A. A wealthy businessman hosted a spectacular party in which he had filled his swimming pool with sharks, barracuda, and other assorted dangerous fish. He announced to his guests that he would like to challenge any of them to try swimming across the pool, and he would offer a first prize of either a new home in the mountains, a trip around the world for two, or a piece of his business. Suddenly there was a splash and a man swam rapidly across the infested waters and bounded up out on the other side. The millionaire said to the dripping man, "That was quite a performance. What prize do you want?" The man said, "Right now I don't care about any prize. I just want who pushed me in.”
Motivation is important. Many worthy battles are never started or left unfinished because of lack of motivation, the courage and strength to move and keep moving forward. Everyone needs this motivation. Every believer especially needs this impelling power to energize us and draw us on in faithfulness and service to Christ.
B. And that’s why we sit up and take notice whenever we find God’s people so encouraged. In our text for this morning from Acts 20 we see the little company of believers in Troas and note that they were “not a little comforted.” That word could also be translated, “encouraged,” “strengthened,” or “emboldened.” They found great help. The believers in Troas, like all the rest of the followers of Jesus, were asked to believe something amazing, something admittedly out of the mainstream, for which belief they might suffer greatly. And the same is true today. You and I are invited in the Gospel to believe something astonishing, something that is out of the mainstream, for which belief we may also be required to suffer greatly. And we need to be “not a little comforted” ourselves. We need to be encouraged in the same way.
Where do we find this continual encouragement? How can we be constantly strengthened in the faith, vigorous, stirred up, and strong? Luke, the author of Acts, conveys this truth in our text for today.
C. He does so in the midst of the description of a voyage that truly reads like a diary or logbook of their travels. It is as though he is jotting down a record of their progress as they make their way to Jerusalem, and in the midst, expands on this one remarkable event at Troas. Why does he give all these details, some of which seem irrelevant to the story at hand? The point is that this account is TRUE! This is the eyewitness record from Luke’s own journal. A reader who was familiar with this region would have recognized these places and this route of travel. It really happened, he was there, this is a genuine historical record, not mere legend or myth or fable.
D. We must remember that the Christian faith is rooted in fact, in truth. We will never be greatly comforted or encouraged by myths. Santa Claus and the tooth fairy may inspire the imaginations of little children, but adults find no real comfort in make-believe. The reason we are asked to believe something amazing, even though this belief may be costly, is not really because this belief is helpful or useful, but primarily because it is true. If it is not true, then please don’t believe it. If something else is true instead, then you need to be honest: leave this, give it all up, and go believe something else. Christianity is never afraid of the truth, because it is true. All of the biblical writers assumed that what they were conveying was real, and most of them were eyewitnesses, as was Luke.
And here’s what he tells us: “1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece.” (This probably took place from the summer of 56 to the fall of 57, and they spent the winter in Greece.) “3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.” (This ship was probably a Jewish pilgrim ship headed for Jerusalem for the Passover.) “4 Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus from Berea, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.” (Notice the word “we” in verse six. Luke, whom they earlier left in Philippi to strengthen the church there, now joined them: “we.”) And now the stage is set for this remarkable event at Troas.
So what gives God’s people encouragement? How might we grow strong in the grace of God and steadfast in faith? How might we also enjoy “not a little comfort”?
I. HONOR GOD IN WORSHIP. A. At Troas, Paul leads them in worship, and we learn some interesting details about worship in the New Testament church. “7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”
1. Upon which day of the week did they worship? It was on the first day of the week. They worshiped on Sunday. Some Christian groups will say that the church is in error for worshiping on Sunday when the Old Testament day of worship was the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, Saturday. They will say that by worshiping on Sunday we are being unbiblical. I think they need to read their Bible’s again. After the resurrection of Christ, the Christians, especially the Gentile Christians, no longer worshiped on Saturday, but on the first day of the week, Sunday. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul assumes that the day for Christian gathering and giving offerings is the first day of the week. And if you think that this must have been some special service because Paul came to visit and because they were leaving the next day, Luke specifically states that they were there seven days. Yet the day they chose to gather for breaking bread (the Lord’s Supper) was Sunday.
2. And notice the time of their worship. It was at night, undoubtedly because many of the believers at Troas had to work during the day. So the notion that Christians ought rightly to worship on the Sabbath, or that Sunday for the Christian is exactly the same as the Sabbath for the Jews does not appear to be supported by the New Testament.
B. What is important to note is that the early Christians gathered each week for worship. Why did they receive “not a little comfort”? It is because they met with God in worship. Weekly gathering to meet with God in worship is essential for every believer. As the old saying goes, “Seven days without worship makes one weak.” It is in pausing each Lord’s Day and meeting with God, renewing the marvelous covenant he has made with us, enjoying the fellowship and ENCOURAGEMENT of his people, that we receive continually “not a little comfort.” We are reminded each week of who we are, to whom we belong, and where we are headed. In worship we meet together with God.
