Christ’s SAR Techs
Text: Acts 13
Proposition: When the Holy Spirit calls you and separates you and sends you out on a Search and Rescue mission it will demand faith, risk, readiness and action.
Introduction: SAR Techs, specialists in Search and Rescue, are called upon at all hours to go into hazardous settings and bring out those who are lost or injured. They train, they get equipped and when the call comes they are sent. Sometimes you’ll see those bright yellow and orange aircraft that the military use called Buffalo. With the loading ramp door at the rear of the plane lowered they will have four techs strapped in, laying down on the ramp door in the blast of the wind and noise as they peer out over the edge with binoculars. They scan the trees and creeks and clearings for any signs of life. In a similar way the work of discipleship, evangelism and missions is like that of SAR Techs. There is a search and recover operation here too. This morning we are going to see SAR Techs in action, Christ’s SAR Techs, as they are readied, called and sent. In fact as we do this we may discover there are SAR Techs amongst us, perhaps some who are about to be called out and maybe some who have recently arrived at a mission of search and rescue. Turn with me to Acts 13.
I. Search and Rescue Is All About Team Work.
God picks the strangest people to be members of His search and Rescue team, peculiar people, people who used to fight against God and people who have loved Him since they were children. But He picks them and puts them together as a team called the church where each team member has a critical role to play and the success of their role is heavily dependent upon the other team members. Search and Rescue has people who jump out of airplanes and people who fly them and people who fuel them and people who organize them and people who are doing the work on the phones and with the families. Have a look at some of the members of this strange team in Acts 13. There was Barnabas, a man from Jerusalem who sold all he had and gave it to the church for the widows and orphans and others in need. There was Simeon who was also called Niger, possibly the same Simeon who had been called upon to carry the cross of Christ on that Friday so many years before. He had just come to celebrate the Passover and suddenly he was drawn into the agony of the cross and became covered in the blood of Jesus. There was Lucius of Cyrene, possibly one of those referred to in Acts 11:20, “But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.” Then there was Manaen, a Jew of power and position who had been raised with Herod Antipas. Lastly of course is this guy named Saul, a man who had started out hating the church and now was a SAR Tech in it. These were some of the prophets and teachers in this new church plant in Antioch. But look what happened, they began to fast and pray, there was this sense that God was about to do something and it involved all of them. They readied themselves, got the equipment on and then the call came. “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Who do you think the Holy Spirit is talking to here? I believe he’s talking to the whole Team, the church. What is He calling them to do…to separate some from the main group in order to start a rescue work. Look at their response, “Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” Who’s the ‘they’, it’s the church, it’s the base team. Note two things here, 1. The work of being ready and waiting for the Holy Spirit’s call is the work of the whole Team. 2. Always the work of a SAR Tech will require separation from where you were, what you’d been doing and who you’d been with. The process is Call, Separate, Send. The whole church affirms it and stands behind this work that the Holy Spirit has put into action. Bottom line Search and Rescue in the Gospel requires the whole Team.
II. Search and Rescue Is Dreary, Slow, Footslogging, Exhilarating Work.
Don’t ever join a Search and Rescue Team for the adventure unless you consider hard work, sleeplessness, sore feet and back and little thanks an adventure. It’s work, hard work that sometimes yields little or no immediate results. Paul and Barnabas along with young John Mark go to the sea port of Selucia and then set sail for Cyprus. They land on the east coast of the island and walk the entire length of the island with no evident results until they get the far west side of the island at Paphos. That’s a 200 km walk along coastal plains and plateaus, Cyprus is the 81st largest island in the world. When they finally get to Paphos on the western tip of the island, they find one person who is interested in hearing about Jesus. That one person happens to a Roman proconsul, the highest ranking person of the town and a Roman officer. Barring their way to this man is a sorcerer named Elymas. That’s the thing about Search and Rescue, it always has times of resistance. What we forget is that God has a perfect purpose for resistance. He uses it to build faith in Paul as he speaks against the sorcerer, asking God to create a temporary blindness. The proconsul, Sergius Paulus, then listens even more earnestly and believes and is astonished at the words of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What’s the point of all this? It’s that the church, which can only function well as a body, a team of specialists, has a task in front of it that is all about Search and Rescue. Some of the people you will encounter are hurt and can’t move, some are lost and can’t find their way through the forests of ideas and the cliffs of opinion. To find them requires search, that’s a time consuming process. When you do find them it requires rescue which is often slow, risky and sometimes impossible to our efforts. You are SAR techs, it’s your role to maximize your training and to get yourselves as prepped as you can for you have no idea how it might be put to the task. Ministry is not a glamorous work, it’s not fast paced. It demands faith and love and patience or else it will find you luke warm to the task and it will spit you out. As a SAR Tech you need to know that. When Paul and Barnabas and John Mark sail to the mainland and arrive at Perga, John Mark quits the team and heads for home. That can happen when you aren’t prepared for the reality of ministry. It knocked the wind out of Paul and took him a long time to recover. Eventually Barnabas would take John Mark under his wing again and disciple him and Paul too would reconcile with him. The ministry of Search and Rescue will be like that.
III. Search and Rescue Waits For the Break in the Clouds and Dives Through.
Paul and Barnabas come to Antioch in Pisidia and on a Sabbath they go into the local synagogue and hear a passage read from the Law and another from the Prophets. Then, as customary, new attenders were invited to comment of the passages read. That’s the break in the clouds they had been waiting for. So Paul begins with the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament and he connects the events of the Exodus to the time of Israel’s first kings, especially to king David. He refers to the Davidic Covenant that promises a descendent from the line of David whose kingdom will be eternal. That’s the connection to Jesus, the one whom John the Baptist had been proclaiming. Paul goes from past tense to present tense, he begins at a place where there is no dispute, Moses, and then takes them to a place where there is current knowledge, John the Baptist. The link that binds both together is Jesus Christ. From the objective truth of historical Scripture Paul then moves to the subjective truth of his own life, a witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Upon this foundation then comes the message of the gospel, God has made a promise which he will never break. That promise was whispered about in king David, but David died, he was just a man. The man who has died and come back from the dead, the successor of king David, is Jesus. The everlasting promise of God is this, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” The promise is that God has made a way for all to be forgiven of all their sin, justified freely in Christ Jesus. The gospel is proclaimed and then the call is given… don’t despise what you’ve just heard. There have been many who have done just that and have been left to the wayside as they wondered about God but never believed, as they despised His Word and His only Way in Jesus and as a result perished. The gospel brings information, testimony, the cross, the promise of redemption and a warning not to waste it. There was a break in the clouds and at the right moment Paul and Barnabas dove in. I love how this ends, “So when the Jews went out of the synagogue the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath… On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” Search and Rescue, it’s our call, it’s why we are separated and sent out by the Holy Spirit and by the church.