If I were to subtitle this section of Acts 18:24-28 about Apollos, I would name it with one word; “Teachable.” As Aquila and Priscilla had been taught accurately the foundational truths of the gospel by Paul, they wanted to do the same thing with others who were “teachable.” There was already a good spiritual foundation with Apollos. He was:
It seemed that his only deficiency was understanding baptism. Was that sufficient reason for Aquila and Priscilla to spend time with him to adjust his understanding so he could teach “the way of God more accurately? The fruit of their investment in Apollos speaks for itself; “he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (18:27-28).
These are the kind of persons that we should be looking for. From such teachable people, God will expand HIS work faster and further than we can imagine. Being teachable is a result of the Spirit working in them. Are you teachable?
FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL
There are moments of reflection that make me feel very ashamed. I love to take time thinking about the life of Paul and how he pushed through hardships and trials in order to be effective in sharing the gospel. He considered his personal life worth nothing in comparison to preaching the life-giving message of Jesus to those who never heard (Acts 20:24).
I am afraid we place too much emphasis on making sure we have comforts and conveniences at our fingertips, so we do not suffer more than we want to suffer. I have wondered why Paul made the list of things he suffered in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29?
“Far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (11:23–27).
It was not boasting, but an expression of his passion. Paul endured all this FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL, and I worry about having hot water and clean sheets! There is no sin in conveniences, but when they hinder me from giving the gospel to others, I miss God’s purpose for placing me where I am. I cannot afford letting suffering or inconvenience hinder God’s plan for me “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Are you with me in this?
A WORK ETHIC MODEL
Acts 18:1-17. Corinth becomes an effective place for Paul’s ministry. He first meets Aquila and Priscilla who were also tent makers, the same vocation Paul had. He stayed with them, worked with them and then “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath” after hours. Because Paul sets an example for us of one who worked and did ministry at the same time, we must pay attention.
This model has been ignored by the Church for centuries. Paul insisted that his model was worth following (Acts 20:18, 34; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). With such a clear example in Paul, why have we not followed this effective method in today’s ministry? The answer would take more room than I have here, but it is important that each of us in our cultures answer this question.
Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians was, “we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10–12). Paul’s exhortations are not just theory, but they are supported and proven by his own example which adds weight to his words. This is another reason why his ministry was so fruitful and became part of Scripture. It therefore carries authority for us.
If we are honest, money has played too large a role in ministry decisions. We need to get back to the model in Scripture and see how our effectiveness and power will be generated by the Spirit.
'SECOND FIDDLE' PEOPLE TO THE END
As our team has been reading through the Book of Acts, new insights keep emerging as I read this letter written by Luke, a doctor. Over 30 times in the Book of Acts, Luke uses the word “we” to indicate that he was there with Paul and others on the many journeys and places Paul went to.
In the very last letter Paul wrote at the end of his life, he makes one small reference to this doctor who played ‘second fiddle’ to Paul; “Luke alone is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). When we consider all that Paul went through during those years, it must have been a tremendous comfort to have a doctor by his side, a man who loved the Lord and shared the same values Paul had.
It does not matter what role you have, you know there are persons God put in your life as a support and encouragement along your journey. I can think of several. Have you taken time to thank them for the role they have played in your life? These are persons who never sought prominence but wanted to be there for you in the good times and when they were difficult. God placed them there so you would not give up or stop from fulfilling your purpose. THANK THEM!
OUT OF DANGER INTO OPPORTUNITY
Acts 17:10-15 is a wonderful example of God using His people to redirect His servants. As opposition in Thessalonica gained momentum, safety for Paul and Silas became a concern “the brothers [in Thessalonica]immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea” (10). Though this was not Paul’s plan, it worked out for the furthering of the gospel.
It was not just the fact that Paul and Silas followed their custom of entering the Jewish synagogue to proclaim the gospel, but God placed them among people in Berea who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica [because] they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (11). Notice the meaning of these words:
Though the time there was very short (3 months), Paul and Silas left behind them a local church capable of growing on their own (self-propagating). This is as effective as disciple making can be.
