Sunday, May 20, 2007

The LONG Goodbye! - Romans 16:1-27

The LONG Goodbye! - Romans 16:1-27
May 20, 2007 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

Saying good-bye can either be a great experience or one that you wish would end quickly. When our youth group went to Nebraska on a mission trip several years ago, we visited Signature Rock near the Wyoming and Nebraska boarder. There, many settlers scratched their names into the soft rock to record their passing through the area on the Oregon Trail. What once would have been considered graffiti is now a National Historic Site. I guess everyone wants their names preserved in some way. Here in the last chapter of Romans we read a list of names that have become a part of Scripture for us today. I am sure these folks had no idea that their names, recorded by the Apostle Paul, would become famous and we would be reading about them 2,000 years later. Talk about a long good-bye!

Nowhere else in all of Paul’s writing do we find such a long list of personal greetings. Yet in this list and in his final remarks we find Paul relating to his fellow Christian brothers and sisters just how much he cared for them. He longed to see them and to greet them himself but until he could, this letter would have to do. Herein we find Paul at his most intimate. Let discover for ourselves what these verses can mean for our faith as we read Paul’s long good-bye.

READ: Romans 16:1-27

In the movie, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World,” a man is involved in a horrendous car crash. Those who come upon the scene hear his last dying words describing where a $350,000 is buried in Santa Rosa Park near San Diego, CA. Before he dies the man cryptically moans, “It’s under a big dubya.” There then ensues a mad rush by all of them to get to the stash of cash first. Paul’s closing words seem cryptic to some, but they really are not. In fact in his long good-bye we discover some interesting truths. First, there are…

I. Those who helped spread the faith! (vv. 1-16, 21-24)

1. Those who live for the Lord are to be commended! Here we find Phoebe, the first name mentioned. H. A. Hunter noted that “she carried under her robe the entire future of Christian theology!” Can you imagine? This lovely “servant” of God was given a task she willingly committed. And because of her faithful service we have Paul’s letter. Then we are introduced to notables like “Priscilla and Aquila,” Paul’s “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” who “risked their lives for” him because of the gospel’s sake! Paul first met Priscilla and Aquila when he arrived in Corinth on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:2) and worked with them at their trade of tent-making. They had come to Corinth from Rome because of Claudius’ decree that all Jews must leave Rome. How could Paul forget Epenetus, for he was the first one to believe the gospel from Paul in Asia! The hard working Mary and “Andronicus and Junias,” Paul’s “relatives” who had been in prison with him! There were those whom he “Loved in the Lord,” those who were his “fellow workers in Christ,” those that were “tested and approved in Christ,” those whom he remembered like brothers and sisters and who treated him as a son. None were forgotten by this man Paul. Why? Because each one was special to him. They had helped him spread the faith at the risk of their own lives, the sacrifice of their own time, talent, and treasure. They were his family in Christ. In Paul's long good-bye, how could he not say something about each one of them? They had helped spread the faith.

EXAMPLE: I remember vividly when Denise and I left the first church we were members of because I was called to be another church’s Associate Pastor. It was heart-wrenching. It was like leaving family because that is what they had become. Yet some were even closer than family because of the spiritual bond was far deeper and more intimate. This is why the early Christians and Baptists today call one another “brothers” and “sisters” in the Lord. Paul would tell the Corinthians, “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:4) and that “I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?” (2 Corinthians 12:15). And of the Galatians he wrote them that “I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” (Galatians 4:15b) He would tell the Thessalonians, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12) Paul saw his fellow believers as family. He was saying good-bye to those who had helped in the faith.

Line by line Paul remembers those who meant so much to him. There is the old joke about when an elderly women of great means dies. In her will she left these words of encouragement, “And to my no good for nothing son whom I said I would mention in my will, ‘Hi Harry!”’ There are always those whom you do not like saying good-bye to, right? Sure it can come from the fact you might miss them or that they are real tough to be around. For Paul he gives a final warning to those he found to be in spiritual error. In his long good-bye, Paul writes to…

II. Those who hindered the faith! (vv. 17-20)

1. Those who cause divisions within the body of Christ are like a disease! Paul writes, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.” Sin is easy, but living for the Lord can be tough in a sin-fallen world where every person, every comment, every action can be an enticement to sin. Paul understood that “such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” These ungodly people were the antithesis of someone like Phoebe the (diakonos) “servant.” These people were “not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites!” Paul would declare that such people were “enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18b-19) Paul would bluntly write, “Keep away from them.” Why? He knew that “bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Paul would lovingly remind his readers, “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” That is the wish of every parent for their children. In his long good-bye, Paul was warning his “family” about those who hindered the faith!

