HE RISE AND FALL OF NINE RICH MEN
A popular story recounts a meeting that may have taken place at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago in 1923. There is debate whether the meeting in fact occurred, but what is not in question is the actual rise and fall of the men featured in the story, who were nine of the richest men in the world at that time: (1) Charles Schwab, President of the world’s largest independent steel company; (2) Samuel Insull, President of the world’s largest utility company; (3) Howard Hopson, President of the largest gas firm; (4) Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator; (5) Richard Whitney, President of the New York Stock Exchange; (6) Albert Fall, member of the President’s Cabinet; (7) Leon Frazier, President of the Bank of International Settlements; (8) Jessie Livermore, the greatest speculator in the Stock Market; and (9) Ivar Kreuger, head of the company with the most widely distributed securities in the world.
What happened to these powerful and rich men twenty-five years later? (1) Charles Schwab had died in bankruptcy, having lived on borrowed money for five years before his death. (2) Samuel Insull had died virtually penniless after spending some time as a fugitive from justice. (3) Howard Hopson became insane. (4) Arthur Cutten died overseas, broke. (5) Richard Whitney had spent time in a mental asylum. (6) Albert Fall was released from prison so he could die at home. (7) Leon Fraizer, (8) Jessie Livermore, and (9) Ivar Kreuger each died by suicide. Measured by wealth and power these men achieved success, at least temporarily. But it did not surely guarantee them a truly successful life.
Many people think of fame and fortune when they measure success. However, at some point in life, most people come to realize that inner peace and soul-deep satisfaction come not from fame and money, but having lived a life based on integrity and noble character.
(From a sermon by Sajeev Painunkal SJ, What Changed Zaccheus? 10/30/2010 )
I recently read the following:
That sainted missionary to India and Persia, Henry Martyn, once said, “The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.” Paul (Saul) and Barnabas had that experience as they ministered in Antioch and were called by the Spirit to take the Gospel to the Roman world.
We are here today because someone or group of people brought the Gospel to us. This month I wish to talk about missions. In order to do this I wish to focus on the book of Acts. In a moment we will look at Acts 13:1-3, first let me ask you a question.
Missions: what is it? Where is it? How is it done? Who does it? Why do it? It seems as though we focus on missions over seas at the expense of missions where we are at. It also seems as though we all too often focus on everything but the gospel. Do you notice that? As we look at missions in Acts we are going to see that Paul and his companions were starting churches and proclaiming the Gospel. They were not persecuted for living a good life. They were not persecuted for sharing their testimony. They were not persecuted for helping meet the social needs of the people. No, they were persecuted because they proclaimed Jesus as Lord. They proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. As we look at Acts we can all agree that the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of missions and I want to go a step further to show that missions is not necessarily always over there, but it begins right here. Let me add that one of the things that we do well is our many ministries in Alliance and there is a movement within Alliance of churches working together to proclaim the Gospel. Praise God for that. My theme is Paul’s Missionary Journey, Our Missionary Journey.
A passage we likely will not look at in great detail, but is important relates to Paul’s attitude with the Gospel: Let’s read 1 Cor. 9:19-23:
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
The point of this is sometimes we must make adjustments in our churches or our own life in order to share the Gospel with people. We need to be able to relate to the person or people group. We will come back to that in the coming weeks.
Please look with me at the beginning of Paul’s first journey.
Let’s read Acts 13:1-4:
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
In Acts 13:1-3 we see the church in Antioch hear God’s call to set aside Paul and Barnabas for God’s mission. They follow through with that. I want to talk about this passage for a few minutes and first I want to show you that the call to missions was heard because they were worshipping and fasting.
I. Let me share some background to this passage. This is a pivotal point in the book of Acts. Paul the apostle was just introduced in chapter 7. At that time he was a young Jewish man persecuting the church.
a. Then in Acts chapter 9 Saul became a Christian. Jesus confronted him.
b. Now, between Acts chapter 9 and Acts chapter 13 around 12 or 13 years passed. Paul was converted in about A.D. 33 and now it is around A.D. 46 or 47. In Acts chapter 13 the focus changes from Peter to Paul. The rest of the book of Acts is predominantly about Paul. Look how it happens.
