Hello and welcome to Lechem Panim. Today we will be continuing our study of Acts chapter 18. So if you have your Bible, go ahead and turn with me there. You will remember that Paul has (most recently) entered into the city of Corinth, the political and commercial center of Greece. And it is here that he works as a tentmaker alongside a Jewish man and woman (Aquila and Priscilla) who themselves have been driven out (as all the Jews were) from Rome. And so during the week they make leather tents (and perhaps other leather items as well) and sell them. But on the Sabbath Paul would reason in the synagogue with the Jews and Gentiles who had gathered there to worship and persuaded some of them of the truth of the Gospel. Now Silas and Timothy eventually arrive. And 2 Corinthians 11:9 tells us that they do so bringing financial aid. And this allowed Paul to be more freed to devote himself fully to preaching the Gospel. But enemies had set themselves against Paul; and Paul had faced the rejection of many of his own people, most recently here in Corinth. And so it is a time of discouragement. And he may be wondering how he is ever going to do what God has called him to do. But God gave Paul an amazing promise that extends to you and me as well. And today I would like to take a look at that promise.
Remembering 9/11-- You know, most of you (myself included) remember right where you were when you heard the news that terrorists had hit the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11. It’s a day we will never forget. But recently I read (I think for the first time, though I had seen part of it before) the 911 call from United Airlines Flight 93, where a very terrified passenger by the name of Todd Beamer was frantically telling the dispatcher about the hijacking of their plane. And the dispatcher confirmed for him what he had already heard, that hijackers had crashed two planes into the World Trade Center and that both towers were gone. “Oh God —help us!” he said. She told him that a third plane was taken over by terrorists, who crashed it into the pentagon; and his plane may also be part of their plan. Then Todd, in shock, asked the dispatcher (whose name was Lisa) to call his pregnant wife (whose name, surprisingly, was also Lisa) and their two boys, tell them what happened, and tell her that he loves her and will always love her; and to tell his boys that their daddy loves them and that he is so proud of them. Later in the call another dispatcher joins in the conversation.
Goodwin: Hello Todd. This is Agent Goodwin with the FBI. We have been monitoring your flight. Your plane is on a course for Washington, DC. These terrorists sent two planes into the World Trade Center and one plane into the Pentagon. Our best guess is that they plan to fly your plane into either the White House or the United States Capital Building.
Todd: I understand…hold on……I’ll…….I’ll be back..
Lisa: Mr. Goodwin, how much time do they have before they get to Washington?
Goodwin: Not long ma’am. They changed course over Cleveland; they’re approaching Pittsburgh now. Washington may be twenty minutes away.
Todd: (breathing a little heavier) The plane seems to be changing directions just a little. It’s getting pretty rough up here. The plane is flying real erratic….We’re not going to make it out of here. Listen to me….I want you to hear this….I have talked with the others….we have decided we would not be pawns in these hijackers suicidal plot.
Lisa: Todd, what are you going to do?
Todd: We’ve hatched a plan. Four of us are going to rush the hijacker with the bomb. After we take him out, we’ll break into the cockpit. A stewardess is getting some boiling water to throw on the hijackers at the controls. We’ll get them….and we’ll take them out. Lisa, …..will you do one last thing for me?
Lisa: Yes…What is it?
Todd: Would you pray with me?
They pray: Our father which art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive our trespassers,
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…
He makes me to lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside the still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…..
Todd: (softer) God help me…Jesus help me….(clears throat and louder)
Are you guys ready?……..
Thou Art With Me-- And of course we know that Todd and the other passengers succeeded. They (at the cost of their own lives) were able to overcome the terrorists and crash the plane, saving God knows how many lives in what is no doubt one of the greatest acts of heroism in American history. Now I cannot imagine how afraid Todd and those passengers must have been. Yet they were somehow able to rise above that fear and take action. And the secret to that courage might be found in the last words Todd prayed from Psalm 23: for thou art with me. I don’t know if there are any more encouraging words in scripture than those; to know that in the midst of whatever we face, God is with us. Perhaps that is why God has seen fit to interweave this promise throughout all of scripture. He says in…
Genesis 28:15 ESV-- Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Joshua 1:9-- "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Isaiah 41:10-- "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 43:2 ESV-- When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Deuteronomy 31:6-- "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Zephaniah 3:17-- "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
Matthew 28:20-- "Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A Promise That Carries Us-- It is this promise of God to be with us no matter what that can help us to carry on His work in the face of the most intense trials and persecutions. And it is no surprise that it is this promise that God gives to Paul as he is no doubt discouraged from his having faced rejection and adversity in just about every place he has been ministering in, most recently from his Jewish brothers there in Corinth. And so God comes to him by night and appears to him in a vision. It says in…
Acts 18:9-10 (NKJV)-- 9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”
A Dark Situation-- Now the reason that God said this was because remember that recently Crispus, the synagogue ruler, converted to faith in Christ in and through the ministry of Paul. And that was great, because it opened up more opportunities for Paul to evangelize. But it also brought more opposition from the enemy. The unbelieving Jews in Corinth were furious at Paul's success and set themselves against him and his ministry with the aim to silence and get rid of him. Now Luke does not give us much detail on this, but it seems that between verses 8 and 9 the situation has become especially difficult and dangerous for Paul; so dangerous that Paul may have even been thinking about leaving Corinth altogether, as he had been forced to do from some of the other cities he had ministered in. But, as we have been talking about, God always provides encouragement when we need it most. And that encouragement can come through His Word, through the ministry of other people, or even directly from God through prayer. But no matter how He does it, God speaks to us when we need Him most. And God tells Paul that because He is with him, he doesn’t need to be afraid, but can speak freely without feeling like he needs to keep silent in order to be safe.
Fear Not-- Now there have probably been times in your life when you have heard God speaking a soft and tender “Fear not!” into your life to quiet your heart and give you peace amidst the storms of life. “Fear not!” [is the way He assured Abraham (Gen. 15:1), Isaac (Gen. 26:24), and Jacob (Gen. 46:3), as well as Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:15–17), Daniel (Dan. 10:12, 19), Mary (Luke 1:30), and Peter (Luke 5:10).] And that is how God assures us as well.
“it is a fact!”-- [British preacher G. Campbell Morgan used to read the Bible each week to two elderly women. One evening, when he finished reading the closing words of Matthew 28, Morgan said to the women, “Isn’t that a wonderful promise!” and one of them replied, “Young man, that is not a promise—it is a fact!”]
Paul Experiences “Immanuel”-- And that was definitely a fact for Paul. [Jesus had already appeared to Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1–6; 26:12–18) and also in the temple (Acts 22:17–18). Paul would be encouraged by Him again when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11) and later in Rome (2 Tim. 4:16–17). Our Lord’s angel would also appear to Paul in the midst of the storm and give him a word of assurance for the passengers and crew (Acts 27:23–25).] And this really shows that the title we call Jesus by (especially during Christmas time), “Immanuel—God with us” (Matt. 1:23) is a name that our Savior really lives up to.
And I want to tell you today that Jesus is with you. And therefore you can take courage. One hymn speak this Word of God into our lives like no other:
“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
Know this week that Christ is with you in whatever you are facing; and that, if you abide in Him, He will do His work through you. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.