Charles Stanley - Down But Not Out
Do you remember the last time you sort of felt down, discouraged, misunderstood, sort of helpless, sort of wondering what was happening in your life? Maybe you felt shut out, mistreated, or maybe you've felt hopeless. Have any of you ever felt any of that? That's right. We all have at some time felt sort of down. So we ask the question, "Well what did you do about it? How did you respond"? Some people just want to quit, want to walk away, want to blame somebody, want to blame God. Look at their circumstances and wonder, why? And sometimes wonder if life is worth living anymore. So, what did you feel down about? Did you feel down about your finances?
I remember this week talking to a lady and not only by what she said, by what was written across her face, she was very, very down. And sometime it's about finances, sometimes it's a marriage, lots of times it's a person's health, and oftentimes it's a person's job. They don't like it. They don't make enough money. There are a lot of people today who are saying, "I just don't make enough to get by". But we could just go on and on and on about the reasons people feel down, and the last time probably won't be the only time. But that down feeling is a bad feeling. And sometimes it can be a hopeless, helpless feeling. So I ask you, what did you do?
Well that's what I want to talk about in this message. Here's the title: "Down But Not Out". And so, I want you to turn to the fourteenth chapter of Acts and this is a very important part of Paul's life. And you'll find someone who was really down but not out. So I'm going to give you a little background, and then we'll come to the Scripture. It's the fourteenth chapter of Acts and Paul and Barnabas had been preaching. They were in Lystra and a man there who was lame couldn't walk the Scripture said that Paul said to him, "Stand upright on your feet. And he leaped up and began to walk". Well everybody got excited because they saw a miracle right in front of them. And so, what they did is, they said that gods have become like men and they've come down to us. And so, they had a wrong response. They tried to make gods out of Paul and Barnabas. And so, verse twelve, they call them Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker and they brought sacrifices. And they're trying to make gods out of these two guys and all the thing they did was just act upon the Word of God and heal this man.
So Paul and Barnabas had a real time here dealing with this because the word got out that they were preaching the Gospel. The Jews came down, and if you'll begin with me in let's say in verse eighteen, "Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them. But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul, dragged him out of the city, and supposed him to be dead". Now he got really down, "But while the disciples stood around him, he got up, entered the city. The next day he went away to with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and, Iconium and, Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.'"
And so, when I look at that passage of Scripture and I think about what happened to the Apostle Paul, it doesn't happen to us to the same degree, but here they are being obedient to God preaching the gospel, bringing about healing to this man, and what happens is, they he gets stoned to death by it. That is Paul appeared to have been stoned to death. Now think about this, to be stoned to death means that they threw stones, rocks at him until they thought they'd killed him. And what I want to do is, I want to give you the characteristics of the Apostle Paul that made him get up. And you can apply these to your own life as according to your circumstances, and according to what's going on in your life.
How do you get up? Because Paul didn't stay down long. When they stoned Stephen, they killed him. When they stoned Paul, they intended to kill him. So he was down, but he didn't stay down. So what are the characteristics in a person's life that keep them when situations and circumstances come along that sort of cut the ground out from under you, and you begin to despair or begin to feel sad for yourself or you begin to blame God or blame somebody else? That is, what does a person do when they get down? And usually one of the first things they do is look for somebody to blame. But that's not what the Apostle Paul did.
So I want to give you the characteristics that made him stand up. And I trust that you'll apply them to yourself. And the first one was simply this at Paul's conversion he would never forget the day that he was down physically, blinded by the Lord Jesus Christ and Christ Jesus asking him the question in that ninth chapter of Acts, and you might want to look there for just a moment. Ninth chapter of Acts Scripture says, "And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul," remember that was his name beforehand, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me"? And he said, "Who are You, Lord"? And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting". He'd never forget that. His conversion experience was an unforgettable experience in his life when the Lord spoke to him and saved him. And told him where to go and who he would speak to, and what would happen to his life. And of course, his blindness was taken away, and immediately he began to preach the gospel.
So I want you to think about this. When you get down one of the first things you ought to think about is Jesus saved you. And He didn't save you to stay down. He saved you that whatever you're going through in life you get up and keep going, and the Apostle Paul is the perfect example of that. He could have said, "Well, Lord if you'd if you really loved me and you saved me, now why would you allow me to be stoned to death so early in my life"? None of that. He recalled his experience of salvation that Jesus said to him, "Saul, Saul why do you persecute Me"?
