January 28, 2021

Down But Not Out

I love Rocky movies. I mean, I really like Rocky movies. What gets me every time is how Rocky faces incredible odds but never gives up. He gets close a time or two, but he always reaches that point of not giving in to the voices that are crying out – Just quit.

It just stirs something in me, especially the music/workout montage, you know the one that might make a man want to go for a run, workout or beat-up Mr. T or Ivan Drago, just saying.

But the real message in each of these movies is found in the ring, the actual boxing match. He keeps getting knocked down, but he is never down for the count. He is hurting, beat up and bleeding, but he still gets back up and keeps fighting.

I know, its just movies, but still, there is a message for us today.

Have you ever just wanted to quit? You have had enough, you are through, finished, done!! It may be in your job, in your relationships, in your ministry or it may be just life in general.

You are ready to walk away, throw in the towel. Bottom line is, in your heart you are down for the count! Now that I have encouraged you right from the start, please don't close out and go back to looking at cat videos, just yet. (hey, everybody loves a good cat video) I promise I am going somewhere.

When these feelings come, all of us have a choice to make. We come to what many call the crisis point. The very word crisis means a place of decision, a turning point if you will. Do we truly act on our feelings or do we determine that we may be down, but we are not out?

What I want to do is encourage you to get off the mat and determine to go one more round. It could be that you are just one step away from the miracle you desperately need to see God move in every area of our life that you are ready to quit in.

I had this on my heart today because of what I read in Acts 18 about Paul’s visit to Corinth. He had taken a beating leading up to coming to the city and it continued while he was there. He had a moment when he was on the mat and I believe ready to just say, throw the towel, I am done here, time to pull up stakes and leave this city.

But God met him at the point of his need and gave Paul the courage to go another round and stay in the fight.

I believe there is some truth here that can help us too!

I want to show you two things: what had hit Paul so that he was on the mat and what was it that gave him the strength to get back up.

What hit Paul and took him down?

1) He got hit from the outside (Acts 16-17)

·       Paul had faced tremendous persecution for preaching the gospel in the cities leading up to him coming to Corinth.

·       Was beaten and thrown into Prison in Philippi

·       A riot broke out in protest over Paul being in Thessalonica and they had to leave the city in the dark of night just to escape.

·       They came to Berea and guess who showed up, the same people who had caused problems at Thessalonica followed them to Berea. The Bible says they came and “agitated and disturbed the crowds”. So, he had to leave in haste to escape again.

·       Then, he was alone in the city of Athens and debated the great philosophers of the day and was made fun of and had very few converts.

·       Then, when he finally did make to Corinth, you guessed it, more opposition from the Jews, which by the way were Paul’s own people. Talk about heartache!

2) He was getting hit from the inside!

We gain some insight when we read 1 Corinthians chapter 2. Paul in this letter to the church at Corinth reminded them of how all of this was getting to him. And by the way, it does.

“I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.”

Sounds to me like Paul was taking a beaten in his heart and his emotions. All that he was facing had taken its toll. He had battle fatigue. Let us take a closer look at these words.

·       Weakness – it speaks of weak in body and in our soul. Paul was tired physically yes, but his soul was tired. And that is even harder to get over. The root word gives us insight to how it hits the soul. It is the lack of strength to be able to:

Ø  to understand a thing

Ø  to do things great and glorious

Ø  to restrain corrupt desires

Ø  to bear trials and troubles

Hello, sound familiar to anybody!!

·       Fear – to have a phobia, to be afraid. We know Paul delt with this, because when the Lord does come to Him, first thing He says to Paul, Do Not Be Afraid!

·       Trembling - used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty. Wow, anybody ever felt this. Anxiety to do what I am called to do. Paul, the great apostle, preacher, pastor, missionary says – I felt like I just did not have what it takes anymore!!

I would say this was all enough to take Paul to the mat. Did any of the above ring a bell with you? Have you felt the battle fatigue of all that is going on in the outside world around us? How is affecting you in your soul and mind? Are feeling the weakness, fear, and trembling? Have you been to mat a few times and just wait for the count to get to 10 so you can just quit?

I know I have.

That is why this passage spoke so much to me this morning. I know there are others of you who have felt this or are feeling this. I beleive it with all that is within me. But I also feel a passion to share the word of God.

God came to Paul in a night vision and gave him a word that gave him the strength and courage not only get off the mat but stay in the ring and keep fighting. It is a word for us today!

What did God say that help Paul get off the mat and go another round?

“9 Then the Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.”  11 And he stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”

·       Don’t be afraidRemember this was not another man or women, it was the God of all the universe saying to Paul, you do not have to be afraid. He says the same to us today. God has us and has what we are walking through, don’t be afraid.

·       Keep on speaking and sharing my word, don’t be silentHe reminds Paul what the mission is. Paul was called to share the good news of the gospel. So are we! We must not give up, now more than ever we need to hear this word from God: don’t be silent, keep sharing and speaking the hope that is found only in turning to Jesus. Remember, the only thing that allows evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing and say nothing. Let God give us all courage to stay at this task!

·       I am with you! Paul, do not be afraid and stay the course and you will not be alone, I am with you!! What a promise for Paul and for us. He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you and that is a truth you can take to the bank. You and I are not in this battle alone, our commander and chief is leading the way and will not leave us alone but will be a very present help in time of trouble.

·       I am not done with you! No one will bring you harm. You are doing my work and I am not done with you. Child of God, if you have breath in your lungs and your heart is beating, God is not done with you. Stay the course, stay in the ring, and get off the mat, you have a purpose! When God is done with you, He will call you home! You are not home yet, He has work for you to do!!

·       There are people who need to hear the message of the gospel in this city! There are lost people all around us. Right where we are. People still need to hear about Jesus and people still die and go to hell without Jesus and God has placed us right where he has placed us to share the good news of Jesus to a lost and a dying world.

Verse 11 of this chapter tells how Paul responded, “he stayed/continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”

He stayed!!

This word speaks of being fixed in a place, to sit down. In other words, he got off the mat and stayed in the good fight of faith and did not quit.

May God help us to do the same!

Stay in the fight my friend, stay the course, listen to the word of God speaking to us just like it did Paul: you are not alone, don’t be afraid, keep speaking and serving, I am not done with you yet and there are people all around you that need to hear the gospel.

You may be down dear one, but by God’s grace you do not have to be out!!!

Pastor Michael