Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Onward Christian Soldier
They called him "Footsie" because of his 13 ½ size feet. But Maurice Britt didn't let name calling stop him from enlisting in the army during World War II.
It was November 10, 1943. The place: Mignano, Italy. Maurice was 23 years old and not long before had taken over L Company after its commander was wounded. The African and Sicilian campaigns had reduced L Company from a normal strength of 200 to barely 55 men. The Germans were dug in, doggedly defending the mountains guarding the approach to Rome. The Americans were spread thin when Britt's company, leading the assault, was counterattacked by a much larger German force.
The battalion was in danger of being encircled. Men were being overrun, some killed, others taken prisoner. Footsie Britt erupted into action despite the heavy enemy machine-gun fire. He stormed from one end of the forest battleground to the other, stiffening resistance, redirecting the fire, emptying first his carbine, then an M-1 rifle. He freed several of his men who had been captured and personally took four German prisoners. He kept fighting even after he was wounded, refusing medical aid. Later it was reckoned that Footsie Britt threw 32 hand grenades. Singlehandedly he broke the enemy offensive.
After yet another battle, Maurice learned that he was to receive the Medal of Honor for his bravery, and tenacity even when injured to keep going.
Today we're going to study about a man who also faced an enemy in a battle - not on the slopes of an Italian hill, but on the dusty streets of Lystra. Like Footsie - Paul faced long odds and serious injuries: but kept going. We too can take hope from his example as we battle for our King and Lord: Jesus Christ against a very tough and ruthless enemy: Lucifer, the Devil himself.
We begin, though as Paul and his comrade in arms Barnabas, brush the dust off their sandals as the Jews in one city rejected them. At least then it was with words.
Even though Paul and Barnabas were rejected by the Jews - they didn't give up trying to reach their brethren with the good news. However - now that they've broadened their message - gentiles are receiving Jesus as well.
"Poisoned their minds" the world uses "reasonable doubt" to deny the truth.
Vs 3 - 7
Paul and Barnabas didn't purposefully walk into trouble wherever they went - and we too need to avoid conflict that leads to violence or is escalating beyond what we can handle.
You've got to know when it's time to stick to your guns and when it's time to move on.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy.
We are not to be belligerent just for the sake of making trouble. The conflict these men encountered was not because of their behavior - it was the truth of the words they spoke.
Vs 8 - 18
It's amazing how the world interprets God's powers with things they can understand. They interpret God's Word in ways that make sense to them. For instance: Jesus said "I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me." The world hears: "I speak truth and am one of many ways to come to God."
These people were so steeped in the Greek religious pantheistic culture that when they saw a miracle they figured their gods had to have done it.
You may find too that if God does something amazing through you - that those who don't know the Lord might ascribe the power to something very opposite of what you meant. Be careful to give glory where it belongs.
Why does this happen? The world really can't understand God very well.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
It might seem wise to the world to make up a bunch of stuff about God - it may sound perfectly reasonable to them to worship the trees or Krishna or human kind, but this wisdom is actually foolishness.
2 Corinthians talks about a veil over the mind of the unbeliever.
2 Cor 3:16
16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
That's why we need to keep the gospel simple. Don't try to argue over the rapture or the fine points of predestination with someone who doesn't know Jesus. Instead, bring them back around to the issues at hand.
Paul and Barnabas said "we're telling you these things to turn you from these worthless things to the living God." The issue of sin - personal responsibility - salvation - and personal acceptance of God's truth is job one - then once the veil lifts, you can go on to talk about fine points because then the heart can comprehend it without the pollution of the world "poisoning" the mind and corrupting the thoughts about God's truth.
Vs 19 - 22
This story is incredible in several respects. Paul probably should have died right then and there. We don't know if God revived him or if the Jews simply didn't do a complete job stoning him.
What is truly amazing though is what he did afterwards. Getting up and walking back into the city took guts to the max.
Nothing seemed to stop these men from sharing the good news. They came back to the same cities where they suffered so much persecution and kept on preaching - and winning disciples.
His words of encouragement - maybe in answer to questions from the other men as to why they keep going - he said: "we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."
What happens in our lives when we come into hardship? And not just in ministry, either. Let's say it's a devastating health problem, or a loss of a family member - employment trouble, money trouble, relationship trouble. Maybe you have witnessed to co-workers or neighbors and actually been persecuted.
How do you respond? Do you get mad? Do you strike back at the injustice? Do you think "how could God let me into this kind of a situation?" Or do you feel sorry for yourself?
