Calvary Road Baptist Church

“INTENDING TO SERVE”

Acts 19.21-20.1

No Christian serves God by accident. Those who do not serve God frequently seem to think that serving God is somehow easier for those who serve God than it is for those who do not serve God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The servant of God is typically more responsible than those who do not serve God, meaning he usually has more duties, obligations, and responsibilities than those who claim to be Christians who do not serve God. Therefore, it is even more difficult for the servant of God to actually read his Bible, to actually pray his prayers, to actually faithfully attend his church, and to actually serve God than those who do not serve God.

Let us assume, for the sake of discussion, that you know Christ as your Savior and that you have a mind to serve God so that you might discharge the great debt to the lost and dying of this world that every believer in Jesus Christ owes. How might you go about becoming an effective servant of God? To become an effective servant of God you must, by God’s grace, make yourself into a prepared instrument, ready to be used. In the text we are about to read we are given some insights into becoming a useful servant of God, something you should focus your attention on if you want to be the fruit-bearing child of God scripture shows all genuinely born again Christians to be.

Locate in your Bible and read with me Acts 19.21-20.1. Once you have found that passage, please stand and read along with me silently:

19     Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

20     So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

21     After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.

22     So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.

23     And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.

24     For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;

25     Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.

26     Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:

27     So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.

28     And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

29     And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.

30     And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.

31     And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.

32     Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.

33     And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.

34     But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

35     And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?

36     Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.

37     For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.

38     Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.

39     But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.

40     For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.

41     And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.

1      And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.

We see several things in this passage. Of course, we read of Paul’s intention to swing through Macedonia and Achaia once more before returning to Jerusalem. This would primarily be for the purpose of raising money for the brethren to offset the famine in Judea. After that was done, it was Paul’s intention to travel to Rome. We also see how pious the Ephesian worshipers of Diana were when their idol-making business was threatened by the gospel. The love of money really is the root of all evil. Of particular importance to us at this time, however, is the example set by Paul to every Christian who would be useful in God’s service.

There are three ways in our text that every Christian can get himself ready to be a useful servant of God:

TO BE USEFUL TO GOD YOU MUST FIRST BE A PURPOSEFUL CHRISTIAN

Turn your attention once more to verse 21 to see if Paul was not purposeful:

“After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

Though we only see Paul’s purpose in the long term in this verse, rest assured that someone with long-term goals and objectives recognizes that shorter-term goals and objectives are crucial to fulfilling a long-term purpose. There are four kinds of decisions that must be made and continually implemented that are included in purposing to serve God effectively, that are vital to setting your mind and heart on being the serving man or woman God wants you to be:

First, you must be surrendered and continually surrendering. Paul reminded his readers in Ephesians 2.3 that “we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath.” In Romans 5.10, he wrote, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” How does one who is by nature a child of wrath and an enemy of God come to be both a child of God and a servant of God? Romans 5.1 clearly shows that peace with God is the direct result of the justification that occurs by means of faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, one becomes a Christian willing to serve God by surrendering to Him according to the terms set forth in the gospel. One then continues on in the Christian life and in service to God by continuing to do what one began to do to become a Christian, surrender and keep on surrendering, bowing your will to the will of God as it is revealed in God’s Word.

Second, you must be severed and continually severing. Notice how strongly the Savior words His demands in Matthew 10.34-39:

34     Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

35     For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

36     And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

37     He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

38     And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

39     He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

How can anyone read this and deny that the Savior’s intent was to create a rift between the believers and the nonbelievers within one’s own family, and to insist that love for and loyalty to Him was not only more important than love and loyalty for family members, but was also in the case of unsaved family members love and loyalty that pulled in the opposite direction? This is further illustrated in Luke 9.57-62, where a certain man who was told, “Follow me,” said, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Jesus responded, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Clearly, choices must be made to clarify loyalties. While our duties are not always so pressing that we cannot bury our loved ones, it is clear what our priorities ought obviously to be. In Romans 6.3-4 and 7, the Apostle Paul set forth this concept of being severed from the former life and continually severing ourselves for the ministry’s sake as “walking in newness of life.” If you walk in newness of life you will not walk along the same pathway as the unsaved member of your family, I promise you. Severed and severing.

Third, you must be someone who is sacrificed and yet continuing to sacrifice. Romans 12.1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Second Timothy 4.6:        “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” Choices have to be made. No one can have it all. Either your life is spent on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ or it is spent on your own behalf. You cannot have it both ways. The Christian who is arrested in a foreign country where preaching the gospel and seeking the conversion of the lost is a crime continues to sacrifice from a prison cell. However, it is no less a sacrifice when someone toils to study God’s Word so that he might feed the flock of God. When you come to Christ, you are sacrificing your life for His life. As you continue in the Christian life, you are continuing to sacrifice your life to serve Him.