EXAMPLE: People are attracted to gemstones like diamonds because they are rare, bright, and pure. Gold shines with an untarnished brilliance and is sought by people all over the world because of its purity and rarity. Whole nations base their national financial security on such precious metals. Christians are like these precious metals and stones. Worth far more than rarity found in this world. As a child my Mom would wonder how I could walk out of the room with a clean shirt and pants and almost immediately attract dirt! There is a fascination in our world with taking something that is pure and good and messing it up. This is why ungodliness is attracted to those who follow Jesus. They see in their lives a purity and rarity that they do not have. In this it can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Good in that a Christian can witness through their lives, but bad when they allow their lives to be influenced instead. This is why Peter would write that Christians are to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day [Jesus] visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12) In his long good-bye, Paul warned his family to be careful of those who hindered the faith.

I can remember my mother telling me when I left to go camping with my Boy Scout Troop to “behave.” This was often accompanied with her licking her fingers and rubbing something off my face with her spit. Why is that? Why do mothers the world over think it is their duty to use their own spit as a means to clean their children’s faces? I guess it is because they want their progeny to be “presentable,” wherever they might go. Paul is kind of like this in that in his long good-bye he just has to get one final word in about…

III. The One whom he had faith in! (vv. 25-27)

1. The apostle finally came to his closing good-bye! This letter to the Romans is Paul’s longest and most complete statement of the message he proclaimed, what he here called “my gospel” (Romans 2:16 and 2 Timothy 2:8) and the proclamation of Jesus Christ. In fact, in these last verses are found the summary of the whole letter to the Romans! Paul writes, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ!” His desire in writing this letter was that Christians would be established, well grounded, in their faith. Paul understood that if believers were “rooted and established in [Jesus’] love,” they would “have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” and “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19) No circumstance of life or emotional turmoil could then corrupt their faith. This was through “the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him!” The salvation of mankind had come in Jesus and this salvation secured their hope of eternity. Paul did not make this up. This was God’s own word he had “received from the Lord” and “what I also passed on to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:23) He did not follow “cleverly invented stories.” (2 Peter 1:16) Paul would bluntly state, “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:12) The truth was that the message of the gospel of Christ had been “hidden” in the Old Testament, but was completely revealed in the New because of Jesus. As he said his long good-bye, Paul wanted his readers to know and trust the one whom they had faith in.

EXAMPLE: My father always wanted his children to “tell the truth.” He hated it if he knew we were trying to lie to him. He saw it not only as rebellion but as a statement of character. We soon learned that even if we were guilty, if we told the truth first, the punishment was always less harsh than if we tried to lie about it. The truth is important, especially when it concerns eternal spiritual things. This is why Jesus himself said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except by me," (John 14:6). In this succinct statement Jesus declared the uniqueness of his position. R. C. Stedman writes that “In the whole realm of theology there is no one like Jesus Christ. In all the history of the religions of the world, there is no one that is equal to him, or that can be remotely compared to him. Therefore, any gospel that minimizes Christ, or puts him on the level of other names, is a perversion of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ is the central figure of all history, of all time, of all faith.” The truth for the Apostle Peter was that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) And Paul would write: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.” (1 Timothy 2:5-7) As he said his long good-bye, Paul wanted his readers to know and trust completely the one whom he had faith in.

Conclusion:
What Paul said in his long good-bye to the Romans church applies for us as well today. We need to: Be mindful of those who help in the faith, be careful of those who hinder the faith, and know the One whom he had faith in.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Comfort of Knowing God - Psalm 131

The Comfort of Knowing God - Psalm 131
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 13, 2007 AM

As loving parents we desire to raise our children with certain concepts of humility, peace, and hope that will be the guides for their lives. It is these essentials of character that will long outlive any of us as parents if they are found active in the lives of our children long after we are gone. While my mother and father were not necessarily “perfect” parents, they did try to instill in each of us the same kind of character qualities found in David’s Psalm. It is here, in the teaching of these characteristics, that true motherhood is found. It is found in David’s description in the comfort of knowing God.

