16 Feb 2020

Joyful In Suffering [Acts 14:19-22]


The world looks for comfort and pleasure, but God's people must expect sufferings. Instead of expecting only health and wealth, God's people WILL face more sufferings if they are living faithfully to Him. In the Acts church, we see  1. The Reality of Sufferings - Sufferings is not a theory or hypothesis. It is a reality for the early Church. From the Apostles to the Jerusalem Church, and to Apostle Paul, their lives were marked with persecution. It continues in the world until today. 2. The Response in Sufferings -  We can take revenge, or we can resent, or we can resign, or we can retreat. But these were not how the early church responded in sufferings. Amazingly, they rejoiced! And they were undeterred in preaching the name of Jesus! Why? Find out more in the sermon! Check out this link for the complete message. 3. The Result of Sufferings -  Nothing is wasted with God. Even our pains. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. And that has been the vase from Acts till today. May God help us all to be faithful in living and giving the gospel. Yes, we will suffer persecution. But the gospel is worth it, and we will rise one day with Him. Let us not try to "live it up", but "give it up" for His sake!


Sermon Transcript

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I’d like us to focus our attention on the Word of God this series on “Vision 2020” that we have been on.

I’d like to begin by saying: We all live in a very comfortable society, isn't it? I mean, Singapore is very blessed in material things. We are comfortable. We live lives of pleasure.

And I think we are all very used to that. We all want to have a comfortable bed. We want to have a delicious meal. We’d like to have the fastest computer, the latest handphones. We want to have the nicest car, the most posh of condominiums, and we like to have luxurious holidays.

And we know that in order to live that comfortable and pleasant lifestyle, we need to have a good income to finance all that. So people work very hard in our nation. We toil in our jobs, we want to rise through the ranks, we want to be the top dog. We want to have enough money.

And actually for that reason, many people even turn to religion. Many people go to all kinds of religious institutions because they hope that some deities there would bless them in their jobs, will help them in their careers. And maybe help them strike 4D, win Toto [forms of local lottery], strike it rich.

So it is sad that even followers of Jesus Christ - whether you believe it or not, whether you know it or not - subtly, we think that's what our faith is all about. We think that following Jesus is a means to having a comfortable and pleasant life. We think that when we worship God and we follow Jesus, He will, and He must, give us some measure of success in this world, some measure of good income, some measure of a comfortable life.

Now, it is not helped when actually preachers tell church people the same thing, that when you come to God, He will bless you with health, He will bless you with wealth.

I want to say this – that if you think like that and that's why you're here, you're probably - I'll say to you, “You're in a wrong place.” Because that's not what the Bible says at all. The Bible does not promise that followers of Jesus Christ will be blessed materially always, with material things. That's not what the Bible says.

In fact, the Bible says, quite the opposite. And that's where I am bringing us to, that the last value of the Acts church was not that they were blessed materially with riches and treasures, but they were a people who faced a lot of suffering, but they were joyful in suffering.

I suppose if you start the year by saying, this is what this church wants to be, this would not be part of any “Top 10” list for you. Right?

We would say, “Oh, we want to be a church that is centred on our Saviour.” “Yes! Amen to that!” We would say “Amen!” to filled with the Spirit. We would say “Yes!” to rooted in Scripture. We must, we may agree to being faithful in supplication.

We might be a bit pained when we talk about this, but we would still agree - yes, a church should be genuine in sacrifice. A church should be effective in soul-winning.

We all can say, “Yes.” But when it comes to joyful in suffering, that's where we scratch our head. “Are you sure, Pastor? This is what we want to be, that we want to be joyful in suffering? Is that what Christianity is all about?”

Yes. I say so because that's what the early church was all about. We say that the vision of Gospel Light is to be like the church in the book of Acts. And one of the prominent highlights of this church must be they were a suffering people, but they were also a joyful people.

1. The Reality of Suffering

So let me take you through the book of Acts in a very simple fashion. The first thing I’d like us to note, in this message, is the reality of sufferings. This is not something spoken of in theory, or in hypothesis.

In a very real sense, what I preach here, or communicate to here, to you here, I don't really understand. I say this - I don't really understand. I've not really gone through what I'm going to say here.

