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ENTERING THE KINGDOM
THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, April 24, 2016

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).


I recently heard two young men say I should stop talking about the great split our church went through 25 years ago. They said I should preach on the future and not talk about those terrible things our people went through in the past. Now I always listen to criticisms, especially criticisms from friends. And these young men are my friends. But they are dead wrong! Completely wrong! In fact I haven’t preached on that terrible church split nearly enough. And God showed me that I must preach on it again, and again, and again – until its message penetrates your heart and changes your life! And then I must preach it even more! Yes, more and more and more – again, again, and again!

The story is simple. We had about 500 people in our church back then. But there was a certain “leader” of our church who said I was too negative. He said I demanded too much from the people.

He called me a tyrant and a dictator because I preached what Christ preached – “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). And so four hundred people left our church, to have an “easier” life. What happened to them? Well, the “former leader” only kept about fourteen or fifteen of them in his “easy” Sunday-morning-only little church. The others were scattered to the four winds. None of them ever became overcoming Christians, or did anything much for God. Their spiritual lives dried up, and they were blown away like autumn leaves. Christ said, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Yes, I am going to preach on “the 39” people who saved this building. I am going to preach on the four hundred that left the church and went back to the world! Yes, I am! Some rebellious church kids and backsliders say, “He’s an old man with cancer and he won’t say much.” Don’t count on it! I’m not dead yet! And I hate antinomianism and weak new-evangelicalism every bit as much this morning as I did forty years ago! Yes, hate is the right word. I hate it! HATE – hate! with a holy hatred, because Christ Himself hates it! The Bible says, “Hate the evil, and love the good” (Amos 5:15).

Christ said to those weak Laodicean, antinomian, lazy new-evangelicals – here is what Christ says, “I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Yes! “I will vomit you out of my mouth” (Ryrie, NASV margin). “I will vomit you out! I will vomit you out! I will vomit you, spit you, spue you – out of my mouth!” Dr. Charles C. Ryrie said of that verse, “The lukewarm or neutral or compromising...church is repulsive to the Lord, and damaging to His purpose” (Ryrie Study Bible; note on Revelation 3:16).

What is the remedy for Laodicean lukewarmness? What is the cure for new-evangelical laziness and rebellion? The cure is right there in our text:

“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

The Apostle Paul and his assistant Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. They came back to those cities to teach the new Christians there. Dr. Thomas Hale gave these comments. He said,

      It is not enough to preach the Gospel in a place only once. It is necessary also to teach the new believers and to establish them in the faith. And this is what Paul and Barnabas did. They warned the new [converts] that to enter the kingdom of God they would have to endure hardships. If they wanted to be fellow heirs with Christ they would have to suffer for Him (Thomas Hale, M.D., The Applied New Testament Commentary, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1997; note on Acts 14:22).

In his comments on verse 23, Dr. Hale pointed out that all those Paul and Barnabas taught were brand new Christians. He said that even the “elders” in these churches “were themselves new believers” (ibid., verse 23). Paul and Barnabas taught these brand new Christians “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Matthew Henry’s Commentary says, “Not only they must, but we must: it must be counted upon that all who will go to heaven must expect tribulation and persecution...One would think it would rather be a shock to them, and make them weary. No...it will help to confirm them, and fix them for Christ... ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus [will] suffer persecution’...all that be Christ’s disciples must take up their cross” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible; note on Acts 14:22).

Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee;
   Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence, my all shalt be:
Perish every fond ambition, All I’ve sought, and hoped, and known;
   Yet how rich is my condition, God and Heaven are still my own!
(“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).

“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

I. First, the tribulation of conversion.

The text speaks of it, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” The Greek word translated “tribulation” is “thlipsis.” It means “pressure, anguish, burdened, troubled” (Strong). Think of the great prototypical conversions in the Bible. Jacob’s conversion is one of them.

“Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day...and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:24, 25).

The “man” who wrestled with Jacob was God the Son, and Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he [was limping on, NASV] his thigh” (Genesis 32:30, 31). Jacob limped for the rest of his life because he was wounded on the night of his conversion, when his name was changed from Jacob to Israel “which means ‘he fights with God’” (Ryrie Study Bible). Think back to your own conversion. Did you not fight with God? Was there not a struggle before you trusted Christ?

Then think of Paul’s conversion. He was confronted by Christ who said, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5). Dr. Henry M. Morris said he was “behaving like a stubborn animal, rebelling against the pain caused by the goads in his harness” (The Defender’s Study Bible). “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Paul then went through three days of blindness and fasting before he was converted (Acts 9:17).

Then read of the great conversions of Christian history – of Augustine, of Luther, of Bunyan, of Whitefield, of Wesley, of Spurgeon. All of them went through tribulation, pressure, anguish, burdened with sin and deeply troubled – before they trusted the Saviour. Do you think you can really be converted without at least some sense of pressure, anguish and burden for your sin? You can make a false decision. But no man is truly converted without conviction of sin. The Devil tells some men that they are weak if they shed tears. So they “manfully” resist conviction. That’s not manly! That’s a stubborn fool – resisting the Spirit of God! Resisting the Christ who died on the Cross to save him. That man is no better than a Muslim, who thinks he is manly when he blows up little children, rapes women, and cuts off the heads of young men with a sword. Have you ever shed a tear for your sins? “You’ll never get me to do that,” he says. “You’re not going to make me weak. I’m no crybaby!” he boasts. I say you are no better than the Devil – who refused to bow before Almighty God! A man who is afraid to shed a tear for his sins is a coward at heart. That is no “he-man.” That is no “macho-man.” That is a sniveling coward who is afraid to confess his sins before Almighty God!