If we were more like the Early Church, we would be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and He would lead us to people in whom He is already working and who really want to be discipled. Being led by the Spirit is a mark of a true disciple (Galatians 5:18, 25).
AT THE POINT OF GIVING UP?
Why do we get to this point when our thoughts turn very negative, and we feel like everything is against us and even think we are a failure? This is not new, and you are not the first to feel that way and you will not be the last.
Elijah went through a similar experience. God used him in a mighty way to confront Ahab and the prophets of Baal. Through this time, Elijah’s faithfulness opened the door for God to show His power. “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 1:38). WOW!!
From this point of victory, Elijah “seized the prophets of Baal…brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there” (40). When Jezebel hears what happened, she threatened Elijah’s life and “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life” (19:3). Was the power of God any different for Elijah than it was in dealing with 450 false prophets? Absolutely not!
It is often after we have experienced God’s exceptional help that we turn into ourselves and forget that we are only tools in the hand of the Master. HE ALONE RECEIVES THE GLORY! It is always important to maintain a proper perspective on what God does through us and not put ourselves at the center of HIS work.
CONTENT IN SUFFERING?
As you read that title, you probably think I have lost my mind or am out of touch with reality. Stay with me for a few minutes. Contentment in suffering is not easy and does not come automatically. Paul knew this to be true. Read what he says:
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11–13).
Discovering the benefits of suffering and being content in them is a learned discipline. When we allow God to teach us in suffering, contentment comes in several ways:
May you discover these qualities and much more.
THE BENEFITS OF SUFFERING
If we realize there are benefits to suffering, we will stop looking for others to blame for what we are going through and start asking God to teach us what He wants us to learn through trial.
Going back to my friend Job, In the middle of his suffering and condemnation of his friends, he speaks with confidence of God’s hand on him; “He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).
David asked God to test him. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24). Notice the benefit of trial. It leads to a way that is eternal.
In all the suffering that Israel went through, she did not accept correction (Zephaniah 3:1-2). Solomon told his son; “whoever loves discipline loves knowledge” (Proverbs 3:11). The problem with this is that we become so distracted with the suffering that we fail to ask the right questions that will help us gain from the trials.
You may be going through a very hard time. I invite you to get alone with the Lord and ask Him to show you what He is teaching, submit to His grace and you will gain far more than you can imagine.
SUFFERING IS NOT NEW
It seems that the number of people has increased who ask me the question; ‘why am I going through all this trouble?’ For some, things were going well for them until recently and then it is one problem after another. Can we find an explanation for this?
The first principle of suffering to remember is that it is part of our fallen condition. Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned through disobedience, God placed on them the effect of sin; “for in the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall die” (Genesis 2:17).
In addition to death, God placed on women a unique suffering; “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (3:16). To men God said, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (3:17).
Job understood this principle when he said, “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (5:7). When Satan afflicted Job, his wife told him to “curse God and die” (2:9), to which Job replied, “shall we receive good from God and…not receive evil?” (2:10).
To understand suffering we must see its origin for a proper perspective. We will look more at the subject of suffering tomorrow.
LEARNING FOR ALL
I am finding some interesting nuggets in history that I have not known before. I was given the book, On This Day in Christian History by Robert J. Morgan, subtitled, 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs, and Heroes.
On February 2nd, the story centered around Alcuin who lost his parents in childhood. He was raised by schoolmasters and had access to the vast library at York, England’s Cathedral School. The boy fell in love with learning and eventually became the school’s headmaster (767 AD).
As he filled several positions as a famous scholar, he believed in educating the clergy and all the people. “The first thing to learn, Alcuin said, was the Lord’s Prayer, then the Ten Commandments. He was ever zealous for studying the Scriptures and preaching the gospel.”
In the same way that Alcuin used the Bible for teaching persons to read, write and understand, this has been done around the world in many languages and cultures around the world. From my own experience, reading the Bible as the family and others sit around the dinner table is a great way to educate them on many levels.
Peter says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). Through the Scriptures, “the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
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