So it's one thing, I, I can't say experientially. But still, my job here is not to say that, “I've experienced these things and therefore I say.” But this is what is in the Bible, and maybe you have not experienced this before, but this is in the Bible, and we need to be on guard, we need to be armed with these understandings still.

So let's look at the reality of sufferings. The apostles, they were beaten up. [Acts 5:40] They preached about Jesus. They taught people about how He is the Messiah and the Jewish religious leaders were not happy. So they hauled them up, threatened them, “Don't speak in the Name of Jesus anymore, otherwise, we'll give it to you.” And they gave it to them, there and then.

I've never been beaten up in my life. Well, that's not true - I've been beaten up by my parents in my life. I've been beaten up by my mom, my dad, quite a lot in my life. They used the cane, then they used the belt. They used all kinds of things they can grab, and I had good beatings from them. But I've never been beaten as an adult. I've been beaten by my parents, but I've never been beaten by my enemies.

But the apostles were beaten by their enemies. They hated the apostles. They wanted to silence them. I'm sure they gave them a good beating; bruises, scars, I'm not sure if there were fractures, not mentioned, I wouldn't be surprised if there were fractures, but they were beaten.

That's the real thing! This is not a fairy tale. This is not a comic strip. This is a Biblical record of what happened to our brothers and sisters in time past.

And then we read again in Acts 7:58 - it escalates now, not just to beating, but to, killing by stoning. Stoning is a very unpleasant way to die. When you rain punches, maybe you can have some kind of control, but when you use a remote device like a stone, you throw it, and you don't care where it lands, as long as it lands on that man.

It can be very vicious. I can imagine tens, if not hundreds, of people picking up stones, and hauling them towards Stephen. They were not just to hurt him. They was so angry with what he was preaching, that he wanted to kill him.

Then we read: After the stoning of Stephen, that a “great persecution” came against the church. [Acts 8:1] Not just any persecution, but great persecution. So much so, no one could stay, or a lot of them could not stay in Jerusalem anymore. They had to be scattered.

And then we see the first apostle being killed, by Herod, in Acts, chapter 12. Herod, the king, killed James, the apostle; the first apostle to die. [Acts 12:2] And when it was pleasing to the Jews, he went on to arrest Peter, wanting also to kill him. [Act 12:3] Of course, we read that he was spared.

So that's really the first half of the book of Acts. It is filled with sufferings. And then, when we shift to the second half of the book of Acts, it doesn't die down. It still goes on. And it is seen very much through the life of Apostle Paul.

Apostle Paul was a man greatly used by God. If there is any one life, apart from Jesus, you would like to follow, I would like to follow, it's probably Paul. I mean, he was the key messenger of the Gospel to the Gentile nations.

But do you know that God told, Jesus told Paul something that we might be very excited about in the beginning, but we won't be when He continues in the second half of what He said.

You see, Jesus said this to someone about Paul. He said, “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” [Acts 9:15] What a privilege! “Wow! That's what I want!”

But look at the second line - “For I will show him how much he must”? “Preach” – that would be quite alright. “How much he must sacrifice” - that might be still alright. But no - “I will show him how much he must suffer for my sake.” [Acts 9:16]

Do you know that sufferings is the mark of God's people, the, the mark of God's servants? And this is not theory because just less than ten verses later, we read that the Jews plotted to kill him.

We are all so worried because today, because some virus is flying around somewhere in the air, and on the lift and the button that you use pen to press. We're so scared some virus would kill us.

Virus can't see, by the way, Jews can. Jews can see Paul and want to hunt him down to kill him. That's the life of Paul. They watched the gates “day and night in order to kill him”. [Acts 9:29] And then, again, when he went somewhere else, they were also “seeking to kill him.” [Acts 9:29]

That's his life! Danger all the time for the sake of the Gospel.

In Acts 14, we read that the Jews again “came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” [Acts 14:19] The stoning was so bad, he was literally half-dead. He looked like he was dead. I can imagine all kinds of bruises and scars and bleeding and blood all over. He’s a beaten, brutalized, battered up man.

And then the Bible tells us later on: he gathered, he went on to the next city. [Acts 14:20] I just show you these verses. He went back to Iconium and Antioch. [Acts 14:21] And there he was “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]

Here is a man, I think, bearing the marks of suffering, and still telling the disciples that's the way Christianity is. Look at these scars. Look at these marks. That's what it means to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is not theory. This is real!