To paraphrase Martin Luther who wrote concerning this little Psalm of David, “It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.” It speaks to us if it were the voice of a young child, but it contains the experience of a man in Christ. Lowliness and humility are seen here in connection with a heart set apart for God, a will subdued to the mind of God, and a hope looking to the Lord alone. It was a spiritual truth David had discovered for himself and that we can learn anew this morning. It is found in the comfort of knowing God. Let’s find out how…

READ: Psalm 131

David found himself chased by Israel’s king Saul who sought to kill him even when he would not lift a hand in killing Saul. Later, David found himself immersed in personal sin that lead to his own moral captivity, self-degradation and the loss of his firstborn son. Then, later in life, he had to protect himself from his own children who plotted to seize the throne from him. Through it all, while David was far from perfect, he did display certain characteristics that held him in good stead. David discovered that in the comfort of knowing God there is found…

I. A Spiritual Humility (v.1)!

1. David discovered that knowing God makes us humble, knowing ourselves keeps us humble! Being chosen from the pasture to the throne room had left David in awe. He never quite felt he belong where God had placed him and yet he was the first to dance before the Lord when given a victory by God. Michal, his first wife and the daughter of King Saul, rebuked his behavior. David responds by telling her, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:21-22) He would write in wonder, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) He would marvel at how children could praise and know God and would declare, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1) This is why David would sing, “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me!” He only concerned himself with knowing God! David discovered that in the comfort of knowing God there is found a spiritual humility.

EXAMPLE: Some men never discover the fact that in true humility there is really a very great strength. Isn’t it interesting to note that when asked what many men remember most about their loving mothers, usually humility is at the top of the list! Why is that? I believe it is because they saw in their mothers, who displayed humility, a great inner strength of character. In a world where many want to be known for their flamboyant lifestyles, true humility is an outstanding quality. While a humble life can be learned, spiritual humility is only found in complete surrender of your will to God. Not like the Hindu who looses himself to nothingness, but rather in Jesus Christ where the surrender of your life is necessary: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10) David discovered that in the comfort of knowing God there is found a spiritual humility.

Out of a life that realizes it is not its own, that it does not really have control of its own destiny, comes an even greater strength. It is found when one realizes that nothing in the world matters as much as living for God alone. In this there is gained a quietness that infiltrates the soul. The warrior King David discovered that in the comfort of knowing God there is found…

II. A Spiritual Peace (v. 2)!

1. David discovered that you cannot have the peace of God until you know the God of peace! He would ask God to discover in him any disquieting thought, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts,” he would ask. David would continue by asking God to go even further: “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) He knew that spiritual peace is found in being not only honest with yourself, but by being honest with God. If he had offended God in any way he wanted God to reveal it to him. This is a difficult thing for anyone to do, let alone a king! But spiritual peace is found in the soul that has discovered the peace of God. This is not some lifestyle or physical exercise that can be ultimately mastered. Rather, it is the giving up of yourself to the Lord. Jesus would say, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26) Isaiah reminds us that God “will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in” God. (Isaiah 26:3) This is why David would sing, “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” David had learned that knowing the peace of God brings the confident peace of a child who trustingly rests in the arms of his mother. In the comfort of knowing God there is found a spiritual peace.

EXAMPLE: It's often difficult for parents to "let go" of their children, allowing them to be independent. Because of the strong emotional bond, this is especially true of mothers. They like to keep their “chicks” close as long as possible. Yet in order for children to “fly” on their own, you have to let them go at some point. Dave Branon writes, “Imagine letting go when your child is very small, as Hannah did with Samuel. For us today, that kind of sacrifice is inconceivable.” We have a hard enough time letting go of our own lives let alone those of our children! Yet Hannah could say, “My heart rejoices in the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:1). She found an inner peace in letting go. We often guard our lives as if we had complete control of them. We do not. Paul would say that “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) David discovered in the comfort of knowing God there is found a spiritual peace.

Out of spiritual humility comes an inner peace that no one can take away from you. It is not dependent upon the outward circumstances of life nor the emotion of the moment. It is rooted in the cross of Christ bought and paid for by His blood shed on it for you. But there is more! David also discovered that in the comfort of knowing God there is found…

III. A Spiritual Hope (v. 3)!

1. David discovered that the greatest enemy of man is not disease but despair! He would cry out in times of anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:1-2) In utter dejection he would cry, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1) Yet even in the depths of despair David would find the glimmer of God: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3) For David spiritual hope was only found in his relationship with God alone. He discovered that he could not rely on his friends, family, or counselors but he could always find spiritual hope in God! This is why Isaiah would write of Jesus, “In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21, Isaiah 42:4) This is why Paul would write to the Roman Christians, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) The hope of the soul comes from a heart given to God. When David had lost his kingdom, his people had spat on him, and he was running for his life, David would still sing, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2) This is why as their ruler he would tell his people to “put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.” David discovered that in the comfort of knowing God there is found a spiritual hope.

