[The gospel] for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (NASU)
Appointed to Suffer
How would you like someone to offer you a job that would take you around the world? It would be a job that would never be dull or boring. You would meet new people in various countries and be able to talk to the most powerful leader in the world. You would become a person of great influence even able to perform miracles. That was Paul’s job offer and it came out of the blue. Here’s how it was described to Ananias.
But the Lord said to him [Ananias], "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:15-16 NKJV)
Would that caveat about suffering stop you from accepting the job? This short job description was completely fulfilled in the life of Paul. After attempting to share the Gospel with Jews in Damascus, he had to escape. When he came to Jerusalem and started preaching to Jews there, he was escorted out of town (Acts 9:23-31). After he left Jerusalem, the church enjoyed a time of peace. Obviously, Paul wasn’t going to make any headway with Jews. It has been estimated that he stayed in Troas for about twelve years until Barnabas took him to Antioch to help educate the Gentiles who had come to Christ (Acts 11:25-26).
When Paul left Antioch and went on his missionary journeys, he still followed the same pattern of speaking first to the Jews in the cities then to the Gentiles. The result was usually the same. A few Jews would believe and many Gentiles. The Jews who didn’t believe would become jealous of Paul’s converts and this is where the suffering starts (Acts 17:2-5).
In 2 Cor 11:23-28, Paul summarized his suffering for the Gospel and Jesus. He was in prison frequently, flogged at least five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned once, and shipwrecked three times. He faced danger from the elements, bandits, Jews, Gentiles, and false Christians. He had to work to supply his own needs, went without sleep and food. On top of all that, he still had a concern for all the churches which weighed heavily on him.
For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. (Phil 1:29 NLT)
Do you consider it a privilege to suffer for Christ? We should stop and look at our comfortable lives and ask how far we are willing to go to suffer for the Gospel. Paul called it a privilege, not a duty or requirement or command. Perhaps we feel inconvenienced by the Gospel at times. Shoot, let’s be honest, there are times when we feel inconvenienced to go to church on a Sunday morning, especially if our favorite team is playing at the same time. No wonder we don’t share the Gospel with others when we’re in the checkout line or at the bus stop. It isn’t convenient, we don’t have the time.
Our modern conveniences are making it easier and easier to minimize our contacts with people. Gas stations are mostly self-serve without a need for interaction with others. Self-check lines in stores are doing the same. Smart phones and the apps are making it easier to buy in or out of a store, get directions, ask questions without looking anyone in the eye. Garage door openers are great devices but also allow us to be virtually invisible to our neighbors.
That’s just inconvenience but what about real suffering? When was the last time you actually suffered for the Gospel? When did you go out of your way to speak to someone about Jesus? If you have, did you suffer? Did the person punch you out? Did you have to pay your own way to get to the place where you shared the life-giving message of Jesus? If you’re anything like me, then it has been a while since you attempted to share and you’ve never been physically attacked.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Heb 12:4 RSV)
I would suspect that if we haven’t been extending much effort at resisting sin, then we probably have been extending even less effort in spreading the Gospel. This is especially true if spreading the Gospel means taking risks that could result in bloodshed. While we don’t see this in the United States, there are many countries where preaching the Gospel is a capital crime. The result of conversion is often decapitation. If you don’t believe it’s true, then look it up on the internet.
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. (Ps 25:2-3 ESV)
Why would anyone be ashamed of the Gospel or trust in God? Perhaps it is because of the enemies of the Gospel. They ridicule and often make sincere believers look foolish, at least that’s what they want you to believe. The whole issue of creationism vs. evolution is a good example. The believer has trusted what God said is true regarding creation being done in six literal days. The evolutionist ridicules creationism by bringing up what he calls scientific evidence that makes the believer look like a backward, uneducated, ignoramus. Because the believer is not a scientist, he stumbles and mumbles and is unable to refute even a poorly informed skeptic. The believer may even modify his faith by distorting the word to make a day of creation into an eon as some have erroneously concluded. The result for the believer is a watered down faith that can eventually lead to compromise. They are ashamed of the Word.
Ultimately, unbelievers discount creation so that they will not feel accountable to God for their actions. But God says the way He created the universe was done to show His eternal power and divine nature. His creation makes sure that anyone who does not believe in Him is without excuse (Rom 1:20). Had He used evolution and chance then He would not be the all-powerful God that He claims to be. In the end, the believer will be exalted and the enemies of the Gospel will be the ones who are ashamed.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Rom 1:16 NIV)
If you were diagnosed with an incurable disease but found an unorthodox cure, would you be ashamed to tell others about it? We all have a terminal disease that will end in eternal death. The cure is the Gospel, the death of Christ on the cross for our sins, His burial, and resurrection on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3). It is unorthodox. It isn’t something that a human being invented, it was God’s unorthodox plan prescribed before the earth was ever formed. It is so unorthodox that neither Jews nor Gentiles turn to it automatically but it is the way God has chosen to save us. Before we are saved, we consider it foolishness and unwise (1 Cor 1:18-31). If we don’t renew our minds after salvation we will continue to be ashamed of it. If we are, then we are ashamed of the only way God has planned to save anyone, Jew or Gentile.
