Outbreak!

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Contagious Faith

Read at beginning of service:

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV)

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

INTRODUCTION:

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (NIV)

1 Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Today I?m delivering the last message in the series on Contagious Faith and I?ve called it “Outbreak!” I think the person who penned the following anonymous quote has made a pretty accurate description of what this means?

When the heart is on fire, sparks will fly out of the mouth. (Anonymous)

Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “pray?that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored?” praying that the gospel of Jesus Christ, this faith, would be contagious ? that there would be an outbreak!? (maybe share illustration of a wildfire?)

Contagious faith spreads ? this is the natural conclusion of a faith that:

infects,

by hanging around a carrier

when the Kleenex is kept in the box.

in the midst of weakness

incubates (points from message)

?(is developed and maintained) in a life-giving, vibrant, sustained relationship with God that is?

Fostered by the knowledge and reception (belief) in God?s grace.

Enriched by love

Empowered by dependence on the Holy Spirit

Enduring through hope in the glorious return of Jesus Christ.

becomes an outbreak!

outbreak: a sudden, violent bursting out, the outbreak of war; an epidemic or near, epidemic, an outbreak of small pox.

Epidemic: a disease which becomes widespread in a particular place at a particular time; an occurrence, generally unpleasant, which is widespread or intense, epidemics of delinquency.

Transition:

Our task as laymen is to live our personal communion with Christ with such intensity as to make it contagious. (Paul Tournier [Late Swiss Psychiatrist])

Contagious Faith spreads because of the powerful presence of God in a person?s life as a result of being infected (believing), and nourished (growth). That is the answer to why Contagious faith is, well, contagious! But there are some important observations that I would like to make this morning about how contagious faith spreads? it spreads by?

Recognizing Divine appointments arranged by our heavenly Manager
a. God will bring people across your path to be infected.

Philip and Ethiopian Acts 8:26-28

Acts 8:26-28 (NIV)

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.

?

Acts 8:32-33 (NIV) (quoted from Isaiah 53:7,8)

32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

Pete?s family moved to the United States from the former Soviet Union when he was 12. His parents were agnostic and therefore had never encouraged Pete to explore anything that had to do with religion.

When I met Pete he was full of questions about Christianity. I told him I would be happy to answer as many questions as I could. We began having lunch together every week or so. During our first meeting together I asked Pete why he was so interested in the gospel. This is what he said.

“I am in business with several families who have the kind of marriage I want to have some day. All of them are Christians. I know their families are the way they are because of their Christianity.”

After ten months of Bible study and debate, Pete prayed to receive Christ. Why? Because several couples conducted their marriages and business in a manner different from the norm. Upon close examination Pete caught a glimpse of something divine. Their lives birthed a vision in Pete of what could be true of his own marriage someday. They lived lives worth watching, and unbeknownst to them. Pete was watching. (Andy Stanley in Visioneering)

b. God will take you to the path of others to infect them.

Paul preached to the Thessalonica?s because of the appointment set up God

Acts 16:9-10 (NIV)

9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Macedonia was a province or region in the Roman Empire and Thessalonica was a city in this region.

For several summers during the mid-1990s, Dave Wolter, head women?s basketball coach for Concordia University in Irvine, California, flew to Asia and put on basketball clinics for both players and coaches.

On one flight, his plane experienced mechanical trouble at 30,000 feet. Panic broke out. People were screaming, crying and standing up in the aisles. Wolter, on the other hand, sat calmly and prayed. When a woman sitting next to him saw how different his demeanor was to the rest of the passengers, she shouted in Wolter?s face, “Why aren?t you hysterical?” Fortunately, the crew was able to correct the problem, and nervous tranquility was restored in the cabin. For the rest of the flight, Dave answered the woman?s question as she and several others listened intently to how his faith in Christ Jesus enables him to face death with confidence.

Witnessing takes place not only through our words, but also through our actions. Stated another way, the fish symbol on the rear bumper of your car definitely makes a statement, but people will probably pay more attention to how you drive. (Steven B. Borst in Men in the Church)

God is in the business of setting up appointments for His people to make an eternal difference in the life of another person ? contagious faith recognizes these divine engagements.

Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–

c. This recognition comes from a supernatural love for the lost.

Contagious faith births a love for the downtrodden, for the castaway, for the bankrupt, for the outcast ? that is anyone who has not believed in and knows the saving grace of Jesus Christ my Lord. The reason for this is very simple ? contagious faith incubates in the presence of God, and in the presence of God is discovered the heart of God and in the heart of God is found a passionate love for the lost. A love that is so often quoted in the famous verse of John 3:16.