“We must through much tribulation [anguish and troubled hearts] enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

II. Second, the tribulation of sanctification.

Not only is there tribulation at the time of conversion – tribulation is also required to become a mature Christian. The Apostle Paul said,

“Tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5).

I do not agree at all with John MacArthur on the Blood of Christ. He is very wrong on that important subject! But his comments on Romans 5:3-5 are exactly right. He said, “Tribulation, a word used for pressure, like that of a press squeezing out fluid from olives or grapes. Here they are not the normal pressures of living, but the inevitable troubles that come to followers of Christ...Such difficulties produce rich spiritual benefits... patience, this word refers to endurance, the ability to remain under tremendous weight and pressure without succumbing...Christians can glory in tribulations because of what those troubles produce” (The MacArthur Study Bible).

We become strong Christians through tribulation, through pressure and trials and heartbreak. When I heard those two young men say I shouldn’t speak about the Olivas split, I knew it was the voice of Satan who put that in their minds. I knew they were dead wrong. And it made me more determined than ever to preach about the terrible trial our faithful people went through to save this church. How can you ever hope to become a strong Christian if you refuse to go through those trials yourself? We call the people who saved our church “the 39.” About 39 people suffered so you could have this nice church building. They sacrificed their lives for you. How dare you tell me not to talk about them? How dare you! You have never sacrificed anything for God! No wonder God doesn’t seem real to you! No wonder you feel bad about yourself, and have lost your zeal and faith! You have to go through tribulation to be a good Christian like “the 39.” What tribulation have you gone through? None! You take it for granted that everything is provided for you! If you refuse to go through trials and cross bearing and sacrifices, you will never, ever become a strong Christian like Mrs. Salazar, or Carla Bebout, or Dr. Cagan, or Ben Griffith, or Abel Prudhomme, or Mr. Song, or Mrs. Hymers. You will never be a good Christian if you refuse to sacrifice your life for Jesus Christ!

Some of you didn’t like the sermon Dr. Cagan preached about my life the other night. Some of you thought it was too negative. “Who would want to go through all of that?” you thought. Well, I’ll tell you, if I hadn’t gone through all of that there would be no church building here this morning! If I hadn’t gone through all that you wouldn’t be here either! You “church kids” wouldn’t be here! You wouldn’t even exist if I hadn’t gone through all that! I led your parents to Christ. I performed their weddings. I pastored them through a hellish church split. You church kids wouldn’t even be alive if I hadn’t gone through all that pain and suffering!

Only one church kid sent me a birthday card on my 75th birthday! All of “the 39” sent me cards and notes of thanks. But only one church kid sent me a card. He is a kid who was born and saved in our church, and only he, of all the church kids, sent me a birthday card. And only he wrote these words to cheer my heart,

Dear Dr. Hymers,

      Happy 75th birthday. God bless you for all your faithful service and ministry for Jesus! I am thankful to God for a pastor like you! Thank you for stickin’ to the stuff and living for Jesus. Your life is a wonderful testimony for Jesus! Thank you for being a faithful Christian example. Because of Jesus your life is a wonderful life because your life touches so many others. “Be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Dr. Hymers, you remind me of that verse, and it is my prayer that this church will forge ahead and strive to take your vision for this church and set it ablaze for Jesus! God bless you and keep you, In Jesus’ Name, (and he signed his name). Under his name he put I John 2:17,

“The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

I’m not angry at the rest of you kids. Not at all. I’m just afraid for your souls. I’m just praying for you, sometimes all night long. I fear for you because I know,

“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

I know that if you do not cherish “the 39” – if you don’t love them and follow their example of self-sacrifice – you will never be part of the great church of my dreams and visions. A person who stiffens their neck and says, “I’ll never do it,” is a person who is in danger of not entering the kingdom of God. The Bible says, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). Jesus said,

“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5).

Please stand and sing hymn number 3 on your song sheet.

All for Jesus, all for Jesus! All my being’s ransomed powers:
   All my thoughts and words and doings, All my days and all my hours.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours;
   All for Jesus! All for Jesus! All my days and all my hours.

Let my hands perform His bidding, Let my feet run in His ways;
   Let my eyes see Jesus only, Let my lips speak forth His praise.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Let my lips speak forth His praise;
   All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Let my lips speak forth His praise.

Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside;
   So enchained my spirit’s vision, Looking at the Crucified.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Looking at the Crucified;
   All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Looking at the Crucified.
(“All For Jesus” by Mary D. James, 1810-1883).

Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He shed His Blood to cleanse you from all sin. He rose from the dead to give you eternal life. He is up in Heaven at the right hand of God. When you turn from sin and trust Jesus, He saves you immediately. If you would like to speak with us about being saved by Jesus please follow Dr. Cagan to the back of the auditorium now. Amen.

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Acts 14:19-23.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Living For Jesus” (by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866-1960).


THE OUTLINE OF

ENTERING THE KINGDOM
THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).

(Luke 14:27; 9:62; Amos 5:15; Revelation 3:16)

I.   First, the tribulation of conversion, Genesis 32:24, 25, 30, 31;
Acts 9:5, 6, 17.

II.  Second, the tribulation of sanctification, Romans 5:3-5;
I John 2:17; Proverbs 29:1; Revelation 2:5.