And we read again of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11. He had “greater labours” than anyone else, he faced “far more imprisonments with countless blessings, and often near death”. [2 Corinthians 11:23] “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.” [2 Corinthians 11:24] Means - I was whipped thirty nine strokes for five times.

“Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city” [2 Corinthians 11:25-26] - danger everywhere.

“In toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” [2 Corinthians 11:27-28]

And that's why Paul would say to his protege, Timothy: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. [2 Timothy 3:12] That's the life of a Christian.

Is that what you signed up for? You came to church today because maybe, “Aiyah! Corona virus - I don't have face mask, don't have sanitizer, at least I can turn to God. He can protect me from all kinds of virus. God will keep me healthy. God will never let me get sick.”

Is that so? Bible tells us we live in a fallen world. And this whole world is in travail - there's pain, there's suffering, there's sickness, there's death. And we live in a fallen world, and we will also go through the pains of the fallen world. So there is no immunity from the sufferings of this life.

And let me tell you the bomb. The bomb is - not only are we not immunized from these things, we have more sufferings as Christians because we will be persecuted for our faith if we live a godly life.

So if that is not what you sign up for, or if you're coughing today, and - you can leave this place if you want. But if that - if you want to pursue truth, and if you want to follow Jesus, well, that's what it says.

The disciples were not entirely surprised, because I think they remembered the words of Jesus to them on the last night before He was going to the cross. He said to them in the upper room: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” [John 15:8] “Don't be surprised; look at how they've treated Me, they will also treat you the same. You should not be surprised!”

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.’” [John 15:20]

So the early church, not just in the book of Acts, but later on, I think, testify of that reality. I read in Hebrews 11, for example - I believe verses 35 to 37 are probably referring to the people, the actual heroes of the faith, suffering in the early church.

They were tortured, but they “refused to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.” [Hebrews 11:35] Do you know that there are Christians today in jail, because they will not renounce their faith? They're given that choice - renounce your faith and you'll be set free. But they won't! They were willing to be tortured. And I think it's because they have the same faith as these brethren in Hebrews 11, because they believe that they might rise again to a better life.

We read again: “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two” - How about that? Being saw in two. Wow! - “they were killed by the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated”. [Hebrews 11:36-37]

In fact, Vance Havner, a Baptist pastor, he said this: “At the Nicene Council, an important church meeting in the 4th century A.D., of the 318 delegates attending, fewer than 12 had not lost an eye or lost a hand or did not limp on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith.”

Like I said, I've never experienced what these things are talking about. I don't. I suppose many of you don't. But don't think this is strange, or weird, or that God is unfaithful. That has always been what Jesus said, that has always been what the early church experienced. And even in the world today, around us, it is what the churches are facing.

I was in KL 2020 conference. That's about three weeks ago. By the way, it's fourteen days after already, so - why are we so uptight? Because there were some two thousand, three thousand Chinese pastors there. So we were mingling with them, we were eating there, we were in the same conference, same hall. So okay, fourteen days over already, alright? I'm safe. Many of our brethren were there too; we are safe, thank God for that.

But when we were in this conference, a major theme was about persecution, it made sense. Persecution will not be such a dominant theme in Singapore because we don't quite face it. But in China, they face it all the time.

For these past few years, it has been escalating; increasing tension. And according to the pastors there, they don't think this is going to die down anytime. They think this is something systematic, this is going to last for at least five to ten years. So churches are raided, meetings are cancelled. They are forbidden from worshiping God together as a people.

And one of the prominent pastors there [Pastor Wang Yi], he is prominent leader in that circle, and he was jailed for inciting subversion. He has been sentenced to nine years in prison, separated from his family. But this is what he said: “Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.”

Not just in China, but somewhere nearer to us, Malaysia. We were in KL 2020, so there were Malaysian pastors there, who was teaching and preaching. And they were also alluding to persecution, even in that land, in our neighbouring country.

They cited the case of Pastor Raymond Koh. He has disappeared for two, three years already. And they have footages where it seems like vehicles were stopped there, deliberately and so on, and he has not been seen. So according to the Malaysian pastors, they think this is “enforced disappearance”. They have a special term for that, I do not know what that means. Someone wanted him to disappear, and he disappeared – “enforced”. Maybe because of his faith, because of what he was preaching.