How many of you remember the day you got saved? Amen. So you remember that. Well, it's very important that you and I recall that salvation experience because that's our beginning with Him. That's when your sins got washed away. That's when He wrote your name in the Lamb's Book of life. That's when you became a child of God, and no matter what you face in life, no matter what happens, we should immediately be remembering, "I know that I'm saved by the grace of God. Whatever happens here, my name is written in the Lamb's Book of life and I'm going to praise Him in spite of it". Listen, when you're praising God you can't stay down. You have to get up. God enables you to get up.
So the first thing I wanted you to see about him is, what got him up was, he remembered his conversion experience. And the second thing was Paul's conviction. And if you turn to Philippians chapter one and I want you to notice in the sixteenth verse, the second thing that got him up is in the sixteenth verse when Paul said, "I am appointed for the defense of the gospel". He says in verse fifteen, "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some from good will, the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel". So what got him up is this, he knew his purpose in life. He knew that he wasn't just a victim of stones. He had been appointed to preach the gospel by the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, when I think about that and think about what motivated him. He was supposingly dead. Let's say he was unconscious and he began to be conscious he could have said, "Well you know what? I can't put up with this. I don't have to put up with this". But what happens? He remembered that Jesus Christ appointed him. He was chosen. He had a purpose, a sense of direction that was to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And also when I think about this fourth chapter of Philippians, for example, and look in the, if you will, in the eleventh verse. "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I'm in. I know how to get along with humble means, I also know how to live in prosperity, in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I've learned that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".
Every single one of us has quoted that verse probably many times. And so, when you get down, you don't stay down. You remember something. You remember a conviction you should have. You've been called by God, chosen by God, saved by God, and not only that, you have been given a conviction that your life is to represent the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. You have a testimony. You have a witness no matter what. And the things that we go through that hinder us we think, and cause us pain, and suffering, and rejection, and all the rest, God's using all of that to do what? To equip us to know how to respond to other people who are going through those things. If you've never had any pain, no hurt, no rejection, no suffering, no trial, no heartache, if you've never had any of that, what would you do to someone, and what would you say to them, to someone who's going through those things? And so Paul had conviction. What got him up was I've been appointed to preach the gospel and God has allowed this in my life for a purpose.
The third thing is this, and that is Paul's confidence. Paul had awesome confidence. He knew that he was chosen by Almighty God, and you can read the book of Romans and some of these other epistles, and this awesome sense of confidence that he had that God had chosen him, to save him and to preach the gospel. And I like to think in terms of Romans chapter eight when I think of Paul's confidence and assurance. He says in verse thirty-five of Romans eight, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword"? And by now he'd experienced all that. Will that separate you from Christ? Just as it is written, "For Your sake we are being put to death all day long. We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered. But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us". And he says, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, or anything else he could think of, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord".
Get up! And when you and I get down for whatever reason we may feel down for the moment, we have a right to get up. And we get up based on what? We get up based on the fact that we know we've been converted. We get up based on the fact that we have conviction. And we get up on the basis of the confidence that God has placed within us that no matter what happens, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Somebody says, "Well, suppose Paul had died"? Well, absent from the body, Paul said and what? Present with the Lord. He had this awesome sense of confidence and assurance that no matter what happened to him unless he was going to die, he was getting up.
Now let me ask you a question. What do you do when you get down? Groan? Complain? Moan? Blame somebody? Question God? In other words, what do you do when you get down? You have just as much right to be just as enthusiastic and get up from what you're facing in life as the Apostle Paul did. You say, but God hasn't appointed me to preach the gospel. Watch this, did He appoint you to save you? Yes. When He saved you, He saved you to do what? To walk in a relationship with Jesus Christ so that everybody who meets you meets Him, therefore, you have a definite purpose in your life for being saved besides going to heaven. And I think sometimes we forget. We have a definite purpose for living the Christian life. You're affecting other people's lives you don't even know about. Where you work, or how you live, the things that you do in life, your testimony, you're affecting other people's lives. So we get up based on who we are. We get up based on what He has done for us, and we get up based on our confidence that He who spoke the truth said to us, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". That being true, whatever you and I go through in life, we go through it with Him, not without Him.
And so being down doesn't mean that if you get down you're not a Christian. It means being down as a believer, we get up on the solid basis of the promises of God, not get up because we hope we'll do better. So ask yourself the question this morning: Where are you? Are you down? Are you sort of down? Or are you up? And if you're up, what are you up on the basis of? Watch this, you can be up on the basis... your marriage is right, you got plenty of money, you drive a nice automobile, you live in a nice house, you dress very well, you've got friends. Everything's going your way, you're up. Well that's not much of a real up, frankly, because it doesn't have a solid foundation to... there're people who live like the devil have got all of that. But when it comes to suffering and hurt, and pain and facing death, they don't have anything. And so, our motivation for getting up is who lives within us, able to take us through anything and everything no matter what it might be.
