Continue in the Faith!

Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
— Acts 14:22

This is a remarkable, power-packed verse that struck me as exactly what I needed to hear. It doesn't have any new ideas, no big strategies for Christian living. Just simple encouragement to keep going until we get to heaven and some straight up honesty about what it's going to take to get there. It's a frank and instructive message about our job as Christians. 

Our Goal is to enter the heavenly kingdom of God. We will not do it without tribulation. While we all have specific issues we need to work on, one of our greatest needs: just the encouragement to keep working it out, keeping checking ourselves, keep growing and working until our last breath. I have seen too many dear friends come and go from the faith to take this lightly and assume that everyone here tonight will be in heaven. As we study, I pray we find new strength to stay consistent through whatever pressures we encounter in the days and years ahead. 

STRENGTHENING THE SOULS

Paul and Barnabas are going around to these new churches - not sure when they'll be back.

Strengthening literally means setting them fast, establishing them. 

  • Key to Continuing #1:  Establish your faith!

You can make small changes to your house, rearrange your furniture, or even bigger changes - painting trim or changing your bathroom fixtures. You might even remodel, add a room. But there are some things in your house that are in the hard architecture. They're your foundation, your load bearing walls and beams. You can not change them without reimagining the fundamental nature of your house. 

    •    strengthening our SOULS

    •    If we want to continue - the faith needs to be in the fundamental architecture of our souls. 

    •    The Lord must be our bedrock foundation and cornerstone.

    •    When you consider who you are, a father, a wife, an engineer, an artist - let Christ be the center of your identity and your soul will be established.

    •    DISCIPLES

    •    Not about conversions, about making disciples, getting people ALL THE WAY to heaven.

    •    How is this a strength?

    •    About expectations

    •    When you are prepared for trials...

    •    ENCOURAGING them 

    •    Word: Calling Near - Inviting, imploring, consoling, desiring, exhorting, and intreating

    •    More than just "way to go"

    •    Point #2 - continuing - Learn to lean on others and be reliable for others to lean on you. 

    •     We need each other. We need encouragement.

    •    1. When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it.  Consequently, by flying together in a v-formation, scientists estimate that the whole flock can fly about 70% farther with the same amount of energy than if each goose flew alone.  Geese have discovered that they can reach their destination more quickly and with less energy expended when they fly together in formation.        

        2. When a goose drops out of the v-formation it quickly discovers that it requires a great deal more effort and energy to fly.  Consequently, that goose will quickly return to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power that comes from flying together.        

        3. Geese rotate leadership. When the goose flying in the front of the formation has to expend the most energy because it is the first to break up the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the geese who follow behind the leader.  Consequently, when the lead goose gets tired, it drops out of the front position and moves to the rear of the formation, where the resistance is lightest, and another goose moves to the leadership position.  This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates.     

        4. Geese honk at each other. They also frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together.  Scientists speculate that this honking is their way of communicating with each other during their long flight.    5. Geese help each other. Scientists also discovered that when one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose.  They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or dies.

    •    to CONTINUE

    •    Lit. "stay in the same place."

    •    Funny we usually talk about "moving forward" - idea of growth is there - main idea is REMAIN IN THE FAITH

    •    Stay true, persevere - be steady and reliable in your faithfulness

    •    Point #3: Develop consistency

    •    Are you as reliable and consistent in your service to God as you need to be?

    •    Sports - some players are called "lunch pail players" - count on them to show up and do their job every day

    •    That's what God wants - Work Boots, Lunch Pail, Hard Hat Christians. Reliable, faithful workers!

    •    Stick it out when things are tough

    •    Show up every day and do your job

    •    Not glamourous; It's gritty, quiet work

    •    in THE FAITH

    •    Not just in faith, but in "the faith" — is there a difference?

    •    The difference between "faith" and "the faith"

    •    Your faith came at a different time than my faith, but THE FAITH was delivered once for all to all of the saints (Jude 3)

    •    Faith comes by hearing the word preached (Rom. 10:17) but THE FAITH is the message preached (Gal. 1:23) and we are nourished on the words of THE FAITH (1 Ti 4:6)

    •    Though we each have faith, we have UNITY IN THE FAITH (Eph 4:13) because there is only ONE FAITH (Ephesians 4:5)

    •    The Old Testament required faith (Genesis 15:6), but before THE FAITH we were under the law (Gal 3:23)

    •    Faith leads to obedience (Romans 1:5) OBEY THE FAITH (Acts 6:7)

    •    Faith is our dedicated trust in God and belief in His word

    •    The faith is what we believe in - Standard of our belief and conduct, What Luke calls "The Way" in Acts

    •    must test ourselves to see if WE are IN THE FAITH (2 Cor 13:5), lest we wander from THE FAITH (1 Tim. 6:10, 20, 21, 1 Tim. 4:1)

    •    h.    1 Cor 16:13 stand firm in the faith

    •    i.    2 Ti 4:7 keep the faith

    •    So continuing in faith is actually a greater requirement than continuing in faith - 

    •    THROUGH MANY TRIBULATIONS

    •    THROUGH

    •    Point #4: Don't settle in to this life 

    •    All of this is not our destination

    •    This is not permanent, it's passing. 

    •    Mike Kano: "Heaven is our resting place, this is our testing place."

    •    Ring: "This too shall pass."

