“Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2 Timothy 2:10). This verse came to mind as I was editing yesterday’s blog. 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 proves that the leaders in Corinth did not understand the depth of Paul’s passion for the gospel and his desire that they become mature in Christ (11:1-3). The sufferings listed in these verses prove beyond doubt that Paul was ready to “endure everything for the sake of the elect”.
The second half of this verse in 2 Timothy needs to be understood. To “obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” is not salvation from sin and damnation, but “deliverance and preservation” in our walk as believers, as the context confirms. There are so many pressures in this world that work against this: money, possessions, public recognition (especially in the church), sins of attitude and lust for secret pleasures. Paul wanted Timothy to follow his example and endure all things so the church would have the right example in all areas of life and ministry.
Where is this endurance today? Where are godly leaders who are more concerned about protecting the flock than their own comforts? No wonder Paul warned the Ephesian elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves” (Acts 20:28). What is your primary concern in life and ministry?
As we were going through Chapter 4 of God’s Plan for His Church and looking at how Paul developed elders in Ephesus, I was thinking of some countries where we have labored. In Acts 20:33, Paul said, "I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel." And then I got to thinking about the 10th commandment, "You shall not covet" (Exodus 20:17). What exactly does “covet” mean? “Covet” means to “desire greatly with lust” after things that belongs to someone else and not to us. Never having enough money is regarded as a symptom of the love of money." Paul concluded his example of not coveting in Acts 20:35b, "How [Jesus] Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’"
Much of the ministry and teachers in Corinth was concerned with money, so Paul did not get involved in either taking or giving. I would imagine that Paul, like us today, was SICK of money and coveting in a ministry. I know the training I am doing here in Myanmar and Thailand are both self-sustaining and I am not paying for being here and doing the training. Just food for thought. When you look into the Scriptures and understand the early church, it is heart breaking how we have made a business of ministry, a profession of ministers, in our day. Lord, please give us your mind, the mind of Christ!
Here is some more food for thought. The gospel and church planting in the Early Church went from Jerusalem to Rome in 25 years and turned their world upside down for Christ, not to mention Paul's 3 missionary journeys in 10 years and on and on! When we rely on the Lord, we will see the Holy Spirit move biblical ministry forward in His power, His way.
By Tim, Edited by Sherman
For Paul, it seemed that there were so many times when his life was in the balance. His public testimony in Jerusalem caused the crowd to become so “violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks” (Acts 23:10). If this intense hatred for the gospel prevailed, what would the next step for Paul be? Was this the end of his public, and perhaps, private ministry? Where would he go from here if he was released? Was there anywhere safe to go that would receive the gospel?
These questions and more run through our minds and hearts when we face difficulties in the Lord’s work. The Holy Spirit has given us a very specific calling to equip the church for renewal and church planting among the unreached on a biblical foundation, and yet the number of those who respond is so small. Tradition, money and hard hearts seem to throw up obstacles everywhere.
I take great courage from how the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified in the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (23:11). Trails and occasions of standing before kings and rulers to plead his case and testify of the gospel still lie between him and Rome. For him, it did not matter what he must endure, God’s word and plan was spoken and Paul must press on.
Have you been discouraged by setbacks in ministry or life? Be sure to remember the promises of God that will never be broken. Let them confirm the will of God for going forth in His name and power with the gospel to the nation at your doorstep and around the world.
Yesterday we finished with permission given to Paul to speak to the crowd of Jews who wanted him dead. This might seem like a very intimidating situation, especially since they were calling for his death. Remember what Paul said to the brethren in Caesarea? “I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). Nothing had changed in Paul’s heart.
Now that Paul had permission, what would he say? So many have come to me asking how to present the gospel to the unbeliever. As Paul did, I remind them that they are a walking example of the power of the gospel. He recounted his history from being a persecutor of The Way to proclaiming the good news of Jesus to Jew and Gentile (22:1-21).
My dear friend, take a moment and recount in detail to yourself what God has done in your life. That is your greatest witness. If you cannot do this, then you may not know Jesus as you think you do. This moment is urgent – draw near to Him. I can tell you from personal experience that the longer I walk with the Lord the more precious becomes my story of what He has done for me. He is still preparing me to do everything God has planned for my life FOR THE SAKE OF HIS NAME!
We are continuing to follow Paul’s life as he returns to Jerusalem and is welcomed by the “brothers”. As was Paul’s custom, he heads to the center of spiritual activity, whether a synagogue or the temple in Jerusalem. That is where he has the opportunity to engage in conversation with those who would have the greatest influence if their hearts were open to the gospel and God’s truth. What he expected to happen did. “Jews from Asia, seeing him [Paul] in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him” and then accused him of “teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place” (Acts 21:27-28). Paul is not at all surprised.
If the false accusation and dragging Paul out of the temple were not enough, they began beating him, “seeking to kill him” (21:31). Does all this mistreatment stop or even dampen the passion of Paul’s heart? NOT FOR A MOMENT! After the tribune and soldiers step in to prevent the crowd from carrying out their plan, he sees an opportunity to speak to the crowd under the military protection. With his multi-national background and fluency in Greek and Hebrew, Paul tells the soldiers, “I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia…I beg you, permit me to speak to the people” (21:39). Up to this point it seems that God’s plan in using Paul to proclaim the gospel in Jerusalem was aborted. He is granted permission.