Fourth, you must be someone who has submitted and who continues to submit to spiritual leadership for your life, Hebrews 13.7 and 17. What are some examples of submission to be found in God’s Word? Allow me to list without any elaboration some of the many examples of submission found in God’s Word:

Joshua submitted to Moses.

Ruth submitted to Naomi.

David submitted to King Saul.

The prophet Elisha submitted to the prophet Elijah.

Queen Esther submitted to Mordecai.

Saul of Tarsus submitted to Barnabas.

Timothy submitted to the Apostle Paul.

Silas submitted to the Apostle Paul.

Titus submitted to the Apostle Paul.

And Apollos submitted to Aquila and his wife Priscilla.

My friends, the Christian life is all about submission, of citizens to their rulers, of servants to their masters, of children to their parents and wives to their husbands, and of Christians to their pastors and churches.

TO BE USEFUL TO GOD YOU MUST ALSO BE A PREPARED CHRISTIAN.

From Paul’s letters to the Romans and the Corinthians about the special offering to be taken up for the suffering brethren in Judea, verse 21 provides additional evidence of Paul’s preparations:[1]

“After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

He was going through those regions to prepare for the collection of a large offering to give to the Christians in Judea. How are preparations to be made for Christian endeavor? Four suggestions:

First, by offering prayers. What should the child of God pray for? In addition to always praying for God’s glory to be made manifest and for the advance of the gospel, the child of God should always pray for himself and for others, as Paul prayed for others and also sought prayer for himself. In addition to all that, and so your undertaking might meet with success, be sure to pray for perception, for protection, and for power. Perception is sought so that you might discern God’s will. Protection is sought because you will certainly suffer opposition and temptations. Power is sought so your witness will be persuasive and fruitful.

Not that you pray and then stop praying (because you should pray without ceasing), but after you have begun to pray you must also prepare by making plans. I am admittedly a poor planner, being caught up as I am in the study of the Word and sermon preparation. That said, despite my own weakness in this area, planning is so important. Planning enables you to direct your future efforts and resources. Planning enables you to pray intelligently. Planning makes it possible to begin doing some things that take a long time to accomplish so your goals can be realized more quickly. For example: Why wait until you are in seminary to learn Greek when you can learn Greek in high school? Why wait until you are out of high school to take college classes if you can take college classes while you are still in high school? Why wait until harvest season to plant seeds? In our text, we see Paul planning his activities years in advance.

Third, we also see him ordering priorities. This is integral to properly planning something important. Since you cannot do everything and since you cannot have it all, when you are planning those things that are important, you should also categorize things that are more important and things that are less important. You do the most important things first. You do the somewhat important things next. You do the unimportant things last. If you plan things properly, you may be able to get the most important things done, and have enough time to do the somewhat important things. Hey, you may even get so much done that you can even get some rather unimportant things done.

Fourth, since all Christian ministry involves people, there will always be a place for evaluating personalities. Sometimes two great people just do not work well together, while two other people work so well together that they get more done than when they work separately. Personalities must always be evaluated. Four brief examples and then a true story: First, read through the Old Testament and you will clearly see that David evaluated the personalities of his mighty men. We also see that he made a terrible mistake with his nephews, especially Joab, who he promoted to general and who caused him no end of trouble because of his ruthlessness. Second, read through the gospels and you will see that this was done by our Lord Jesus Christ. He selected the disciples who worked closely with Him, calling several of them on a number of occasions to follow Him. He had a group of disciples numbering about 120, the Apostles He chose numbering 12, and there was also an inner circle of three men who were even more intimate with Him. Third, the Book of Acts showed that the Apostle Paul paid careful attention to personalities and team chemistry, denying one young man named John Mark a place on his second missionary journey team, while on the same expedition showing confidence in a young man with a good reputation named Timotheus. Of course, some years later John Mark was mature enough to be welcomed by Paul. Finally, church history records that attention to personalities was paid by the Apostle John, especially in choosing someone like Polycarp to serve with him. Thus, the entire process of paying attention to personalities and cultivating people is integral to discipleship. Be careful to invest your time with those who will either help you or will let you help them become properly prepared to serve God.

Finally, TO BE USEFUL TO GOD YOU MUST BE A PERSEVERING CHRISTIAN.

