SERIES: The Book of Acts

TEXT: Acts 15:36-41

MESSAGE: “Overcoming Adversity In Relationships


“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

“Email doesn’t convey context. We experience email as words on a screen, but we miss seeing a unique face in a unique context. One report on this study concludes: “This makes it easy to forget the humanness of our recipient. Consequently, email style tends to be more serious and less friendly, more aggressive and less polite.” — Jody Bruner

“Jonathan’s covenant friendship with David brackets Saul’s repeated attempts…to kill David. Jonathan lives out his covenantal friendship in hard circumstances. Many a covenantal friendship is lived out similarly in ‘Saul’s court,’ in marital, family, work, and cultural conditions that are hostile to a vowed intimacy.” — Eugene Peterson

So, what can we learn today about overcoming adversity in relationships

TEXT: Acts 15:36-41; 2 Timothy 4:11

Acts 13:13, “Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” 

QUESTION: How do relationships last through adversity? 

Here are three aspects to consider…(1. Seeing the Other Side 2. Seeking a Healthy Resolution 3. Trusting God for Reconciliation)

1. Seeing the Other Side (v. 37-39a) 

Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.”

“…they were men, not angels. Flawed humans, even these mighty missionaries, will sometimes face moments of contention.” — Tony Merida

“Our judgement goes with Paul, but our hearts go with Barnabas.” — Kent Hughes

James 4:1 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”

2. Seeking a Healthy Resolution (v. 39b-41)

“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.” 

“What resulted was a solution that allowed the advance of the gospel to continue, but recognized a need for distinct ministries. Sometimes this is the best solution.” — Darrell Bock

“From friends to frenemies, it happens oh-so often in Hollywood (and in real-life). But, for A-listers, perhaps the pressures of high-profile careers are just enough to strain a relationship to the breaking point. Outside pressures aside, when friends become enemies, experts say, it could be their own egos at fault. According to New York-based marriage and family therapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, “Celebrities need attention and external validation to feed their insatiable narcissism. Their narcissism in turn consumes them with self-obsession—qualities that destroy relationships and provoke hostility from others,” he says. “When two narcissistic celebrities enter into a relationship with one another the results are toxic and explosive.” — Jené Luciani 

3. Trusting God for Reconciliation (2 Timothy 4:11) 

“Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”

  • “…Was it Paul’s tough rebuke or Barnabas’ tender patience that saved Mark for the cause of the gospel? Or could it have been both? In any case, the Lord brought victory out of contention, and Mark not only became useful to Paul but also served as Peter’s interpreter and wrote our second gospel—the gospel according to Mark.” – John Piper 

TAKEAWAYS: How can we overcome adversity in relationships? By understanding that…

  • Forgiveness and reconciliation are two separate processes

Jesus clearly warned that God will not forgive our sins if we do not forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:14-15Mark 11:25). It’s not that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving; instead, God expects forgiven people to forgive (Matthew 18:21-35). Yet forgiveness is very different from reconciliation. It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with her offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process—-sometimes, a lengthy one. Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. While its aim is restoration of a broken relationship, those who commit significant and repeated offenses must be willing to recognize that reconciliation is a process. If they’re genuinely repentant, they will recognize and accept that the harm they’ve caused takes time to heal. In many cases, even if an offender confessed his wrong to the one he hurt and appealed for forgiveness, the offended person could justifiably say, “I forgive you, but it might take some time for me to regain trust and restore our relationship.” The evidence of genuine forgiveness is personal freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response (Romans 12:17-21), but not always an automatic restoration of relationship.” — Steve Cornell

  • God’s plan is more active than we think

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship…is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” — C.S. Lewis

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