Friday, March 19, 2010

Desperate for rain

Today I started coughing badly as my lungs are trying to get rid of the smoke that accumulated in there. All of the people in the house were coughing weeks before I did. I think, physically I am stronger but the smoke has been getting heavier each day and even the stronger ones are starting to succumbed to the pollution. We have not seen the sun and the blue sky for two weeks now. And because the sun could not penetrate the thick smog, it is still abnormally cold for supposed to be a hot summer.

The smog came from the farmers in Myanmar and Northern. They are burning the fields on the mountain in preparation for the next planting season. The people in Mae Sai are used to it. This kind of farming is traditionally being practiced for centuries.

We are desperate for rain. A whole day of heavy rain will clear the sky and clean up the air. It rained last night but it was a drizzle which is not enough. However, it is a good sign that rain is coming soon, we are praying that it would be sooner.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Encouragements to Keep Going On (Acts 18:1:11)

It had been told that Satan's most powerful weapon against Christians is "discouragement". He can use it to work his way into the hearts which otherwise is not accessible. When a person is discouraged, Satan is open to plant anything there that he desire.

Christian workers are always subject to discouragement. There is no shortage of discouragements to hinder the work of God. The Bible is full of stories of men of God who at times became discouraged. You and I get discouraged from time to time.

Looking at Paul's life and ministry in the Bible, we can surmise reasons for his discouragement in the ministry.

Firstly, he had to work very hard. Corinth is one of the most wicked city in Greece. It was the center of the idol worship of the goddess of love. Those who practice sexual immorality went there. There was a lot of work to be done and the largeness of work is sometimes very discouraging.

Secondly, he had to experience failures. Now we can say that it is required of us to be faithful and the success is up to God and that is true, but we all like to see growth and success in the work of the Lord. Paul had been successful in some places, however, he experienced failures and rejection in other places. That was discouraging.

Then finally, he had to work alone. Although there were times when one or two worked along his side, Paul would be more happy and excited to work with more people. Most of the time when we work for the Lord, we find ourselves working alone. It is discouraging.

But we should grateful that while our enemy is active in discouraging us. God is equally if not more active to encourage us. While the devil is trying to drag us down, God is working to lift us up. While the devil aims at getting us to quit, God is working to encourage us to keep up the good fight.

And here we are given “Three Encouragements to Keep Going.”

The Partnership Of Friends (verses 1-5a)

If you want to be encouraged, think of your friends. Friends are one of the greatest God given encouragements. It is always harder if you have to do things alone. But things are a lot easier if we have friends helping us.

Remember Silas and Timothy are still in Macedonia. So God knew that Paul needed someone to help him shoulder the burdens of the work. So what does God do? God sent Priscilla and Aquila out from Rome. It seems that Aquila and Priscilla had a tent making business that they set up in Corinth. Paul just so happened to be a tentmaker and so he began to work with Aquila and Priscilla in their business. This gave him the funds for his support so that he could go into the synagogue every Sabbath and reason with the Jews and Greeks for Jesus Christ. What a blessing Aquila and Priscilla were to Paul. They became his best and closest friends.

Then God sent Silas and Timothy from Macedonia to Corinth to reunite with Paul. So God has not only blessed Paul with two new friends but brought back to him two familiar friends. And their return must have greatly encouraged Paul for the scriptures say that Paul was pressed in his spirit to testify to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.

I think you ought to stand for what is right even if you have to stand-alone. But I want to add, it is a whole lot easier to stand for what is right against the pressure of opposition if there are those who will support, strengthen and stand with you. Thank God for friends who God puts in your path and in your life who will encourage you in the work of the Lord.

As fellow laborers with Christ, we are friends. We are here to be encouraged.

The Positive Results (verses 5b-8)

When Silas and TImothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was greatly encouraged. Not only that, he was able to give all his time to preaching and teaching. He tried his best to persuade the Jews that God had sent Jesus as their Saviour.

However, the Jews rejected Paul and his message. In in effect they actually had rejected Jesus as their messiah. The Message says that "all they did argue contentiously and contradict him in every turn. They insulted him.

Paul totally exasperated finally gave up and shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the other people groups.”

As God's worker, I believe there is no worst situation to be discouraged. Paul was in that situation but he chose not to dwell on it. Instead he went to the Gentiles and shared the gospel to them. The result was that many Gentiles in Corinth became believers and were baptized.

Paul had made a choice not to dwell on his failures and he knew that there must be a positive results in every bad situation.

The choice is ours. We can either dwell on the negative and be discouraged or we can encourage ourselves on the positive results. Look and see even though many don't believe, many don’t grow an inch, some have grown. Many lost people still remain lost, but some trusted in Jesus as their Savior. The church may remain basically the same but then again it may take off like wildfire. Don’t look at what God has not done but dwell on all that God has done.

The Promises Of God (verses 9-11)

While it is true that friends encourage us and positive results encourage us the greatest encouragement of all is the Lord himself. One night in a dream the Lord Jesus spoke to Paul. Jesus said, “Keep it up, and don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I’m with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.”

Here God gives us the the promise of His presence. It is all the encouragement that we need, to know that God is on our side.

Another promise is made, "no matter what happens... no one is going to be able to hurt you. It is not encouraging to know that we have God's protection. Not only will God be present but also he will be there to protect. And they tried. In verses 12-17 they try to come against Paul. But it all came to naught as the matter was dismissed.

There is a third promise here. Not just a promise of presence, and protection, but a promise of power. God says, “for I have much people in this city.” What did that mean? It meant simply that there were those who were lost who under the power of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of Paul would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. There were those who were to be saved by the power of God.

Friends are great encouragers and results are encouraging but when God comes to you and promises his presence, protection, and power, you have every reason to keep on going forward.

*Based on the outline by Michael Belcher