Then, of course, not only his conviction and his confidence, but Paul's courage. It takes courage to go through difficulty, hardship, and pain. And you know the Apostle Paul, he had a lot to say about courage, but probably the passage that we remember the most is in Second Corinthians, and the Bible doesn't use that word courage a lot of times, but for example, listen to this in the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians. And he says in verse five, "Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge". Listen to that. The Holy Spirit came as a pledge to you. Pledge to you that He'd always be with you. Pledge to you that He would empower you for anything you need in life. A pledge to give you direction for your life. He gave Him to us as a pledge.
Now watch this, "Therefore, being always of good courage". That is, what's the basis of our courage? The basis of our courage is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who has all the power of the Godhead within Him. He says, "Therefore, being always of good courage". Look at that, always of good courage, "And knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight. We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body present with the Lord". Be of good courage, he said. We are of good courage. What's that courage based on? The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. So, would you consider yourself a courageous person? Or, do things frighten you easily?
Now, we live in a fearful age. There's no question about that. And fear comes suddenly because danger comes suddenly. But because of who we are, we are to live on the basis of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who will encourage us in every single situation of life. And so, how could Paul get up? He could get up based on the courage that God had given him. He was indwelt by the Spirit of God, and he says in that passage, you know, we're to live by the awareness of that courage. Then I think one of the things that got him up was his commitment. He made a commitment to the Lord, Jesus Christ.
And I think about a lot of passages here, but let me just go to Romans Chapter one for a moment. Romans Chapter one, and listen to what the Apostle Paul says concerning all of this. He says in, for example, in verse fourteen speaking of himself and introducing this book. He said, I'm under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I'm eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I'm not ashamed of the gospel, for it is power of God, the power of God, for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek".
So, what is it that motivated him to get him up? It's his commitment to that. Listen to what he says. He says, "I'm under obligation," obligation to get the gospel to as many people as possible. That got him up. That motivated him. So if you look at the things that made Paul get up when he had lots of reasons to stay down, to walk away, and say, "You know, I've done enough of that God, You call somebody else to finish this out". Think about your life. Think about, for example, what gets you down? And then, think about what you have. Your conversion, your convictions, your confidence, your courage, and your commitment to live a godly life.
So remember the next time you get down, ask yourself the question, what got me down? And secondly, how long have I been down? And thirdly, remind yourself, "I don't have to stay down". Don't start with he, she, they, if. I don't have to stay down. And then, we begin to think as the Apostle Paul thought, because we have the same, indwelling, Holy Spirit within us that enabled him to get up bloody and beaten, and go the next day to preach the gospel again. You and I have the same Holy Spirit to encourage us.
For example, you say, "Well, I'm out of a job". Well, here's what you think about. Don't blame somebody, just tell the Lord, "Lord, I'm willing to work, I'm willing to do whatever You said to do. I'm trusting You to give me the job I need so I can fulfill Your purpose and plan for my life". And you can go through each one of those issues. Whatever has you down can't keep you down when you are responding with the same characteristics the Apostle Paul did. He could have just laid there and died, or he could have said, that's it, I'm finished. Or he could have done what he did. To get up and keep doing what he was doing. The only thing I want you to remember in this sermon, you may be down, you don't have to stay down. You have the same Holy Spirit living within you that'll help you pick yourself up and move on to do what God wants you to do. You don't give up, you get up. Not in your strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And you who are parents, you're setting a pattern for your children, as my mom set for me. You're setting a pattern for other Christians, and there're very weak Christians, doesn't take much of anything to slow them down, or to put them down. But you're an example. An example of what the Spirit of God can do to a person, in a person, for a person, through a person who's going through a difficult time in life. And that is my prayer for you. That you would resort to Him, and not to someone else.
Well, if you're one of those persons who's never been saved, just want to say to you this morning, you can be saved sitting right where you are. You don't have to get up, you don't have to go anywhere, if you're willing to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins, and surrender your life. It may be a mess, it may be so bad that you think, will God save me? Yes, He will. Whoever believes in Him, places their trust in Him, will be forgiven of their sins, and have the gift of eternal life. And to all the rest who may be feeling down, that you will give those down feelings to the Lord this morning, thank Him for being who He is within you, and that you are receiving His strength, confidence, assurance, boldness, courage. That when you walk out of here this morning, you walk out ready to face life. Amen?
Thank You, Lord, for saving somebody this morning. Give them the courage to tell somebody quickly, soon, and thank You for all the rest, Lord, who made a decision this morning, to choose to get up and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus' name. Amen.