EXAMPLE: The children of Rose Martin knew she loved her Corvair. The low-slung, rear-engine vehicle was a popular model in the 1960s until consumer advocate Ralph Nader denounced it as a casket on wheels. Rose ignored his warnings and drove it around her hometown in Rhode Island for 36 years. She kept it functioning--no matter what the cost. So when she died in May 1998 her children, out of respect for their mother, buried in her cherished white Corvair. What a difference between Rose and the man who had placed on his tombstone these words: “Why do you stand there and weep for me? Don’t you know I am not here?” In the movie “The Hiding Place” about two sisters imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for hiding Jews, Corrie Ten Boom’s sister Betsie whispers to her, “We will both soon be free!” Corrie was released from Ravensbrook and her sister died and went home to be with the Lord. Throughout their ordeal Betsie reminded Corrie to not hate their cruel captors. Like David, she discovered that in the comfort of knowing God there is found a spiritual hope.

Conclusion:
This Psalm of David teaches us about the comfort of knowing God. It speaks to us concerning a spiritual humility, a spiritual peace, and a spiritual hope. Let me ask you: Do you know God through His Son Jesus Christ?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Paul’s Personal Plans - Romans 15:14-33

Paul’s Personal Plans - Romans 15:14-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 6, 2007 AM

Have you ever met someone who was completely sold-out to what they were doing and had no question that it was their life’s calling? It can be hard for some of us in this day and age, where we often plan “escape routes” for jobs we do not like, relationships we are in, marriage, education, and other areas of our lives we may want out of. This is why many people today are not only surprised but embarrassed to find anyone who knows exactly what they believe and why. We have been sold a bill of goods wrapped up in the blanket of mediocrity where no one is to keep score, do better than the next person, or to be completely sure of what they believe in. However, Paul knew exactly what he believed and why. He reflected his core beliefs in how he personally planned his life. Life did not dictate for Paul how he would respond, rather what he knew about his relationship with Jesus did.

We all would like to think we can plan for our future without any thought to what we really believe about God. This is simply not true. In fact Jesus related that for some of us it will come as quite a shock to learn just how wrong we were about how we lived our lives and what we believed about the Lord. On that day Jesus related “I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23) Therefore, Paul understood implicitly that it was vital for his readers to be well aware of what they truly understood about God, their own lives, and his as well. We see this reflected in Paul’s personal plans. Let’s discover what this means for our lives this morning…

READ: Romans 15:14-33

Paul had demonstrated in his letter to the Romans and elsewhere his ability to be straightforward, blunt, and forceful. Yet he also had a deep concern for the feelings of others and an ability to use effective principles in interpersonal relations. As he closes his letter he cannot keep from trying to teach his readers just one more lesson concerning life and the gospel message. He did it in his personal plans and displays for us four facets of his faith that reveals for us his inner heartbeat as a minister of Jesus Christ. We find that…

I. Paul was convinced of his work as a Christian! (vv. 14-16)

1. The mark of spiritual maturity is being convinced of what you fully believe in! Paul was “convinced” that the Romans were mature because he saw them “full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” Not everyone who claims Christ can say the same thing. Someone once described the Christian church as “prolonged adolescence merging into premature senility.” Meaning, it never matures in faith! Sadly, many churches are not “competent to instruct one another” in the Christian basics. Much of the New Testament is filled with the admonishment for Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) Paul saw in these Roman believers that some of them had done just that. Paul related, “I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again!” Paul understood that he was a “minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God.” Paul’s “duty” was that “the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” In other words that by his teaching, they would become mature believers in Jesus Christ. Paul was convinced of his work as a Christian. Are you?

EXAMPLE: To be unsure of what you spiritually believe is eternally dangerous. This is why I personally cringe when people tell me, “It’s okay to believe whatever is right for you.” Sometimes I want to respond by saying something like: “Okay, I believe we have to dye our hair orange, wear large shoes and a red rubber nose, call on the great name of Ronald, and smack one another in the head with a whoopee cushion!” Of course it is not okay and it does matter what a person believes spiritually as well. If not, then why believe in anything spiritually? This is why Paul would say, “I am convinced… I know… I understand.” (Romans 8:38; 2 Timothy 1:12; 1 Corinthians 2:12) Paul would boldly write, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14) In his personal plans, Paul was convinced of his work as a Christian. Are you?