How Are You Convinced?
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Ps 9:10 NASU)
If you are like most people, you are convinced of something based on what someone else has said or written. At some point you trust the person. Paul says that he knew Jesus and that knowledge caused him to believe. God’s name represents everything there is about Him, His character, promises, ability, power, and everything else. Jesus is the image of God and His exact representation (Col 1:15, Heb 1:3). When we know the name of Jesus we will know God and we will trust Him.
Some people claim to know God, but don’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. Since knowing Jesus is knowing God and the only way to the Father, they are going to be sorely disappointed when it comes time to meet their maker face to face (John 14:6, 9-10). They will find that Jesus will deny them before the Father which will result in being rejected by the Father because they rejected the son (Matt 10:33, 1 John 2:23).
I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (Acts 26:9 RSV)
Perhaps you have been convinced by your own thought process to oppose Christianity, as Paul did. The problem with depending on our own reasoning is that without God’s leading, our hearts will lead us astray. God spoke through Jeremiah telling us how deceitful our hearts are (Jer 17:9), that they are stubborn so that they will follow evil (Jer 18:12).
Throughout the book, God compares His heart and Jeremiah’s with the hearts of man. God’s heart will not turn toward those who are sinning and following their own hearts (Jer 15:1). Jeremiah’s heart is a foreshadowing of the heart of Jesus. His heart is in anguish at the calamity that is about to come upon Judah (Jer 4:19). His heart is wounded at the sins of Judah (Jer 8:21).
And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. (Jer 24:7 KJV)
God also predicts a day when we will no longer follow our own hearts (Jer 3:17). That will occur when He gives us a new heart. We can’t be convinced in our faith until we receive that new heart from God. He has promised that when we turn to Him, we will be a new creation with that old heart crucified with Christ. When we trust the promises He has given in the Word, we can be convinced that He will guard and protect us to the very end.
Agrippa interrupted him. "Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?" Paul replied, "Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains." (Acts 26:28-29 NLT)
Do you attempt to convince other that Jesus is the only way to the Father? If we aren’t convinced about our own faith there is no way that we will be able to share the good news effectively. Look at Paul, standing before King Agrippa while in chains fearlessly attempting to convert the king. Most people would be shaking in fear, begging for mercy and release. Instead, he used the opportunity to witness. His defense before the Festus and King Agrippa is what we can do when we witness.
1. Briefly explain our life before Christ (Acts 26:4-11).
2. Tell how we were converted (Acts 26:12-18).
3. Tell what life is now like in Christ (Acts 26:19-22).
4. Announce the good news (Acts 26:23, 25-26).
Paul didn’t get a chance to finish because he was interrupted, but he did provide the Gospel outline in 1 Cor 15:3-4. In 22 short verses, Paul proclaimed the Gospel so powerfully that Festus and King Agrippa both interrupted him. However, the seed was planted and God could make it grow. We need not fear rejection – Paul was rejected by mighty men but he didn’t back peddle, instead he reinforced his testimony (Acts 26:29). It is a good lesson for us to learn.
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4-5 KJV)
Why could Paul be so bold in front of a king? He knew that this life isn’t all there is. We have much more in store in eternity. It is described as an inheritance that can’t be diminished in any way. Paul knew that God guards our salvation. It can’t be kept by our own will power. If it were by our ability then we would get the glory, but as it is, Jesus gets the glory when our completed salvation is revealed at His return.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. (John 10:27-30 KJV)
I often stop to think about what Jesus said regarding our eternal security. It starts with election. We are His sheep and He knows us and that’s why we follow Him. He gives us eternal life as is often repeated in Scripture. We aren’t saved because of anything we do or say but because the Father draws those to Jesus who have been chosen before the earth or time began. Certainly, at some point we place our trust in Jesus and demonstrate that God has changed our hearts by obedient love of Him, but we must also acknowledge that it is a gift to be able to do that.
Who can cause us to sin or stumble in any way to that would cause us to lose our salvation? According to Jesus, He says that no man can do that. Can I do anything to reject Jesus if I’m truly saved? Not according to Jesus, that is unless I’m not part of the human race. That “no man” includes me! I may falter, have doubts, rail against God, and sin in various ways, but if my salvation is genuine, none of that will make God decide to turn His hand over and drop me out of His hand. Does this assurance give me license to sin? Of course not.
My salvation is doubly secure. I’m held in Jesus’ hand and God’s hand. Jesus emphasizes that He and the Father are one. If I or anyone else were powerful enough to pluck someone (or myself) out of Jesus’ hand, then I would be more powerful than Jesus. I would still have to get past God and be more powerful than Him. There is just no way that a true believer could be lost after being saved.
If you haven’t turned your life over to Jesus, today could be the day. Don’t wait because you don’t know when you will be yanked out of time and into eternity. Don’t be mislead though, your decision could result in suffering and times when you are tempted to be ashamed. If you are convinced that you have eternal life guarded by God Himself, then the even the possible downside will bring you joy and glory to God.