I have been guilty on so many occasions of making excuses for not taking a bold step in proclaiming Christ. I have taken little indicators as signals that I shouldn’t proclaim Jesus when in my heart I knew God’s prompting – I silenced my voice. Not Paul! “Paul, standing on the steps…addressed them in the Hebrew language” (21:40).
God is looking for a few who will take a stand for Him in the most difficult places. God opens doors, not us. Jesus told the church at Philadelphia, “the words of the Holy One, the true One, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7).
With no disrespect to many missionaries who have given their lives to share the gospel across the world, one of the things I look for and rarely see, is evidence of a spontaneous movement of God. Paul certainly saw this kind of movement. When he went to Jerusalem against the pleading of his brothers, he found a keen interest in the Jerusalem church with what God was doing. “After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God” (Acts 21: 19-20).
The heart for the gospel was still very much alive in the place where it began by the Holy Spirit nearly twenty eight years later (Gene Edwards, Revolutionary Bible Study, page 243). In that time there had been severe persecutions, imprisonments, and murder of some saints. This in no way stopped the movement of God! In fact, the brothers at Jerusalem said to Paul, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed” (21:20). There was need for clarification in teaching, but that did not change the truth about the movement of God.
The more I study the Book of Acts the more I am convinced the church needs powerful revival by the Holy Spirit. This will only take place as we put off old ways and RETURN TO THE SCRIPTURES! Leonard Ravenhill says that we need revival “because we have tried every other way…instead of healing the cripple at the gate of the church…the church is now crippled and asking for alms of the world to carry on the Lord’s work. I am often asked to pray for the healing of the nation. NO! I am praying for the healing of the church.” Are you still counting on old ways and money to do the Lord’s work?
Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way, A Message for the Church, Bethany House, 2006 Page 32.
As Paul finishes his third missionary journey, he ends his voyage by going through Tyre, Ptolemais and Caesarea. Paul had determined to return to Jerusalem with the burden of his heart for the Jews there. If only he could present the gospel to them one more time so some would believe! As he is preparing to continue this journey, “a prophet named Agabus…said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, “This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles”. When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:10-12).
We might think that Paul would heed the warning and pleading of those concerned for his welfare. It was around this time that Paul was writing his letter to the Romans where he expresses such “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Romans 9:2) for his fellow Israelites. The brothers at Caesarea did not comprehend how deep and real Paul’s feeling were. Was his passion misguided? Was he being unrealistic about reaching the Jews?
Paul’s response answers some of this quandary. “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). Such a commitment comes from intimacy with God and knowing His heart. It stirred the brethren and some accompanied Paul all the way to Jerusalem.
Passion for an unreached people group is only understood as we enter into the heart of those who are called to “GO”. As we do, we also gain a deeper love for those God wants to reach with the gospel of grace and freedom from sin in Christ. This grace reached you. Now you are compelled by grace to reach others.
In many parts of the world, Sunday, May 14 is used to celebrate and honor mothers. I think back to my grandmother particularly and remember the influence she had in my life as a young lad. She had a genuine love for Jesus and made sure to read Bible verses to me when I went to their home.
My mind also goes back to the first verses I read to my wife, the mother of our four children; “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). There are fourteen times in Proverbs that Solomon refers to the “fear of the Lord” and he begins by saying that it “is the beginning of knowledge…the beginning of wisdom” (1:7; 9:10). This becomes the foundation through which the influence of a godly mother is cast on her children and the generations to come.
Oswald Chambers warns against giving “credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the Divine guidance of God through childlike people who were foolish enough to trust God’s wisdom and the supernatural equipment of God”.(1) Wise women and mothers are those who have built their lives on the wisdom God gave them in a personal relationship through faithful prayer and reading the Bible. There are many mothers in Scripture who influenced subsequent generations, e.g, Lois and Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5), and I encourage present day mothers to follow their example.
I want to thank those mothers who seek to follow this biblical example and also challenge all mothers to make this quality a permanent mark of your lives. Whether you have children or not, God wants to use your Christ-like manner of life to steer the next generations in the right direction. I challenge every man reading this blog to read it also to their wife or mother.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, June 9th.
If we were to ask God what the greatest things are that we could pray for, what do you think He would tell us? Consider for a moment how God shared with Abraham the deep feelings of His heart about the sin of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33) and Abraham’s pleading with God not to destroy it for the sake of ten righteous people.
Think of the face to face conversations Moses had with God (Exodus 33:11), pleading with God to blot out the sin in his own people, “but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written” (32:32). There is a heart that is sharing the burden of God’s heart with respect to His people. God would “consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you” (32:10).
These intense examples remind me of what Leonard Ravenhill said; “Prayer in its highest form is agonizing soul sweat. Prayer is not just casting off a burden. It is having sense enough, and grace enough, and wisdom enough, and heart enough to ask God to share the burden of HIS great heart with me.” The proof of this is in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”. His burden is light only when it is shared through an intimate relationship.
God has burdens for people and the church. Are you willing to “agonize [with] soul sweat” in prayer with God to see the gospel spread and revival take place in the church today?
Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way, A Message for the Church, Bethany House, 2006, page 25.
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