Perseverance is not an automatic thing. Perseverance, making sure you are not a quitter, is oftentimes the result of those plans that a preparing Christian makes. Four considerations of what makes a persevering Christian.

First, a persevering Christian must consider God’s ways. In Isaiah 55.8, we are told that God’s ways and our ways are not the same. Lost men tend to be quitters, while the child of God is one who perseveres. What kind of person are you determined by God’s grace to be? You could be a Job or an Abraham. You could be a Joseph or a Jeremiah. You could be an Isaiah or an Ichabod. You could be a John or a Judas. To be Christ-like your mind and heart must be fixed upon the Savior.

Second, a persevering Christian must count the costs. Consider Luke 14.27-33:

27     And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

28     For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

29     Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,

30     Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

31     Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

32     Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.

33     So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Will you always know ahead of time what it will cost you to live for Christ and serve God? No. It cost me my professional career as an engineer. I did not know that when I came to Christ. It cost brother Ibrahim his place in his clan and his culture. Do I have any regrets? None. Whatever the cost to you, know that it is promised to cost you personal sacrifice and suffering, and you will only succeed by means of prayers and persistence. However, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.

Third, a persevering Christian must conquer his fears. Are there fears associated with being a Christian? Oh my, yes. The unsaved person is frequently overcome by fear, fearing what is unknown to him, fearing anticipated rejections by others, fearing the possibility of failing as a Christian, and in our church especially there are some who fear the possibility of a false hope. Of course, each of these fears is without a valid foundation. However, even in the Christian life there is a battle with fear that includes a fear of the unknown, a fear of total dependence on God, a fear of rejection, a fear of physical pain, and perhaps a fear of personal failure. Thankfully, the indwelling Spirit of God solves this problem, as Paul pointed out to Timothy in Second Timothy 1.7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” It is only left to the Christian to exercise faith and put God to the test regarding these anticipated fears, to show that we have nothing to fear after all.

Finally, the persevering Christian must condition his responses. When I use the word condition, I use the word in the sense of conditioning, in the sense of training, in the sense of preparation. In First Timothy 4.7, Paul directed timid young Timothy to forget about profane and old wive’s fables, but to instead “exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” Key to understanding what Paul meant is recognizing that most spiritual behavior is planned ahead of time. To be more specific, godliness is conduct that results from conditioning. We see this from the English word exercise, which translates the Greek word gumnazw, from which we get the word gymnastics and gymnasium, and refers to the training necessary for the uninhibited pursuit of God’s purposes.[2] The Christian is a soldier of the cross, and as a good soldier must diligently train in order to prepare himself for combat conditions, so the believer must also train to be godly in life and in service, so that his response to aggravation, his response to frustration, his response to intimidation, his response to temptation, his response to responsibility, and his response to opportunity will be godly.

A merely purposeful Christian, then, is one who desires to serve Christ, but who never gets farther than that. He lives a life of frustration, defeat, guilt, and inferiority because all that he can ever do is decide that he wants to serve Christ. However, if he goes one step farther and becomes a preparing Christian, he then begins to put shoe leather to his faith and trust in Christ. He actually opens up ways to self-discipline and service to Christ and will be one of the more successful Christians. If he is also a persevering Christian, if he is a Christian who pursues Christ, who runs the race set before him, who climbs over the obstacles placed in his path, who wields the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit whether he feels like it or whether he does not in order to finish the race that is set before him, ah, then you have yourself a real servant of Christ. Then you have a believer who is ready to be offered when he knows that his time of departure is at hand. He alone can say that he has fought a good fight, he has finished his course, and he has kept the faith. He will receive the crown of righteousness. He has loved his Lord Jesus enough the run the race of the Christian life. He has turned out, by the grace of God, to be the ruination of the enemy, and he will certainly be rewarded for his service.

I have shared this with you because I love you. There are times that I have seen heartache in your lives and experienced that same heartache in my own life. I have seen and felt your frustrations and your pains. I hope this simple plan for becoming a more effective and fulfilled Christian will be helpful to you.

Be a purposeful Christian. That is, make up your mind that you do want to serve Christ. However, go beyond that and also be a preparing Christian. Actually take definite steps in your life to become the person God wants you to be. Do not just think that things will happen automatically. Finally, be a persevering Christian. We know that the Lord is coming soon. Give it all you’ve got until He does come. Let Him find you occupying until then.



[1] Romans 1.13; 15.26-28; 1 Corinthians 16.1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 626.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org