To gain some insight - let's look at a later place where Paul refers to the incident we just read about. It's found in 2 Corinthains 11:14 - 12:10
The people at Corinth were being taken advantage of by those spreading false doctrine. Paul clearly tells them that they are Satan's servants masquerading as angels of light.
He chides them for being so susceptible. Apparently, because of the force of argument - the Corinthians believed the false doctrine. Because Paul simply stated the truth in what appeared to be a meek way - the Corinthians rejected it.
So he first lists all of the hardships he's endured: (read 23 - 27)
He goes on to talk about how the Lord humbled him after he saw a revelation of heaven.
Paul then concludes by making this statement:
2 Cor 12:9-10
9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
You see, we've got it all wrong when it comes to what's really important. We think to have success and gain wealth and stay healthy and out of trouble means our lives are going along well.
Paul says he "delights" or "thinks well of" problems.
Approving of weakness? Insults? Hardship? Persecution? Difficulty? Is he mad? He says when I am feeble, then I am powerful.
Jesus told Paul two very important things:
1 - "My grace is sufficient for you"
sufficient: possessed of unfailing strength
Jesus miracle power (dunamis) working through our feebleness, makes us capable (dunatos) of doing what He desires.
We cannot become like Christ if we run the show - do things our own way. So the Lord weakens us by hardships so that we must depend on His power, His character, His direction and provision in order to survive.
2 - "When I am weak, then I am strong"
Once our own power is minimized, then God's power can take over.
Ephesians 6 says for us to "be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might."
Delight in problems because it means you are becoming like Christ - and becoming more powerful in a way that the world can never know.
Here is one of the places where find the practice of appointing elders to oversee the affairs of a church.
This would be a good place to talk a little bit about our own structure here at Living Waters.
We basically follow this pattern of church government - a group of elders oversees the operation and direction of the Fellowship. No one person is in charge but a group of people who are accountable and submitted to one another.
We also believe that this group should serve the body - assisting all of us to become more like Christ and discover and walk in the calling that God has on each of our lives.
At this point in the history of our fellowship, Aaron and I are called co-pastors - I oversee the ministry aspects of the Fellowship, and Aaron oversees the administrative aspects. But the word "pastor" actually means: "shepherd." Shepherd and Elder are by and large to aspects of the same position. Elder means: senior - someone mature and respected and acting like a leader - it's who they are. Shepherd means a person who cares for and tends the guides the sheep. This is what an elder does.
We are unique, but not exclusive to this kind of church government. We believe it is closer to what Jesus intended for his church to be, with Him as the one in charge. If you want more information we can supply that to you.
Vs 24 - 28
It's good to talk about what God has done through you and in you.
1 Pet 5:9
9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
When we share with each other our we do these things:
We rejoice in the successes of others
We worship the Lord who did it all
We know we aren't alone
We obtain hope
We gain knowledge from other's experiences
We acquire strength to go through trials ourselves
Are you a hero of the faith in God's army? If you're like most people you probably feel like one of the fallen. You try and try but whenever you step out for God you get stepped on by the enemy or the world or other people and you just don't know if you can go on.
You're tired and hurt and discouraged and lonely and disillusioned.
Take heart: you can be a hero for the Lord - by taking on the same attitude shown by Paul in our story.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
o Expect opposition
1 Peter 5:8 says our enemy "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
Don't be surprised when opposition comes your way - expect it. Be prepared for it.
o Escape when you can
No one said you are supposed to be a doormat. We don't have to just stand up and hold out our arms and say to the enemy "Here I am, shoot me."
Paul and Barnabas got away more times than they got caught. What does that mean to us? If you really get into it with someone over the gospel or your ministry or your life in Christ - maybe it's more important to just walk away than win every point.
o Emphasize the ultimate goal, not the battle before you
Paul knew that these people needed salvation. When they stoned him he got up and walked right back into town for that purpose.
Sometimes we see conflict around us and that's all we see. There is a bigger picture. There is a battle plan that's bigger than this skirmish.
o Injury means your are a fighter, not a loser
Just because you get hurt - and suffer as a Christian doesn't mean you failed. It means you are in the fight. You are a soldier. You will suffer as a believer.
o Its hard to kill a dead person
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
You are immune to a lot more attacks than you think. Satan loves to accuse us - but dead people can't be accused. You are dead - and the life you live is Christ's life. He can't be killed either - they already tried that and look what happened. Take hope!
Finally - this scripture:
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel
28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-- and that by God.
29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.