The great protestant reformer, Martin Luther once was so depressed that one day his wife, Katy, came downstairs dressed in all black clothing.
Martin Luther asked, "Who died?"
She said, "God has."
Startled, Luther shot back, "God hasn't died!"
And Katy said, "Well, then act like it."
Worship is where we remember that God is not dead.
C. This is the Sunday after Labor Day, traditionally the Sunday when summer is over and we get back into our non-vacation routine. And, in truth, some of you have neglected worship over the summer, imagining that you would be happier or that you would prosper better elsewhere, engaging in other activities on the Lord’s Day. But have you? “Seven days without worship makes one weak.” Do you think it was a good thing to take a vacation from God?
II. HEAR GOD IN HIS WORD. A. And they were also “not a little comforted” by the Word of God. The worship service is specifically described as gathering together to “break bread,” referring no doubt to the Lord’s Supper. Yet most of the time was devoted to the Word of God. “7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.”
B. Now before you begin with the jokes about long-winded preachers or sleeping in church, let’s set the record straight. Apparently nobody else fell asleep. And why did he fall asleep? The young man Eutychus was probably one of those who had worked hard all day. And he was sitting at the window, Luke tells us, probably because there were many (oil) lamps burning and because the air was getting a bit hazy and heavy. And yet even after midnight, they still eagerly heard the Word of God until daybreak. They pulled an all-nighter in Bible study! Nobody seemed to mind; they were eager to hear the Word of God. And as a result of hearing it, they received “no little comfort.”
C. Spiritual vitality is a lot like physical vitality: it is improved by diet and exercise. The risen Lord Jesus told Peter to “Feed my lambs.” The implication is that we need a steady diet of God’s Word. The Lord Jesus imparts his invincible life to us through eating the Word unto the renewing of the mind, and by eating the bread and drinking the cup of his body and blood in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. God sets the table each week. God calls you to feast on his Word every Lord’s Day. He is always present to strengthen and bless
So we are “not a little comforted,” we are greatly encouraged by worship, meeting with God each week, remembering his greatness and glory, receiving his pardon and peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we are greatly encouraged by the Word of God, as Jesus feeds and strengthens us through renewing our minds. And there is a third way we grow in confidence, at it is to:
III. HOPE IN GOD WITH WONDER.A. Something happened at midnight. Poor Eutychus, the patron saint of all who get sleepy in church, fell asleep and literally fell to his death. “9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.” This does not mean that he was mistakenly taken for dead. The original language is clear. Luke intends for us to understand that after his fall from the third story window, Eutychus was so severely injured that he died instantly. Luke was there. Luke was a physician. He knew death when he saw it.
But that was not the end of the story. “10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” Some have pointed to the parallels to the prophets Elijah and Elisha, both of whom raised dead people by taking them up in their arms. What Luke wants us to understand is that Eutychus was clearly killed as the result of his injuries from this fall, and that God raised him from the dead.
B. Now let’s just think for a moment what happened here. Eutychus fell from the third story, about 25 feet. His body’s speed at impact would have been around 25 miles per hour. At that speed he would have undoubted have broken bones. These bones were mended instantly. Much more serious would have been the internal and perhaps external bleeding as his major blood vessels and organs would have ruptured on impact. This also was healed immediately. But most serious of all would have been the trauma to his head and spine, irreparable brain damage and paralysis, and that, too, was repaired instantly. No wonder they were not a little comforted.
C. Remember they had been asked to believe something amazing, something admittedly out of the mainstream, for which belief they might suffer greatly. And here was a reminder of how truly amazing this was! Even though they might need to suffer for Christ, perhaps suffer martyrdom and death, no matter. Christ gives true life that cannot be quenched. And if you would be greatly encouraged, you need to hope in God with wonder. Eutychus was raised from the dead that night because he had put his faith in the Author of Life, the one who held the keys to death and hell and had promised everlasting life to all who follow him. Eutychus served as a living example to the believers there and the believers here that our faith in Christ is not in vain, but that while sinners will perish into everlasting death, those who trust Christ can never really die. And you need to rejoice I that hope: you need to hope in God with wonder.
This week I attended two funerals. One was an older person, a woman 89 years old. The other was a young man, 32 years old. But they were both equally dead. And, by all reports, they both trusted Christ. And so they will both live forever.
And some day I will probably attend your funeral. Or, perhaps, you will attend my funeral. Nothing can stop that from happening. But if you are trusting Christ, as I am trusting Christ, that great and scary death will be just a bump on the road. If you walk with Christ in this life, you will walk with him in the next life and forever, because he is the resurrection and the life. And that is very comforting.