It is not surprising then to also learn that in his personal plans…

II. Paul fully gloried God in his service to Him! (vv. 17-22)

1. Being “convinced” means you are willing to give God the glory with your entire life! Service for Paul was his whole life. He relates that “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done!” Here is a man who watched his very words and actions so that there would be no mistake in what he was teaching them about Jesus! Paul wanted his listeners to understand “the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” Not through some hocus pocus or mumbo jumbo, but that it was through God alone! “So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, [he had] fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Often, as he taught, witnesses, and worked for the kingdom of God, he was “hindered” in doing so, sometimes by God or by others. Paul did not embellish the gospel in anyway. He said “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” For Paul, only God should get the glory, not himself or anyone else. In his personal life, Paul fully glorified God in his service to Him.

EXAMPLE: We live in a day when everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame. Sadly, the media gave more air time to the mass murderer at Virginia Tech than to his victims. High School students rush to YouTube on the Internet to publish their brutal fight videos with one another. We find entertainers doing or saying outlandish things in order to remain in the public’s eye. Such ideas have infected the Christian church as well. There are churches that gain attention through pithy promotions and trying to be like the world by offering the latest in entertainment. Christina authors rush to publish books on the latest trends in America in order to appear relevant and to gain attention. Can you imagine Paul doing any of this in order to get his 15 minutes of fame? Quite the opposite in fact. For Paul, only God should get the glory, not Paul or anyone else. In his personal plans, Paul fully glorified God in his service to Him.

As we continue we find that that in his personal plans …

III. Paul sought to share the good news wherever God lead him! (vv. 23-29)

1. Being “convinced” means you are ready, willing, and able to handle what God brings your way! Paul realized that his ministry was winding down: “there is no more place for me to work in these regions,” he related. This did not matter because he saw even this as an opportunity: “since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.” Whether according to what God planned or circumstances brought his way, Paul was willing to share the good news. A great famine in Judea occurred and many Jewish Christians were in danger of starving to death. When word of this came to the Gentile churches outside Judea, they “were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” After Paul had taken their offering to Jerusalem, he would try to visit his readers in Rome. Little did Paul know he would go, but it would be in chains as a prisoner of Rome. His story in the New Testament ends there. He never made it to Spain. However, even in prison we find Paul writing, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Philippians 1:12, 14) What mattered to Paul was that “Christ is preached.” (Philippians 1:18) In his personal plans, Paul sought to share the good news wherever God lead him.

EXAMPLE: We may find it hard to mention to a friend, coworker, or classmate, “I’ll pray for you.” Or we find it embarrassing to mention we go to church or invite someone to join us in Sunday School. Yet here in the pages of Romans we discover a man just like you and me, who sought to involve his witness of Jesus in every area of his life, including in his giving. He encouraged his readers to give regularly because he knew “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) We find him writing to those who were so concerned for his personal safety in prison, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) This begs the question: Are you ashamed of the gospel? Do you witness? Do you tithe? In his personal plans, Paul sought to share the good news wherever God lead him. Do you?

And finally, in Paul’s letter, we discover that in his personal plans…

IV. Paul knew he needed the prayers of those around him! (vv. 30-33)

1. Being “convinced” means you understand where the power of God comes from! Paul recognized his need for intercessory prayer support from his readers and asked for it again and again (Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Philemon 22). “I urge you,” he would admonish them, “by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” The greatest thing you can do for someone who serves Christ is to pray for them! Specifically, regularly, and urgently. This is why he writes, “Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there.” He knew he might face some opposition for his witnessing and that the Jewish Christians might misunderstand his ministry as well. A Christian’s intercession is a means of sharing in the ministry of others. He also truly wanted and desired to see them again: “so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” Paul loved this church and wanted “The God of peace” to be with all of them. In his personal plans, Paul knew he needed the prayers of those around him.

EXAMPLE: “I’ll pray for you.” has almost become an addendum like our noncommittal “How are you?” often is. Yet prayer is the most powerful aspect of the Christian’s life. A Christian that does not pray regularly does not and cannot know God’s will for their lives. How can you know someone you do not spend time talking to? The greatest fault of the modern church is not its unwillingness to worship, because many flock to be entertained. It is not our unwillingness to empathize with the spiritually ignorant, because we will give something for missions. It is not even the thought of not reading some sort of Christian literature, because we will buy the latest fad book about ten easy steps to holiness, or how to know the antichrist when he arrives, but we fail in our private personal prayers. Paul knew that things begun in prayer ended in power and that it did not need to be proved but rather practiced. It was said that Paul had “camel knees,” because of the calluses caused by his constant and consistent prayer. In his personal plans, Paul knew he needed the prayers of those around him. Do you?

Conclusion:

In His personal plans, Paul was convinced of his work as a Christian. Paul fully glorified God in his service to Him. Paul sought to share the good news wherever God lead him. And, Paul knew he needed the prayers of those around him. Do you?