A Shining Example

Sunday Evening English Worship
March 4, 2018 - 5:00 pm

Messenger: Don Frank

Bible Passage - Acts 17:11

Introduction - I am so glad to see you guys here tonight. How have you been since the last time we got together? Have you survived this mid-winter season pretty well? I tell you, I’ve been enjoying watching the Winter Olympics for the last couple of weeks. We’ve seen a lot of inspirational examples of effort and courage and success! Some of these athletes have been truly amazing! This time around, I’ve been really impressed with the men’s figure-skating athlete, Yuzuru Hanyu. What an example he is for many other skaters all around the world! He was injured just this last year in November and he recovered completely and got a gold medal! How much hard practice did he have to do every day to get this far? You and I can think of many other past Olympics and Olympic athletes that were truly amazing as being totally successful in whatever they did.

When I think of good examples, my mind goes back to when I was a young Christian and I was in the United States Marine Corps. I was stationed in Oceanside, California as I was going through training. I often went to the Christian Servicemen's Center in downtown Oceanside. The name has changed now to The Anchor Cafe. Here's me when I was 18 years old. Here are a couple of dear friends from the cafe. And here are a couple of shots inside the cafe. And this last picture is very special to me. The man on the right is who I call my "father in the ministry," William "Pop" Reed. He taught me so much about studying the Bible and memorizing Bible verses. He had a really big impact on my life and was for me a "shining example" for Christ!

How about you? Can you think of any shining examples? Do you have any favorite people, maybe from your own life or from the Bible, examples of men or women that you’d like to follow? I’m sure each one of us can name a favorite, such as Moses, David, Esther, and of course, Jesus Christ! The Bible tells us this in 1 Corinthians 10:11, “These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction...” (NET Bible)

And tonight I’d like to share with you about a little known group of people who are a shining example to follow, especially when it comes to reading and studying the Bible. And the Bible passage that I'd like to share with you tonight is from the Book of Acts, chapter 17 and verse 11 (NLT). And it reads like this, "And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth."

And there are three points that talk about these people in Berea who studied the word of God. Each one of these points is connected with a word that I use with my students when I talk about learning English.

1. Interest - "And the people of Berea were more open-minded..." - My students often ask me, "What does it take to master English?" I tell them that the first thing they need is interest. You got to have interest if you want to start anything. It doesn't matter what it is, learning to play tennis, learning to speak English, learning to drive a car, but especially, learning the Word of God better. If you don't have any interest, then you'll never get started. But on the other hand, if you're really interested, then you can't wait to get started! Do you love starting your day by reading God's Word? Are you totally interested in what your Heavenly Father has to say to you? Or are you like many people who have a Bible, but just leave it sitting on the shelf, gathering dust? You have to get it down and open it up!

And so it was with the people of Berea. Our Scripture tonight says that these people were open-minded or as other Bible translations say noble or noble minded. Their minds were open to the Spirit of God and to the Word of God. And that's the way it is with all of us. First the Spirit opens and prepares our minds and then we are ready to begin the journey of faith. He gives us mildness, gentleness and patience to receive God's messages. Too often in our world we see the opposite kind of people, angry, full of hate and very close-minded. This kind of people cannot stand the Word of God. They will fight against listening to it at anytime. Even Christians can be like this all too often. It's so easy to close our minds to protect ourselves. But the Bereans we're not this kind of people.

2. Motivation - "...and they listened eagerly..." - So, first you have to have interest in order to start learning something. The next word is motivation. You got to have motivation if you want to continue learning. If you only have interest but you don't have motivation, then you will never continue learning. And the Bereans were motivated. The Bible passage says, "...and they listened eagerly..." They didn't just listen with their ears or their minds, but they listened with their hearts. It says they listened eagerly. Their emotions were stirred up inside of them. They wanted to hear more and more of what Paul and Silas were teaching. They loved what they heard and they got excited!

It's often hard to stay motivated, isn't it? Have you ever tried to read through your Bible in a year? Man, talk about a motivation problem! But God doesn't want it to be that way. He wants us to be happy and joyful as we read His Word. Don't go for distance, go for depth. Take your time and listen carefully to what God has to say to you. Let the Holy Spirit guide it deep into your heart. Ask God to use His Spirit to prepare your heart every time you come to Bible reading. And He will give you the gift of motivation! You won't just get God's message, but His Spirit will give you a heart full of joy too! Every time you have this experience, you'll want to come back and read the Bible more and more.

3. Practice - "They searched the Scriptures day after day..." - So, to get started, we have to have interest. Then, to keep going, we have to be motivated. Then finally, in order to have success we have to do the hardest of these three words. You got to practice! I had a professor tell me one time, "As you study in my class, there are three important words that you must remember: Practice, Practice, Practice!" And as we look at our Bible passage, we see that the people of Berea did just that. They searched the Scriptures day after day. It wasn't just a one-shot deal. To them, it was a daily habit. They knew that that was where they could find wisdom. If you want truth, you have to go to the source of truth! Jesus said that He was the way, the truth and the life, to get all the wisdom that you need!

I have to credit my love of the Bible to my father in the ministry, the man I introduced to you just a short time ago, Pop Reed. We had Bible classes every week and he taught us how to read the Bible deeply and how to memorize Scripture. I stored away so many verses in my heart during those Bible studies, Scriptures that I remember even today. These days, as I'm getting older, I'm discovering it's much harder to memorize Bible passages. It takes so much more energy than it did when I was young! So these days, I'm relying on my smartphone that I keep with me constantly. Anytime I want to, I touch the screen, open up the Bible App and I can see any verse I want whenever I want. I can use Google to search for any verse or theme from the Bible, just like I used to use Strong's Concordance back in seminary. It's still so very important to keep God's Word in your heart, but if Pop Reed could see our 24/7 access that we have to the Bible, I think he would be totally amazed!

Conclusion - And now as our evening draws to a close, let's look at the next verse in Acts 17, verse 12, and we'll see the result: "As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men." My goodness, the Bible is active and powerful! This city of Berea would never be the same. Thanks to Paul, Silas, the Holy Spirit and this powerful word of God, many people joined the kingdom of heaven! This is just one, small shining example of how the Bible, if it's loved, handled well and read daily can absolutely transform our lives. "Let Christ's word with all its wisdom and richness live in you. Use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to teach and instruct yourselves about [God's] kindness. Sing to God in your hearts." (Colossians 3:16 - GOD'S WORD Translation)

Closing Prayer - Now, let's bring our study to a close this evening by reading our main Bible passage together. "And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth."

And here is our closing prayer, based on what we learned this evening:

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you that we could read and study Your Word together this evening. Dear Holy Spirit, please keep our minds open to Your message. Fill our hearts with joy every time we read God's Word. And help us to enjoy reading the Bible, even just for a short time, every single day. May Your richness and wisdom fill us everyday - and forever. We ask this all now, in Jesus' name, Amen.