Matthew R. Perry

“Come Over to Trinidad and Help Us” (Acts 16:6-10)

In Missions, Sermons on January 15, 2007 at 2:32 pm

It’s called the Greatest Show on Earth — and, no, I am not talking about Barnum & Bailey’s circus. Some have said it is much like Mardi Gras on caffeine. The week before the season of Lent, which is a season of fasting until Resurrection Sunday (Easter), the country of Trinidad and Tobago engages in a celebration known as Carnival.

Look at what the Trinidad and Tobago tourism website says about Carnival:

With its massive masquerade bands, astounding costumes, pulsating music and unparalleled stamina for partying, Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival is often described as the world’s greatest street festival. In 2007, the annual Carnival season climaxes on Monday, February 19th and Tuesday, February 20th, when thousands of costumed revellers take to the streets to “play mas”. For the fun loving people who live in these sun kissed isles, Carnival begins in earnest on Boxing Day when the fetes (parties) go non-stop until Carnival Sunday. It is during this period that calypso tents open their doors to the public and cultural shows, from limbo competitions to massive soca concerts, begin.
An explosion of colour, music, revelry, and creativity, Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival has spawned similar celebrations around the world; but nothing on earth can rival the abandon, euphoria and stunning spectacle of our festival. Carnival in these islands has evolved over 200 years from a celebration enjoyed exclusively by French plantation owners, to an enormous event that equally embraces people of every colour, creed, class and background. Larger than life, the festival defies simple explanations.

One word that many in Trinidad use to describe this festival is the word ‘bacchanalian.’ Much lewdness and debauchery accompany this festival. It is for that reason that many churches do not participate because the activities there indulge the flesh so badly that their message would be lost. Some try — but are overrun by the party.

It is no coincidence that we are traveling to Trinidad in January. When I went to Trinidad last year to conduct a leadership conference, one of the sessions dealt with the leader’s family. I opened it up for questions, and we spent more time talking about marriage and family issues than we did with the actual lecture portion. Why? Because people want to know what God says about these issues. They are begging for someone to come over to Trinidad and help them.

We have a tradition at our church (and someone defined a tradition as anything in a church that is done more than once). That tradition is this: if we have a team going on mission — whether to Trinidad or New Orleans or WorldChangers or any other team that God sends from our church — we as a church will commission then with our prayers and our support to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus. We must not misunderstand the purpose of these services. We are not here to simply exalt the five who are going. We are following a biblical pattern where churches under the guidance of the Holy Spirit send with God’s blessing. Why do they go? Because the Holy Spirit reveals to men and women of God the need to help that land know the Good News of Jesus Christ.

1. We cannot initiate a spiritual work — only God can (Acts 16:6-7).

Paul had plans. Yet Paul’s plans never overrode the plan of the Holy Spirit of God. During Paul’s first missionary journey with Barnabus. They traveled various places in Asia Minor. Yet, Paul’s plans were firmly grounded in God’s plans. Paul’s conversion and calling to the Gentiles came from the Holy Spirit revealed from heaven. And we see that when this calling came about that on his first missionary journey during a church service. In Acts 13:2, “While they were worshiping and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabus and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The Holy Spirit of God is the one who commissions. So they went to Cyprus, Antioch Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Antioch in Syria, then back to Jerusalem.

Prior to the second missionary journey, something which seemed rather unspiritual happened.

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” [37] Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. [38] But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. [39] And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, [40] but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. [41] And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:36-41, ESV).

This disagreement over the value (or lack) of Mark caused Paul and Barnabus to split. While on the surface, this is tragic, but God actually used this to multiply his ministry but sending two teams in two directions.

Yet, just as the Spirit opens doors (to God be the glory), so too does the Spirit close those doors (to God be the glory). We cannot manipulate the work of God. It’s just as much of a sin to try to go where God has said no than to not go when God says go. Paul understood this principle. He knew from his studies in the Old Testament that when Israel went into battle without the presence of the Lord, defeat occurred because his favor did not go before them.

(More tomorrow.)

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