    •    MANY

    •    Not one moment we will get through and then things will get better

    •    For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

    •    — Fr. Alfred D'Souza

    •    TRIBULATIONS

    •    Refreshing frankness & honesty about the Christian life in this world

    •    They "strengthened" and "encouraged" the disciples by telling them that we must go through a lot of tribulations to enter the kingdom? 

    •    At first blush, that doesn't seem very encouraging.

    •    How is it encouraging and strengthening to know that we MUST -  go THROUGH - MANY - TRIBULATIONS - TO ENTER - THE KINGDOM OF GOD 

    •    Point #5 - continuing - Expect Tribulation

    •    Notice about a change in lifestyle - working/going to school, marriage, having kids:

    •    At first it's difficult

    •    Then you shift your expectations, and it isn't so hard

    •    Sometimes the difficulties aren't the hardest part. It's expecting things to be easy and then running into a wall of challenges.

    •    Navy SEALS - "The only easy day was yesterday."

    •    Literally: PRESSURE

    •    We are under pressure for this whole trip to heaven

    •    Paul said elsewhere we are hard pressed on every side but not crushed (2 cor 4:8)

    •    Eventually, we'll step out of this pressure cooker life and into a peaceful paradise. Until then, Expect life to hurt a little. 

    •    We must expect constant pressure in this life

    •    Pressure from the world to do wrong

    •    Pressure from life's troubles 

    •    Sickness, financial struggles, problems with family and friends

    •    The pressures of living godly in the midst of demanding days

    •    Sometimes the pressure of the day makes hard to get from morning until night, keeping it all together and living by the high standard  of conduct we are called to live 

    •    Don't mistake difficult for bad or easy for good

    •    Life keeps getting harder and it keeps getting richer, deeper, more filled with joy

    •    Christian life is not the easiest life, but it is a good life, living in the presence of God and looking to a great happiness beyond this life

    •    WE MUST ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD

    •    WE MUST

    •    Point #6 - Recognize that failure is not an option 

    •    "We must..."

    •    YLT - "It behooveth us" - we must enter. And we must go through tribulations to enter.

    •    Adrienne asked a lot of women how they did it... got through raising all those kids

    •    You do it because you have to 

    •    Power of necessity

    •    Dad's favorite saying: "You do what you gotta do." 

    •    What other choice do we have?

    •    Eternity in hell? That's no choice at all!

    •    Once we get that this is what we have to do, our resolve will be strengthened to the task at hand

    •    ENTER

    •    Point #7: Take time to dream about heaven - 

    •    moment you enter, step onto gold

    •    Picture of entrance through a gate, hearing our name called

    •    THE KINGDOM OF GOD

    •    Kingdom of God

    •    Some people have difficulty with the question, is it the church or is it heaven? 

    •    Colossians 1:13 - past tense, we are in the kingdom

    •    Here it's future tense, these Christians haven't yet entered the kingdom.

    •    Of course it's both. 

    •    Meaning of the word kingdom isn't church and it isn't heaven. Kingdom means (slide)

    •    king•dom

    •    king's • dom-inion

    •    YLT - reign of God

    •    That which God is king over

    •    This refers to the church because that is the spiritual nation of people in this world, living under's God's authority. God is King over us, therefore we are His kingdom.

    •    This refers to heaven because it is the place where everything and everyone will be in submission to God. It is the home of the church, God's kingdom here on earth. In other words, God is king over heaven, therefore heaven is His kingdom.

    •    So in this place, Paul and Barnabas speak of heaven, the final destination of God's kingdom, and remind us that we can not enter that glorious, palacial home, without going through a lot of trouble here in this life.

    •    There we will be in God's presence forever, where He alone will reign over us and over all.

    •    It's the City of God without tears pain, no more tribulation.

    •    CONCLUSION

    •    To higher ground

    •    Do you understand all of this book and the difficult questions Bible students face? No? Continue!

    •    Have you reached a perfect unity with every other Christian? Continue!

    •    Where do you need to grow? Continue!

    •    Wherever you are in your journey, don't stop. 

    •    Teaching young people's Bible class a long time - heartbreaking - 

    •    Also heartbreaking to look through old directories

    •    Yeah, those people were clearly weaker than me - "he who thinks he stands..."

    •    When Paul says "I have finished the race," does it mean he is no longer "pressing on"?

    •    On one hand, Paul saw the finish line  "I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE" (2 Timothy 4:7)

    •    Paul knows he is nearing the end of his life - v. 6

    •    [does that mean he has stopped striving, stopped working, stopped growing, stopped PRESSING ON]

    •    [is Paul sitting back and relaxing, just waiting to finally die and get to his goal?]

    •    He saw whatever road was ahead "Not that I have laid hold of it yet, but I press on to the prize." (Philippians 3:12)

    •    [We are ever moving forward, even in our confidence that if today is our last, we have finished the course to the best of our ability]

    •    [No matter your age, there is no retirement. No matter your youth, there is no incompletion in this life.]

    •    The finish line travels with us, even as the road stretches on before us.

    •    We are ready to go into the kingdom at any moment, but we know we have more trials and more work to do. 

    •    This tension between completion and imperfection fulfills the Beattitude in Matt 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled"

    •    We are ever hungry for greater righteousness, but ever satisfied in God

    •    Song - 136 in our book - closes with this prayer: 

    •    O Make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,

    •    Lord, let me never, never

    •    Outlive my love to Thee