The point is, if you want to follow Jesus, this is the reality, alright? It's a mirage, it's an illusion, it's a delusion to think that Christianity is a bed of roses, it's the sure bet path to success, to prosperity, to health and to wealth.

That's not what the Bible says. The Bible tells us: Suffering is the lot of the Christian. We suffer in a fallen world, and we suffer because the world hates us.

Darkness cannot accept the light. As they have persecuted our Master, they will also persecute His servants.
2. The Response in Sufferings

The second thing I’d like us to note in the book of Acts is the response in sufferings.

So what do you do when people harm you? What do you do when people persecute you?

Let me give you a few options. Number one, you can take revenge. Natural, right? “Ni zuo chu yi, wo zuo shi wu”. [Mandarin saying which means that one will repay in equal measure what has been done to him.] If you do this to me, I'm going to do it to you. So if you hurt me, I'm going to hurt you. So we can take revenge - Option A.

Option B is maybe you would be not taking action, but you will stew on the inside, you would be resentful on the inside. So someone hurt you, you're very angry, you're not hitting out, but you're very upset, you're bitter on the inside - you resent.

Maybe some of us may say, “Alright, let's not take revenge, option A is not good. Option B is not good; Pastor says bitterness no good, or Bible says no good, so I don't do it.”

Then you go to option C, which is just to resign. Resign yourself to this sad reality. “I'm going to suffer my whole life. Oh, what a sad day it is!”

A B, C. Or D, you retreat. “No more am I going to preach the Gospel, I have had enough, and I'm not going to stand up for my faith anymore.”

So MCQ, which one you choose? A, B, C, D. A - revenge. B - resent. C - resign. D - retreat. Which one you want? All of the above! I would choose probably all of the above - in a sense, I will probably swing to A, B, C, D, and so on so forth in my life, when I'm persecuted.

But it's very instructive, when I read the Bible and I see the response of the early church. So we read that the apostles were beaten up. [Acts 5:40] “Kena” big time, “hantam” [Colloquial expressions used when someone is beaten up], until “yan qing bi zhong” [Mandarin expression for when someone is beaten up badly] until wah, swollen everywhere. I'm pretty sure that's how they would turn out.

But the Bible says, after verse 40, in verse 41 - after being beaten up, I will: “Wah, why you hit me ah!” [Pastor mimics action of punching and hitting out.] But you know what they do? Once they left the presence of the Council, they rejoiced. [Acts 5:41-42]

That's answer E - none of the above! They did not do A,B,C or D. They did E. They rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.” [Acts 5:42]

Now, they were not masochistic. They were not inviting pain to themselves. They don't rejoice in the pain, but they rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for his Name.

I'm not saying, Christians, we should love pain. I'm not saying, we should love persecution. But we should rejoice that we can be counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name of Jesus.

And right after that, instead of retreating into their shell, we read that “they did not cease teaching and preaching”. [Acts 5:42] They were absolutely undeterred. They were resolute, they were determined, to continue bringing the message of the Gospel to one and all.

So we read again the same pattern - after Stephen died, a great persecution against the church rose. [Acts 8:1] And instead of keeping quiet, the Bible says they were scattered everywhere - doing what? Running from danger? No! They were scattered, preaching the Word. [Acts 8:4] They were relentless in doing so.

How about Apostle Paul? He was stoned, almost to the point of death. [Acts 14:19] But the next day, he woke up, he rose up, he went from city to city, and then eventually came to Derbe. He went to that city, preached the Gospel, and made many disciples. [Acts 14:20-21]

I love that! This was not a man who was nursing his wounds and say, “Aiyah, I'm such a pity, pitiful man. Can you all please pray for me?” He went preaching. He went discipling. He was absolutely undeterred.

And this is what he said in Acts 20: “And now behold, I am going to Jerusalem” [Acts 20:22] - this is where he wanted to go. The Feast is happening, many people would be gathered there, he says, “I need to go there, constrained by the Spirit. I do not know what's going to happen to me, except this – ‘except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.’” [Acts 20:23-24]

“This is all I know - I am going to suffer, and I'm going to be thrown in jail. But I have to go to Jerusalem.” You said, “Why, Paul? Are you mad? Don't you think it's better for you to stay alive and, and preach the Gospel everywhere?” “No, I have to go to Jerusalem.” “But aren't you afraid for your life?”