Paul writes of this love in?

1 Thessalonians 2:6-8 (NIV)

6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

It is this love that brings recognition of the people God is bringing to us or taking us to that need the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this love that catches us in the midst of our everyday life and changes the way we look at the people we encounter. It is this very same love that makes our faith contagious. Maybe that?s why Paul emphasized it so much in his prayers?

1 Thessalonians 3:11-12 (NIV)

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NIV)

5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Transition:

What Macedonian?s does God take you to? What Ethiopians has He brought across your path?

Accepting that there will be opposition but refusing to be quarantined!

The purpose of a quarantine is to bring under control an epidemic.

quarantine: Isolation to prevent the spread of an outbreak; Enforced isolation to prevent spread of disease

(Illustrate by describing the quarantine of illness or of a wildfire)

Paul experienced many quarantine attempts in his ministry. There were many who opposed the spread of the gospel. He mentions one of those attempts in?

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NIV)

1 You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.

When it comes to contagious faith ? opposition tends to cause it to spread rather than diminish.

Paul spent only three weeks in Thessalonica, faced a tremendous amount of opposition to his message and ended up being driven out of the city and yet he is able to observe in his second letter to the Thessalonian ?

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (NIV)

3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

* Contagious faith accepts that there will be opposition but refuses to be quarantined?

Refuse to be quarantined by fear of opposition.

Some of the things Paul had happen to him prior to speaking in Thessalonica:

  • Acts 7:58 tells us that Saul (Paul?s name before becoming a Christian) witnessed the stoning of Stephen ? Saul was not a Christian at the time and in fact was a major persecutor of the church ? he was very familiar with the opposition facing the early church.
  • Barely escaped with his life as a fresh believer in Damascus ? Jews conspired to kill him but he was warned and then lowered through an opening in the wall to freedom (Acts 9:23-25)
  • When he came to Jerusalem he began sharing the gospel and some Grecian Jews tried to kill him and so security whisked him away to Tarsus (Acts 9:29-30)
  • Those events happened before Paul was even commissioned by the church as an apostle to the Gentiles!
  • Then when Paul and Barnabas were sent off?
  • They faced persecution in Psidian Antioch where people spoke abusive words against them and then they were driven out of the region? (Acts 13:44,50)
  • A plot to stone Paul was uncovered while he was preaching in Iconium, (Acts 14:5) and then they fled to Lystra and Derbe.
  • However they didn?t escape the originators of that plot and some Jews from Antioch and Iconium caught up with them and stoned them to the point where they thought he was dead. (Acts 14:19)
  • After delivering a slave girl of an evil spirit in Philippi, Paul was dragged before the authorities and accused up creating unrest in the city. The result was that Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten. After they had been flogged, they were thrown into prison and had there feet fastened in stocks.

If we had all these things happen to us certainly there would be reason to fear the opposition we may face to sharing the word of God. Yet we don?t have these things happen and yet many are still afraid! Why? What are you afraid of? Rejection, getting things wrong, people might think we?re different (there?s a funny one! Because Christians are different!)?you?ve got understand something ? this fear quarantines contagious faith!!

The world is far more ready to receive the gospel than Christians are to hand it out. (George W. Peters)

Yet Paul would not let that fear of opposition to keep him from sharing the gospel, why? Because He was out to please God not man (see 1 Thessalonians 2:4,6). More concerned with God?s pleasure than man?s pleasure. Note: There is a difference between seeking the pleasure of God and seeking to please Him. In the former you are attempting to gain God?s acceptance, in the latter because you are accepted you want to be a delight to Him. Illustration: There are some things that Kerryanne does that can cause me to be unhappy or displeased with her (i.e. cracking her toe knuckles, my expectations for housework) but that doesn’t mean I stop loving me or accepting her as my wife. However, there are some things that she does that please me, that bring me pleasure ? she doesn?t need to do them to earn my love or my acceptance of her but she does them because she loves me and she delights in bringing me delight!

It?s all about priorities ? what is more important and for Paul it came down to the question, “what is most significant in the scope of eternity? What is of eternal worth?”

The root cause of fear of opposition is the desire to please man not God. When your priorities are in focus then the fear of opposition begins to disappear because you know that any opposition is worthless compared to the very worthy King of kings and Lord of lords.

What other people think of me is becoming less and less important; what they think of Jesus because of me is critical. (Cliff Richard, English Pop Singer)

Refuse to be quarantined by false accusations.

False accusations made against Paul in his journeys prior to Thessalonica:

  • accused of initiating riots
  • accused of encouraging unlawful customs
  • accused of trickery, and greed.