c. IVP Bible Backgrounds commentary:
i. 13:9. Roman citizens had three names. As a citizen, Saul had a Roman cognomen (“Paul,” meaning “small”); his other Roman names remain unknown to us. As inscriptions show was common, his Roman name sounded similar to his Jewish name (Saul, from the name of the Old Testament’s most famous Benjamite). This is not a name change; now that Paul is moving in a predominantly Roman environment, he begins to go by his Roman name, and some of Luke’s readers recognize for the first time that Luke is writing about someone of whom they had already heard.
d. Verse 1: they are in Antioch. Antioch would be north of Jerusalem in Syria. In Acts 11:19ff we read how they got to Antioch.
e. You see, there was persecution which started in Acts chapter 7 with Stephen being stoned with rocks. This persecution caused the Christians to scatter and many went to Antioch. While in Antioch they preached the Gospel. Paul and Barnabas ended up in Antioch teaching. Then they went to Jerusalem to deliver help because of a famine. Now they are back in Antioch.
f. Verse 1 tells us there are prophets and teachers in Antioch. Verse 1 lists 4 of these specific prophets and teachers. Now prophesy was a spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit would speak through a prophet in order to proclaim God’s Truth. This might be a conviction about sin or some future event.
g. Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were listed amongst these prophets. There is also Simeon called Niger. Niger is Latin for black so it is likely he was from Africa. Lucius of Cyrene is also a Latin name and it is likely he is from an area in Northern Africa too.
h. Then there is an interesting note about this man Manaen. He was brought up with Herod. This is the same Herod who had James killed, mistreated Jesus and others. Apparently Manaen was brought up with him. The Greek wording suggests having the same wet nurse. It is possible that Manaen was the child of one of their slaves. Herod grew up in Rome and it was common for the children of slaves to grow up with the master’s children. The children grow close and the slave is freed when he or she is an adult. Either way, Manaen is now serving the Lord with the gift of prophesy or teaching.
Now verse 1 showed us “who” and now verses 2 and 3 where show us “what”
II. Verse 2 says they were worshipping the Lord and fasting. Isn’t that an interesting intro? What is about to happen, happens while they are coming into the presence of the Lord in worship and fasting.
a. There are other examples of major things happening during worship. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah was called while in the temple performing a priestly duty.
b. To fast means to abstain from food and possibly other pleasures in order to seek God. The people of Antioch were worshipping the Lord and fasting. They were seeking God for input. God is about to give them His guidance.
c. We still proclaim days of prayer and fasting. Back in 2010 heard that leaders within the Gulf coast states called for a day of prayer (Sunday, June 27) in order to receive God’s help from the oil spill.
4965 Lincoln Proclaims National Fast Day
Abraham Lincoln wrote an address to the nation during the Civil War that was at least as important as the Gettysburg Address.
It was his proclamation for a national fast-day, by which he did designate and set apart Thursday the 30th day of April 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer.
Lincoln wrote: “It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
“The awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people.
“Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
“It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
d. Well, they were worshipping and fasting and the Holy Spirit spoke to them. It is likely that the Holy Spirit spoke through one of the prophets. The Lord wanted Paul and Barnabas set aside for His work. This idea of setting aside means to set apart for a special purpose. The Lord wanted Paul and Barnabas set apart for His purposes. Back when Paul became a Christian the Lord said that He would use Paul to reach the gentiles. That is about to happen.
e. Verse 3: is about the churches response. The church obeys. You know, at this point the Lord hadn’t told Paul or Barnabas where they were going. It doesn’t matter. Paul and Barnabas made themselves available. The church gathers together and they laid hands on them. This is comparable to ordination. They were sent out.
III. From Acts 13:4— 14:26 we can read about the missionary journey that resulted from this.
a. Many people heard the Gospel because the church in Antioch was in an atmosphere to hear God. They were worshipping and fasting. Then Paul and Barnabas obeyed. By the end of Acts, Paul had taken the Gospel to all of the known world. He might have taken it as far as Spain. He definitely took the Gospel to Rome. Things happen when you intentionally create an atmosphere to hear God.
b. This happened to Meagan several years ago. She was working at McDonalds at the time. She was spending some time in prayer before work when she heard the phone ring. Now usually we don’t need to interrupt our time with God by answering the phone. But in this instance she received a job offer. This happened during prayer time.
c. Today, my focus has been on the call to the missionary journey, but I encourage you to take the time to read these two chapters. Maybe you have read it before, but I know you will be encouraged as you read about Paul’s missionary journey.
d. As you read you will notice that in the cities Paul went to the Jews first:
i. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says It was necessary that the apostles go to the Jews first for a number of reasons. First, the coming of the earthly kingdom depended on Israel’s response to the coming of Christ (cf. Matt. 23:39; Rom. 11:26). Second, only after Israel rejected the gospel could Paul devote himself to the Gentiles. Third, the message of Jesus is fundamentally Jewish in that the Old Testament, the Messiah, and the promises are all Jewish. (On “the Jew first,” cf. Acts 3:26; Rom. 1:16.)
ii. You will also notice how Paul was able to draw great crowds when he travels from city to city.