He explained, “I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” [Acts 20:24]

This is what makes the Gospel glorious. That men do not turn to the Gospel to feed their own lusts, but men give up their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

We live in a day where there is very little backbone in God's people anymore. We are so soft, like jellyfish. We go where it's easy, we go where it's convenient. “Oh Punggol - too far.” “Oh wake up early, got to read Bible.” “Aiyah, prayer meeting too far.”

We live in such a day where it's so hard for us to commit to anything. But not Paul, a man with a strong backbone, with determination because he loved the Lord. And he was faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is such a great verse, right? I mean, I know the context is not quite the same. But I think this is a great verse for, for Covid-19 experience. I think so. “I'm so worried. Oh! What if I die?” No, you won't say that. “What if I get the virus, and then I, I can't breathe, and then I'm in the hospital, and then I die?”

Well, to Paul, no big deal, if he dies. As long as he finishes his course and the ministry that he received from the Lord Jesus. I'm not saying, as God's people, be careless. Go and touch everyone's faces and smear it all over yourself. I'm not saying that. Please don't get me wrong. Please be diligent, be prudent. Please do the necessary protective measures. But the heart posture must be - I'm here for the Gospel.

Jesus gave His life for me. And for the sake of the Gospel, I am to give my life for Jesus. I should not be absorbed with self-preservation. I should be committed to the advancement of the Gospel. I think a person who truly understands the Gospel can at least intellectually understand what I just said.

Paul, he said: “This is my goal in life, not to live long. If God wants me to live long, I will. But my goal is not to live long. My goal is to be faithful to the Gospel of the grace of God.” [Acts 20:22-24] And so he could say, “I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem”. [Acts 21:13] What a man! What a man!

I think the early Church must have taken great comfort from the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. I mean, it is, this just comes straight out to me.

Jesus, when He began teaching His disciples on the Sermon on the Mount, He started with the blessings, the Beatitudes, we call it. There are eight in all, and this is the seventh where it says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” [Matthew 5:9]

You say, “What's a peacemaker? Is it what you put in the heart?” Oh no, no. That's a pacemaker, alright. So, what's a peacemaker? A peacemaker, most of them would think, most people would think, this is about someone who brings two offending parties together. So they think peace-making is between a husband and a wife, between a church member and another church member. But can I suggest to you, this peace-making is not so much between man and man.

I hope you'll see that this peace-making is between God and man. You say, “Why?” For one - three reasons, but one: most of the references to peace in the Bible really is not peace between man and man. Most of the references to peace in the Bible is with regards to God and man. A vast majority is between God and man.

Number two: there is really nothing distinctive in a man who makes peace between two people, that they will be called - the sons of God. Why this peacemaker will be called the sons of God is because these are people who are sent of God, of their Father, to tell people to make peace with their God.

So this peacemaker is someone who represents the Kingdom, who represents God and gives a message of truths. A, a message of peace, saying to humanity, “Stop your war with God. Repent, and believe in His Son.”

And when someone does that, he's a peacemaker, according to Matthew 5. And that's why they say, “Ah! Look at that messenger, He's the Son of God.”

The third reason why I think this is peace between God and man is because, this leads you to the eighth and last beatitude, where it is said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake”. [Matthew 5:10]

So this peacemaker goes with the message of the Gospel in the Name of Jesus, that man might come to be righteous with God. And because the world does not like the light, the world in darkness does not accept light, they hate this message, and they will persecute these messengers.

But Jesus says, when you are persecuted for being a peacemaker, for bringing the Gospel, for preaching the Gospel, you should understand you are blessed. [Matthew 5:10]

The word “blessed” means supremely happy. You can be supremely happy when you are persecuted. Why? Because yours, theirs, is the Kingdom of Heaven. [Matthew 5:10]

Now if, if you, if you look at Matthew, chapter 5, verse 3, the first Beatitude, it begins: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” The promise is the same.

