Sermon in a nutshell: The disciples were filled with Joy and the Holy Spirit! (Acts 13:42-52)
When do you have joy? When we were young, a new toy gave us joy. When we were in teen agers, friends were our joys. When we have become adults, different things make us joyful.
In the Bible for today, we read that the disciples, Paul and Barnabas, were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit when they were persecuted and driven out from the city! This was not a usual situation when people have joy!
We can understand that they were joyful when people asked them to speak “again” next Sabbath (v. 42). The Bible does not say that they were joyful at that time.
They must be joyful when “many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” (v.43) The Bible does not mention about their joy here, either.
I would be also joyful if “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” (v. 44). Imagine that the whole city of Concord come to listen to the word of God! However, this time also the Bible does not say that they were filled with joy!
However, the Bible says that they were filled with joy when they were persecuted. For Paul and Barnabas, the success in mission invited jealousy, false accusations, and attack. The Jews stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of their region.
Can you share this feeling with Paul and Barnabas? I had similar experience when I was much younger. When I was 27 years old, I visited the church that my mother served. It was a new church that she started. There were not many adult members. So, every day, I and my mother went around spreading the Gospel. Like the Rev. Oglesby, who started our church, knocking on doors of neighbors, we did the same thing. Then I faced criticisms, ridicules, and contempt. First, I was angry and shameful. Going out alone already needed courage. Knocking the doors of the neighbors took extra courage, iron face, and boldness. However, when people laughed at you, ridiculed you, and criticized you, it was unbearable. I know that evangelism is not easy. I do not expect it would be easier for you.
However, when I overcome the initial shame and anger, when I reflect on my day’s activities at night, I felt sudden joy with the understanding that I was working for the Lord! For the last 27 years, I was a church goer but I had never experienced suffering or pain because of Jesus! I realized that I received all the benefit as a child of God but I did not go through any hardship for the Lord! I also understood that God did not allow those things happen to me because my faith was young and naïve. Now, I was happy because God allowed persecution (if I can call those persecution) against me because God trusted me to have enough patience to bear them.
God does not allow anything that we cannot handle. “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). So when we have hardship in our lives, that means that God sees us as someone who can handle them.
Paul was joyful because now he realized that God saw him as a front runner of the Kingdom of God. He also realized that his mission was not for the Jews but for all the gentiles. His mission field was the whole world. So he was excited! Can you share that excitement?
When the Holy Spirit works in us, we want to share the Good News with others. We may face challenges and criticisms but we love them because those are not personal attacks but God’s confirmation of our faith. We just need to pray for wisdom and patience. We just need to love them more. Then our faithful Father will guide us and give us fruits.
I go around college campuses in our area. I went to DVC, LMC, and Cal State Hayward Concord branch. I met young people and talked with them. It is not always easy. I felt frustration, embarrassment, and shame many times. However, I fully understand that God is using me in one way or another. I can plant a seed and someone else may have harvest. I am a part of God’s great movement. Are you not glad also that you are a part of this wonderful movement that God started through Jesus?
- When have you experienced the joy of sharing Gospel?
- What made you keep (or stop) sharing the Gospel?