"FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS."
Intro. Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus breathing out threats of murdering those who had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. He was armed with papers from the high priest empowering him to arrest those who were calling on the name of the Lord, when suddenly he was arrested as he was approaching Damascus, by an authority that was much higher than that given by the high priest. Lying on the ground in a bright light that exceeded that of the sun, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He responded, "Who are you Lord?" Jesus answered, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." His submission was immediate, "What do You want me to do?" Saul temporarily blinded by the brightness of the light was led to Damascus. In Damascus, the Lord spoke to one of the believers named Ananias and said to go to the street called Straight and inquire at the house of Judas for a man named Saul. When Ananias objected because his name was
on the list of those that Saul was going to arrest, the Lord assured him. But the Lord said unto him, "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel."
I. FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS. GOD NEEDED A MAN TO TAKE THE GOSPEL TO THE GENTILES, KINGS, AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.
A. It would take a unique kind of a man with a special and varied background.
1. He would have to have a knowledge of the Grecian culture that was the dominate culture of the day.
2. It would be an advantage to be a Roman citizen.
3. He would have to have a complete grasp of the scriptures, and know the Jewish laws and customs.
B. Later Paul would come to the realization that God had been at work in his life preparing him for the ministry from his mother's womb.
1. Writing to the Galatians he said, "But when it pleased God who separated me from my mother's womb."
2. To the Ephesians he would write, "For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus, unto the good works which God has before ordained that we should accomplish for Him."
C. So Paul was born in Tarsus, a city with strong Grecian culture. His earliest years were spent among the Gentiles, where he was able to know their customs and culture.
1. However, he was a Jew and was circumcised according to Jewish law on the third day, and in his home practiced strict Jewish laws.
2. He was born a Roman citizen.
3. When he was old enough to leave home, his father sent him to Jerusalem to go to the Hebrew university that he might sit at the feet of the greatest rabbi of the time, Gamaliel.
4. His unique background prepared him perfectly for such a time as this when God wanted to bring the good news of salvation to the Gentiles.
II. BUT AS YOU WELL KNOW, ALL OF THE EDUCATION IN THE WORLD DOES NOT ADEQUATELY PREPARE YOU FOR THE MINISTRY.
A. You cannot learn from the textbooks the howto's of the ministry.
1. There is no teacher like practical experience.
2. Like someone has said, experience is the best teacher if you can afford the tuition.
B. Paul learned much from practical experience.
1. Having come from his strong prejudice against the gospel, to the wonderful knowledge of Jesus Christ, he thought that he could convince the Jews of the truth.
2. His dream and ambition was to share the gospel in Jerusalem to those, his former compatriots.
a. When he had come back to Jerusalem after his conversion, Jesus had said to him:
Make haste, and get quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send you far from here unto the Gentiles.
b. Paul found himself arguing with the Lord, he was sure that he could persuade them.
C. Later he will write to the Corinthians of the lessons that he had learned through experience.
1. He learned how to comfort those who were going through affliction by experiencing the comfort of the Lord in his afflictions.
2. He realized that the reason for his afflictions was to enable him to be a better minister.
D. Paul will tell the Corinthians:
For we would not have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raises the dead:
1. This is probably a reference to the situation that developed in Ephesus when Demetrius the silversmith stirred up those of the same craft who had made their fortunes by making little idols of Diana the goddess of the Ephesians.
2. They stirred up the mob to violence and gathered in the great amphitheater, and were ready to lynch Paul.
3. The important lesson he learned when facing death, "Not to trust himself, but in God who can raise the dead."
[We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
4. The ministry does not give us immunity from trouble, perplexity, or persecution.
5. But in these things we are not distressed, or despairing, forsaken or destroyed.
6. These are the instruments that God uses to prepare us to minister to others.
E. Sometimes you think that you have it rough in the ministry, listen to what Paul says about what he went through that proved that he was a true minister of Christ.
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I more; in abundant labors, in stripes above measure, I was frequently in prison, I often faced death five times the Jews beat me with forty lashes minus one. Three times they beat me with rods. Once I was stoned, three time I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the deep. As I journeyed I often faced the perils of water, of robbers, of my own countrymen, of the heathen, the perils of the city and the wilderness, perils of the sea and false brethren. I have experienced weariness and pain, sleepless nights, lack of food and water. I have been without sufficient clothing and besides all of this I had the burden of the daily care of all the churches.
1. How did Paul view these things?
2. These were God's way of preparing me to be a minister of His. These were the things that prepared me for such a time as this.
3. From these experiences important lessons were learned.
a. When I was sentenced to death, I learned not to trust myself but Him that raises the dead.
b. When I was without resources I learned to trust God to supply my needs.
c. When I was weak, I learned to trust in God for my strength. "Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Stand in His strength alone, The arm of flesh will fail you, You dare not trust your own.
4. Mother Berg.
III. WE OFTEN GO THROUGH DIFFICULT AND PAINFUL EXPERIENCES THAT WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND AT THE MOMENT, BUT IN TIME WE REALIZE THAT GOD WAS PREPARING US FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.
A. We have a family in the church whose daughter just passed away this past Saturday.
1. She had been on life-support systems for several days.
2. As soon as they removed the life-support systems she expired.
3. Roger went over to minister to the parents.
a. Several years ago, I first met Roger at a hospital in Hollywood when his little daughter was on life-support systems.
b. I was there when she expired.
c. Roger knows the hope that somehow modern medicine can do the impossible and also the heartbreak when modern medicine fails and you face the reality of death.
d. The tragic experience in his own life that was so hard to understand at the time, enabled him to better minister to the parents who had just lost their daughter. It prepared him for such a time as this when he had to comfort the parents.
B. Paul saw his afflictions that he experienced with the subsequent comfort as important lessons to enable him to better minister when the time came for those who were going through their experience of afflictions.