1. When famous speakers (e.g., Dio Chrysostom) would come to town, much of the town would go to hear him. Word spreads quickly about the new speaker at the synagogue in Antioch, and Paul, probably originally more comfortable giving expositions of Scripture than public speeches in the Greek style, is billed as a rhetorician or philosopher.
e. Paul and Barnabas took the Gospel to many cities on this journey. I have a map on the screen of the missionary journey and if you wish you can ask for a copy of my sermon manuscript with a list of where he went and what verses that location is listed in:
i. Seleucia (verse 4)
ii. Salamis (verse 5)
iii. Paphos (verses 6-12)
v. Antioch (verses 14-52)
vi. Iconium (14:1-6)
vii. Lystra (14:6 and 8-19)
viii. Derbe (14:6 and 20-21)
ix. Lysra (14:21-23)
x. Iconium (14:21-23)
xi. The Bible Knowledge Commentary:
f. Thus ends the first missionary journey which lasted between one and two years and in which Paul and Barnabas traversed more than 700 miles by land and 500 miles by sea. But more than that, it demolished the wall between Jews and Gentiles (cf. Eph. 2:14-16). The two apostles had been committed by the church at Antioch to God’s grace (cf. Acts 15:40) and they saw His grace at work (cf. “grace” in 13:43; 14:3).
i. Antioch (14:24)
ii. Perga (14:24-25)
iii. Attalia (14:25)
iv. Antioch (14:26-28)
g. Lastly, remember Acts 1:8 says: but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
i. That verse is happening now. They are following the Spirit’s lead in order to be a witness. Praise God!
This Scripture passage shows us a few things. One is that foreign missions are important. This is Paul’s call and they go far away. Secondly, this text shows how to hear God’s call: by being involved in the spiritual disciplines. These are prayer, worship, fasting, Scripture reading.
When Adoniram Judson graduated from college and seminary he received a call from a fashionable church in Boston to become its assistant pastor. Everyone congratulated him. His mother and sister rejoiced that he could live at home with them and do his life work, but Judson shook his head. “My work is not here,” he said. “God is calling me beyond the seas. To stay here, even to serve God in His ministry, I feel would be only partial obedience, and I could not be happy in that.” Although it cost him a great struggle he left mother and sister to follow the heavenly call. The fashionable church in Boston still stands, rich and strong, but Judson’s churches in Burma had fifty thousand converts, and the influence of his consecrated life is felt around the world.
Judson knew that he was not called to the local mission. Somehow he knew that God had called him to foreign missions and because he followed that call thousands were converted. What is the price of eternal life? Wow!
Now, Adoniram Judson listened to God’s call and many heard about Christ because of his obedience.
But Missions begins at home. You know, while Paul was going around the known world with the Gospel, James was pastoring the Jerusalem church. James the half brother of Jesus stayed home to pastor the church. Missions is important local and foreign.
Charles Swindoll writes:
Several years ago, a group of boys and girls in Florida decided to lead their parents and other volunteers in a season of intercessory prayer for their town and for our troubled world.
The movement they started turned out to be so dynamic that more than fifteen thousand people showed up to march in support of the plan and to offer aid to the Russian refugees in their area. The young people also raised support for a Russian choir and started a prayer chain to intercede for the people of their “sister city” of Murmansk, Russia.
How many opportunities for selfless service can we find? Maybe I should ask that question another way: How many Christians are willing to improve their service toward God? Or how many acts of Christian love and kindness would it take to change the world?
The opportunities are endless.
In every town, every neighborhood, and on every block, lonely and sometimes unlovely men and women need to experience the love of Jesus.
In every city, children have never known a gentle touch or a loving smile.
In every state and region, God’s people can make a lasting difference.
There are random acts of love and mercy that God has already prepared for you, so that you might share in His joy—so that you might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Go ahead . . . reach out.
You will never regret it.
What a joy it is to serve people, what a joy it is to share the good news of Jesus with people! It is good news, right.
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)