Purpose and Direction

Feb 8, 2013
Akron, Ohio
Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 9:30 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “He Gives Purpose.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 23-26 (quoting selected verses in the NIV). I will summarize most of this due to the length of the passage.

The Conspiracy

Paul had just given his testimony to the people who were persecuting him (See Ac. 22). They listened quietly while he spoke until he told them that, after his conversion, he had returned to Jerusalem, and that Jesus had spoken to him there in a vision. Jesus had told him to leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people there would not accept his testimony about Him. Jesus had also told him to “Go,” and that he was sending him far away to the Gentiles. When he relayed this message to the people listening to him, they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”

The next day Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin (See Ac. 23). Paul told the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” The high priest ordered that Paul be struck on the mouth. Paul spoke words of rebuke back to the one who ordered this, not knowing he was the high priest. When confronted with the fact that he had just insulted the high priest, Paul apologized. Then, he seized this moment to bring up a subject that he knew the Sanhedrin was divided over, i.e. the resurrection of the dead. A dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and there ensued a great uproar. So, Paul was taken by force back to the barracks.

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

The next day some Jews formed a conspiracy to have Paul killed. In fact, the group of them took a vow to not eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than 40 men were involved in this plot, and they involved the Sanhedrin in their scheme. Yet, Paul’s nephew heard of the plot, and he told Paul. Paul then told one of the centurions, and asked that his nephew be allowed to speak to the commander. Upon hearing the news Paul’s nephew had to report, the commander then sent Paul to Caesarea and to Governor Felix. He sent a letter with the soldiers who escorted Paul, which they gave to Felix. The letter explained all that had just transpired with Paul and his accusers, and it also informed the Governor that Paul’s accusers would come before him to present their case.

Fast Forwarding

Fast forwarding… Two years had now passed. Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. “Because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison” (Ac. 24:27). Paul appeared before Festus. The Jews from Jerusalem were there, and “they brought many serious charges against him” (Paul), “but they could not prove them” (Ac. 25:7). Festus asked Paul if he was willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before him there on the charges. Paul defended himself against the charges, and then he appealed to Caesar. So, Festus said, “To Caesar you will go.”

King Agrippa and his wife Bernice arrived in Caesarea a few days later. Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. King Agrippa said he would like to hear Paul. So, the next day Paul was brought before King Agrippa. Festus then addressed the king by explaining Paul’s situation to him, but how he had found nothing about Paul or his actions deserving of death. Since Paul had appealed to Caesar, Festus was looking to King Agrippa to help him formulate something he could write to the Emperor.

Mentally Ill?

King Agrippa gave Paul permission to speak for himself (See Ac. 26). Paul once again shared his testimony of how he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, where Paul was headed with the intention to arrest Christians and to bring them back to Jerusalem. He said:

“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

At this point during Paul’s defense, Festus interrupted him and exclaimed to him that he was out of his mind, and that his learning was driving him insane. Paul immediately defended himself by denying Festus’ accusation. He said, “What I am saying is true and reasonable.” Then, he asked the king, “Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Agrippa responded, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long – I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

His Will and Plan

This afternoon, before I got into the Word, I took notes on the message in this song. I noted that there were key words and/or phrases recorded here: listen, obey, and follow; hear my will for your life and future; give all your life and heart; repent of your sins and worship Jesus; he has a plan, direction, meaning, and purpose for your life; he loves you so much he gave his life so we can walk in his ways; and also, witness for Jesus of our love for him and of his grace and mercy, and how he died to save us of our sins.

I saw a common theme throughout this song, and it was that God/Jesus has a plan, purpose, direction, will and meaning for our lives today, and every day, and for our future. He gave his life on the cross for us to deliver us from the penalty of sin and our slavery to sin, and to give us eternal life with him so that we can walk in his ways (See 2 Co. 5:15). He asks that we turn from our sin, that we be transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and that we walk in his ways and in his truth in the power of the Spirit within us (See Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14 & 1 Jn. 1-5).

When we are in Christ, he asks that we listen to his words and that we do what his word teaches us. He wants us to die daily to sin and self and to follow him wherever he leads us. Not only does he make his will known for us in how he wants us to forsake our old lives of sin, and now walk in fellowship with him in his holiness and righteousness, but he has very specific and individual plans for each of our lives, and we need to seek him for that, as well. Yet, all of us are called to be his witness (light and salt) to the world.

Paul’s life sets a wonderful example for us here of some of the things that we can expect as we allow God to work his will and his way in our lives, as we follow what we know to be his will for each of us, and as we seek his face concerning specific direction and purpose for our lives individually.

For one, when we go with God and we follow and obey Jesus, and we bear testimony to his name and to the gospel of salvation, there will be people who won’t like us, and who may even plot our demise. Yet, we will not leave this world until God is finished with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will comfort and encourage, and strengthen and uphold us. He will see us through every situation which presents itself in our lives. And, we must know that God is absolutely sovereign over every aspect of our lives, and that he has a purpose and a plan for our lives even when we face the kinds of difficulties as did Paul.

We may be arrested, beaten, falsely accused, imprisoned and/or killed for our faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, we don’t have to be afraid. Jesus Christ is with us always, and he will give us all that we need to stand strong in our faith, to hold fast to our testimonies for Jesus Christ, and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ despite severe opposition and persecution. We can remain faithful because God is faithful and he will not abandon us. And, we can be bold in our witness for Jesus Christ even in the face of death, because Christ is in us. Amen!

He Gives Purpose / An Original Work / June 9, 2012

“Listen to Me when I’m calling to you.
Obey freely My word.
Follow Me in all of My ways.
Do all that I say.
Hear Me gently whisper to you
My will for your life and future.
Give all of your life and heart to
Follow Me always.”

Repent of your sins and worship Jesus.
He’s your Lord and Master.
He died for your sins so you could
Live with Him today.
He has a plan for your life and
He gives purpose and direction.
He gives meaning to your life,
So follow Him today.

“I love you so much I gave My life for
You to walk in My ways,
Living for Me each day as you
Bow to Me and pray.
Witness for Me of your love for Me and
Of My grace and mercy,
How I died to save you of your
Sins now and always.”