So Jesus is almost using words to create brackets. “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” He's saying that the people described with these eight Beatitudes are My people, are the citizens of the Kingdom, and theirs will be the Kingdom of Heaven.

You can be supremely happy when you are persecuted for righteousness sake, because that marks you out as God's people. You realize that? Now, if you're persecuted for your own folly, there's no joy. You're stupid, you're stupid. You “kena” [colloquial expression used when something unpleasant befalls someone]. That's fine. But if you are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, for righteousness’ sake, rejoice!

He goes on to say in verse 11: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” [Matthew 5:11]

So persecution can come physically, when people hunt you down. That's the meaning of the word “persecute” - to hunt you down, to take you down. Almost like those rugby guys, they want to take down that guy, tackle that guy.

And then you have the persecution verbally. They can speak unkindly and maliciously against you, in your face or behind your back.

But again, Jesus says: Blessed are you when they do that falsely, against you falsely, on My account. [Matthew 5:11]

And then he says, “Don't choose A, B, C, or D. Don't take revenge.” You realize that? Christians are not to take revenge on those who persecute us. We are not even to resent those who persecute us. We are not to resign ourselves, and be passive. We are not to retreat in our own shells.

But Jesus says: “Rejoice and be glad”. [Matthew 5:12] Celebrate that! Not because you love pain, but because your faithfulness will be rewarded, and you will join the league of legends. You'll join the hall of faith. You will join the, the illustrious predecessors before you. That's what it means. And that's why the apostles, I think, rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer this dishonour. [Acts 5:41]

So, I hope I've explained to you what it means to be joyful in suffering. Suffering is the reality of life for the Christian, and there is a proper response, a Biblical response, and that is of rejoicing.

You say, “Pastor, thank you! Sermon’s up.” I say, “No. I'm used to having 3 points.” So sorry, stay with me a while more, alright?
3. The Result of Sufferings

Okay, the last thing I want to say is the result of sufferings. Is this all wasted? Is suffering just for the sake of suffering? I don't think anything is wasted. All things work together. Nothing is wasted with God, you know that?

And we see this dynamic. We see that the apostles were very effective in preaching the Gospel. They filled Jerusalem with their teaching. [Acts 5:28] They were already on a good track. They were already doing well.

I mean, how wonderful this statement is. I wish someone in Punggol would say, “You have filled Punggol with your teaching.” Wah! I think we all can celebrate as a church.“ This church is terrible, they filled Punggol with their teaching.” Wah! Throw me to jail, man, I am ready to go anytime.

That'll be real cool! How cool it will be when Singapore says, “The church has filled our city with their teaching.” Well, that's what the apostles did. And for that, they now face persecution.

And we see of course, as I have mentioned, Stephen being stoned to death. And because of Stephen's stoning to death, it sort of opened up the floodgates. “Ah, since we killed one might as well, kill the rest.”

So now, “there arose… a great persecution against the church”, scattering the people. [Acts 8:1] And I think Satan, who I'm sure is behind all this, and the religious leaders must be celebrating. “Yay! We managed to silence these rebels.” They thought they had quelled the flames of the Gospel, but not knowing that actually, these people instead of being quiet, they went everywhere preaching the Word. [Acts 8:4]

So instead of quelling the flames of the Gospel, they actually just spread the coals of the passion of the Gospel further and wider, to many more people. It is said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.

Stephen was a promising man, no question. Read his sermon, you know, he's extremely gifted. He was a man full of the Holy Spirit, the Bible tells us. And people may say, “Wah! So ‘sayang’ [colloquial expression used to convey that it is a pity that something happened], he die. Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk. God, what you're doing ah? Tsk, tsk, tsk, why he die?”

We don't understand, that the result of sufferings is the expansion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.

How about Apostle Paul? Paul had a wonderful preaching, church planting experience for many years of his life. He went everywhere, preaching, starting churches, establishing church, establishing churches. And when he was put into prison, we may say, “Wah! So wasted. Tsk, tsk. He can't go already, can't preach already. And that time no Wi-Fi, cannot do live stream. Can't hear from Paul, what a waste!”

But never did people realize that Paul being imprisoned turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel, because he was like a Trojan horse. You know what's a Trojan horse? A Trojan horse is like a, like a symbol of defeat for people. Ah, you send a tribute to the victor. But actually you did not know that within the Trojan horse, are the means by which victory is won.