Paul addresses these false accusations made against him (1 Thess. 2:3,5,6-12)

1 Thessalonians 2:3 (NIV)

3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.

1 Thessalonians 2:5 (NIV)

5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed–God is our witness.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-12 (NIV)

6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Notice how Paul draws attention to how they lived among the Thessalonians. How they lived validated the integrity of their message. And how they lived became a rampart against the false accusations made against them.

see 1 Thessalonians 4:11 as the counter for false accusations.

?

1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NIV)

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,

Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me. (Dwight L. Moody, Evangelist, 19th century)

Refuse to be quarantined by physical and emotional hardship

Paul mentions about the suffering and insults he and Silas received in Philippi (see Acts 16:11-40)

Briefly summarize what happened in Philippi?(see above)

Yet even while in prison they refused to let the physical and emotional hardship quarantine their faith ? they burst out into worship and prayer! (Acst 16:25 ? notice that Paul and Silas were singing and praying ? in other words they didn?t start at midnight ? they must have been doing this for a while!)

Transition:

Romans 1:16-21 (NIV)

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Of course there is another way in which contagious faith is spread and I?ve got to say this is probably one of the most motivating factors?

Practicing the discipline of Encouragement

Definition of Encouragement ? encouragement is an expression of hope, support, love, or approval that has a positive impact on a person?s progress towards being better and a preventing them from becoming worse.

Encouragement is to faith as campfire fuel is to a smoldering fire. Have you ever seen what happens when you pour camp fuel on a smoldering fire? (share illustration of what happened when I did it!)

Encouragement spreads the spores of contagious faith. Observe what Paul records in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8?

1 Thessalonians 3:1-10 (NIV)

1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. 6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

The Need for Encouragement (vv. 1-5)

We need encouragement because of the trials of life, the traps of Satan, and the turmoil of emotions.

Paul?s trials and Thessalonians trials

Attacks of Satan on Paul (see 1 Thess. 2:18)

1 Thess. 2:18 (NIV)

18 For we wanted to come to you–certainly I, Paul, did, again and again–but Satan stopped us.

Proconsul in Paphos and encounter with Bar-Jesus a false prophet and tool of the devil who was an attendant of the proconsul.

Acts 13:6-12 (NIV)

6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

Acts records that Paul returned to the places he had already visited many times (and been persecuted) and encouraged the believers there.

Are you willing to be the fuel?

Every single one of us will go through periods where we?re like the smoldering fire ? and in those times we need encouragement and perhaps some of you can recall being recipients of that encouragement ? but the question is are you willing to be the encourager for someone else? Are you willing to be the fuel on their fire?

CONCLUSION

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV)

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

The aroma of Christ ? smell of death or fragrance of life. Are you the aroma of Christ? Is that fragrance found in your faith? Is your faith contagious?

Richard is a developer of condominiums. His partner, Curt, enjoyed working with him because he knew Richard could be trusted. But in spite of Richard?s faith, character and strong family relationships, Curt was not interested in spiritual matters.

Richard knew better than to force the issue. For nine years he just continued out live the life and pray for Curt. Finally, on a business trip out west, Curt turned to Richard and blurted out, “I became a Christian.”

Curt?s family had been slowly spiraling toward disaster for years. When he was forced to hospitalize his son for an addiction, he broke. But throughout the breaking process he had watched Richard and his family. Now he knew his best option was to ask God for help.

Today Curt and his family are making huge strides towards putting things back together. Curt never misses church and reads everything Richard puts into his hands. His son is out of the hospital. He and his wife are rebuilding their marriage. (Andy Stanley in Visioneering)
I woke up to the familiar sound of the 6:00 news. That day it was particularly depressing. A woman had shot her boyfriend, a man admitted poisoning his wife, political campaigns were growing more negative. Jim Scott, the usually upbeat deejay, said, “Won?t somebody call in with some good news?”

As I lay there in bed, still half asleep, I thought, “That?s a 50,000-watt station. Somebody needs to grab this chance to say something positive for Christ!” Then it struck me: I am somebody. I dialed the number. A few minutes later, Jim Scott put me on the air.

Thinking quickly, I told how my church had recently purchased an old church building in a center-city neighborhood. I shared my excitement about how university students and community residents were pooling their resources and working hard to refurbish an old building to use as a place of worship and an activity center for youth. After a few minutes, the deejay thanked me for calling, and I hung up.

Standing there in my bathrobe, I laughed out loud as I thought, “I must be dreaming! I think I just spoke on the radio to hundreds of thousands of people!” (David Faust in Faith Under Fire)

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