beat God when it comes to power. Although sorcerers have got a lot of influence with the people by using methods to convince them that they are someone powerful when they are not, they can not beat the power of God.
D. Paul tells us Elymas was a deceiver who opposed righteousness and so Paul, by the power of God struck him blind for a season. "And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.'' “And immediately a dark mist fell on him” That word translated as mist in your Bible (achlys) is a medical term used to describe a dimming of the vision brought on by cataracts or disease.
E. I want us to notice something important in this text too. Acts 13:12 – “Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.”
1. This is another text which shows us the purpose of miracles during Biblical times. The teachings of Jesus which had been presented and the power of the miracle convinced Sergius Paulus to follow Christ in obedience.
2. The miracles performed in the Bible were to prove that the words which were being preached were true and from God.
IV. After blinding the sorcerer and convincing Sergius Paulus that Jesus was who He claimed to be, Luke tells us the following.
A. Acts 13:13-15 – “Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.''” They would have landed at the port of Attalia and then gone on the short distance to Perga.
B. We don’t know the reason why but for some reason, John Mark decided to leave Paul and his companions at Perga and the rest of the group went on to Antioch in Pisidia, which, at that time, was considered to be part of Galatia.
1. Look where they went to. This missionary group went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and listened to the reading of the scriptures.
2. It was then that the rulers of the synagogue asked if they had some instruction to give them.
3. Paul did as we all should do, he seized the moment, and addressed the men of Israel and God-fearers assembled there. What an opportunity that is to share the gospel with people!
C. There are times we look at the world around us and wonder how we are going to reach all these people with the gospel?
1. Let me suggest an answer by sharing with you a story I love about a man who was walking along a beach, when he saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
2. As he got closer, he saw hundreds of starfish the tide had thrown onto the beach. Unable to return to the ocean during low tide, the starfish would die.
3. He observed a young man picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the water.
4. After watching the seemingly futile effort, the man said, "There must be hundreds of starfish on this beach. It would be impossible for you to get all of them. There are simply too many. You can't possibly save enough to make a difference."
5. The young man smiled as he picked up another starfish and tossed it back into the ocean and said, "It made a difference to that one."
6. Folks, that is how we reach people, one at a time. One conversation, one example, one correction, one seed at a time.
7. Please don’t ever think that you can’t make a difference, That one person you share the gospel with, that one person whom you correct of a misunderstanding could be the very person whose soul you help save from drowning in the waters of sin.
V. We must be ready to seize the moment. Paul says in Colossians 4:2-5 – “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” [para]
A. Paul says the same thing over in Ephesians 6:18-20 – “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
B. I suggest we should ask ourselves the question, are we doing that? Are we praying that God will open up doors for us to share the gospel with others?
1. Are we asking God to give us the wisdom and the words to share the message clearly?
2. Are we really making the most of every opportunity? Do we... seize the moment?
C. I don’t know about you, but I admit that I have missed many opportunities to share the gospel with people.
1. There are many times that I wasn’t being watchful.
2. I wasn’t looking for opportunities or I didn’t recognize them as an opportunity.
3. I have learned that God opens doors for us all the time.
4. It could be a simple Bible question from your neighbor or one of your friends at work.
5. It could be a simple question from someone who is asking you about your faith.
6. It could be something a friend says about what they have been taught and you know it is something that is not in scripture.
VI. We may not always recognize an open door but we need to be prepared to give an answer to those questions. 1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”
A. We may not know the answer to some questions at that specific moment but we should never be ashamed to say, ‘I don’t know the answer to that question right now, but I will get back to you with the answer.’
1. Then we need to get back with the answer, don’t leave someone’s question unanswered, go and study the question for yourself and if you still can’t come up with an answer ask someone else for help.
2. There is no shame in asking for help, after all our answer might make the difference between saving a soul and losing a soul forever because we couldn’t be bothered to study and get back to them with an answer.
B. We all need to seize the moment, and that’s exactly what Paul did next because all he wanted was to let people know about Jesus and he wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip from him. Acts 13:16-25 – “16. Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: 17. "The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. 18. "Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. 19. "And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. 20. "After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21. "And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22. "And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.' 23. "From this man's seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior Jesus 24. "after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25. "And as John was finishing his course, he said, 'Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.'”
C. Paul did what Stephen did in Acts 7. He shared with them a Jewish history lesson.
1. He talked about how God delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage.
2. He reminded them of the forty years of wilderness wandering and how God defeated seven nations so Israel could have a home in Canaan.
3. He also reminded those assembled that God had ruled in Israel for 450 years using judges.
4. When the people asked for a king, God gave them Saul, then, David after Saul was removed.
5. Paul says it was from the seed of David, that God raised up a Savior for His people named Jesus, but before He sent the Savior of the world, He sent John the baptizer to prepare the Way for the Savior by preaching the baptism of repentance.
6. Paul finally reminds them that John had told the people he was not the Messiah, but the One coming after him was.
CONCLUSION: We’re going to look at the rest of Paul’s sermon another time but for now let me leave you with this thought.
Our God has always been in control of this world. He was in control in the beginning and He was in control throughout Israel’s history and He is still in control today.
As Maltbie D Babcock writes, “This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget. That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done: Jesus Who died shall be satisfied, and earth and Heav’n be one.”
Folks, God will open up doors for us. God will give us the answers for those who ask questions about our faith. The point though is, we must first ask God to do that for us.
There’s no point in dropping 1000 leaflets into people’s homes if we don’t first ask God to bless the hearts of those who are going to read them. There’s no point in organizing a gospel meeting if we don’t first ask God to open people’s hearts to come and hear His word.
Challenge yourself this week to pray like you’ve have not prayed in a long time.
Challenge yourself to ask God to open up a door for you, so that you can share the gospel with someone.
Challenge yourself to ask God to help you with words so that you can get back to someone when they ask you a question.
Church, one of the reasons that you and I are here today, and a part of the Lord’s body is because someone saw you as an open door.
They saw an opportunity in you to share the good news about Jesus and they seized the moment, just like Paul did.
May God bless our prayers and all our efforts as we seek His blessing first before we try to reach the lost.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Reference Sermon: Mike Glover
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