So Paul was like the Trojan horse, he, he, he looked like a prisoner, he was a prisoner. But actually it was God's means for the Gospel to enter the prison and to the palace of Caesar in Rome.

That's why, it was said in Philippians 4, just one little verse that may not be so linked at all to Philippians, you think, that says: “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household.” [Philippians 4:22]

Now number one, I want you to know that Philippians is a, is a, is a prison epistle - meaning it's a letter that Paul wrote whilst he was in prison. So he was in prison then, writing to the church at Philippi and say, “Hey, I want you to know that the saints, especially those in Caesar's household, want to say, ‘Hi’ to you guys.”

How come there are Christians in Caesar's household? No Wi-Fi, no internet, they never hear the live stream what! Oh, God send the Trojan horse. What's the Trojan horse? The apostle Paul.

The sufferings of Paul, the imprisonment of Paul, was God's genius method to bring the Gospel to people who might never have heard it, otherwise. Sufferings in God's equation will never be wasted. And we can rejoice in our sufferings.

Many of you would have seen this picture, He's Dr Li Wen Liang. He's an eye doctor in Wuhan Central Hospital. On the 30th of December, just about two months ago, he sent a message on WeChat to his fellow medical colleagues, warning them of a possible new strain of Coronavirus.

Four days later, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau came to him, interrogated him, and warned him not to spread false news on the internet. They made him sign a paper, a declaration that he will not do so.

But as you know, the disease raged on, people got infected, people got sick. And on the 31st of January, he decided to post all that has happened to him, all this correspondences on the internet. He decided to do that which is right. He decided to sound out a warning to the world. He decided to be a whistle-blower.

And you know, people do not like whistle-blowers. People in authority don't like whistle-blowers. But he had to do that which is right. Do you know today we are called to be whistle-blowers? The world wants you to think, Satan wants you to think, you're quite alright with God. Satan wants you to believe, wants the world to think that there is nothing wrong between God and us; life goes on.

But God has sent His Church into the world to be whistle-blowers, to say to the world, “Something is really not right and you've got to know it.”

Oh, Covid-19 seems to be dangerous. It seems to be very infectious. It has taken thousands of lives. But do you know that something more infectious than Covid-19? Do you know there's something more dangerous, more deadly than Covid-19? Because this thing, that I'm talking about, is 100% infectious. In other words, no one escapes this infection. And this infection is absolutely deadly! Nobody escapes death by infection.

In fact, this death is not just physical death, but eternal death, soul death, spiritual death. I'm sure you know by now; the infection is the infection of sin. It is absolutely deadly. It kills everyone, spiritually speaking and eternally.

And God's people today are called to be peacemakers. We are called to be whistle-blowers. We are called to tell the world today: There is sin, and God is holy, and you'll be judged and you'll die for your sins.

But that's not all. The Christian today is not a bearer of bad news, primarily. You know that? Whistle-blowers are not easy because you tell people bad news. But we're not here to tell people bad news, because we do have wonderful Good News. We call that the Gospel.

We have a message to tell the world, that there is a cure for this disease. Now, if I tell you today at my home, I have five thousand boxes of masks, face masks - you'll be my friend, you will love me. You will come to my house, you want to get all the face masks. Why? Because you want to protect yourself. That's good news, in a time like this.

But the Good News of the Bible is even better than that. The Good News of the Bible is not that there is hand sanitizers, or that there's a face mask, or that there's a protective gear for you. The Good News of the Bible is: now that you are infected with the disease of sin, there is a cure for your sin.

It's a cure you cannot produce by yourself. It's a cure you did not earn by yourself. It's a cure that is procured, that is provided for, when God's Son went to the cross, took on all the infection of sin upon himself, suffered and died, that He might bring healing, forgiveness, and cleansing for those who would believe upon Him.

For those who do not deserve it, for those who could never pay for it, God's Son did it all! And we have to tell people there is now this Good News, this cure. How is it that we would not go tell the world?

Oh, the authorities will not like it when you tell people they are sinful and they need grace. They will not like it. Persecution would come. But if this man was willing to be a whistle-blower of a, of a Coronavirus, even when he had no cure, how can the church keep silent when we know that there is salvation for one and all?

So my dear friends, “Rejoice and be glad”. [Matthew 5:12] Be glad that we can be messengers of the Gospel. Be glad that we can be counted worthy. Be glad that we can follow Jesus. Jesus didn't walk the path of luxury and pleasure and comfort. He bore the cross but He, for the joy that was set before Him, despised the shame and endured the cross.

And today, God's people are to follow Him there. And if you follow Him there, one day you will rise together with Him. The Gospel is worth it, it's the message that the world needs. Let us be faithful.

I pray that as we conclude this series on “Vision 2020”, there's one just simple request. Can you pray this consistently for yourself, for your family, for your care group, for your ministry, for our church? Would you?

Because it's so easy for us to listen to seven sermons and chuck it aside. It's so easy for us to say we know the theory. But do you know, knowing these truths are very different from actually having them lived out in our lives? And I think we have no power to live it out until God hears the prayers of our people. So let's be prayerful.

Let's ask God today to help us to be a church like the book of Acts. In what way? That our centre will be Jesus. We will not be a virus-centred church, but a Gospel-centred church. A Jesus-centred church, we will live for Him. He will be our passion, centred on the Saviour.

That we will be a church filled with His Spirit, that power flows from Calvary's cross into our lives. That we will be a people rooted in the Scriptures, we will not be tossed to and fro, with every social media posts or every wind of doctrine, but we will live, rooted in the Bible. We’ll be a people faithful in supplication, genuine in sacrifice. You got face mask, can share. We’ll be a people effective in soul winning, a people joyful in suffering.

In that way, we really live out the Gospel. In that way, hopefully, someday, someone would say, “You have filled Punggol with your teachings. You have filled Singapore with your teachings. You've filled the world with your teachings.”

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

The Gospel tells us of God giving His Son to die for our sins. Jesus did not come to live it up. He came to give it up, He gave His life up.

If you claim to follow Jesus, then your goal cannot be that - I want to live it up. But that your goal must be - how can I give it up? Following Jesus who said, who was said, “For the joy that was set before Him, endured the shame, despised, the shame, endured the cross, and is now set at the right hand of God.” That is the path of the Christian - present sufferings, future glory.

God has not offered a promise that says that we will be protected from every single pain and suffering and sickness. No! But He does promise that at the end of it all, when Jesus returns, all suffering, all sickness, all sorrows will go. But till then, let us be faithful to our Saviour. Till then, let us count our lives not dear to us, but that we may testify of the Gospel of the grace of God.

That's what life is all about! Flowing from the love of God in the Gospel, we centre ourselves back in the Gospel. That's where we find our purpose! That's where we find our mission! That's where we find our deepest satisfaction and joy!

That for the sake of Christ, we would even be willing to suffer dishonour for His namesake. That we will rejoice when people persecute us, and revile us, and accuse us falsely. He's worthy. His Name is worthy! And we say, He's worthy because we know His love in the Gospel that flows from the cross.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a sobering time for the nation. It might be a very sobering time for you and your family. But let this not shake you up just to be mindful about immunity and health. Let this shake you up to be mindful about the purpose of your life.

Why are you here, and what do I live for? Do you know that the secret to real peace is not surrounding yourself with all kinds of protective measures? Although that might be important, the secret to real peace is contentment in the will of God. It really is.

Centre yourself in His Kingdom, His will. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things, necessary for life and mission will be added unto you. May you find real peace as you give your life to God.

And if you're here today, you do not know Jesus, I pray that you’ll see that there's a cure, not for Covid-19, but something far more deadly than that - sin. Jesus has procured that cure for you on the cross.

Turn from your sin and believe in His finished work for you. He is the promised Saviour. He is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Him. And He promises, whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. May you find life. May you be cured from your sin disease.

So, Father, thank You for this morning we can hear Your Word and worship You in this fashion. Bless Your people here, that we might find our contentment and joy and security and assurance and peace in the Gospel. May the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

We pray again that this church will be a missional people, that our Christianity is not just about gathering on Sundays. It's not doing the ritualistic things on the outside, but there will be a heart of passion for You and for Your Name. Once again, save souls. Bless each one. We thank You, and pray all these in Jesus’ Name. Amen.


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