“Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). As you remember, “John called Mark…had withdrawn from [Paul and Barnabas] in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. There arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other” (Acts 15:37-39). Paul had a very clear idea of what commitment to the Lord’s work meant and he did not want to take someone on the next assignment who was not unified in the Lord’s work.
The passing of time brought about a change in Mark which Paul observed. He was now “very useful” at the end of Paul’s life. There are two important principles that come out of this incident that we must implement in our lives and ministries.
1) Keep observing those around you, even if there have been disagreements. Watch what God is doing in them, pray for them, and in any degree you can, encourage them.
2) Look for opportunities where such persons can be redeployed into God’s work. We must be always thinking about the next generations and our need of investing in “Marks” who will carry on the Lord’s work faithfully (2 Timothy 2:2).
It should also be noted that Paul told Timothy to “Get Mark and bring him with you”. Paul is wisely using Timothy in this restoration process. He intentionally wanted Timothy to invest and have an impact on Mark, to ‘team up’ for fruitful ministry even after Paul was gone to glory. Timothy would also have been a catalyst in making sure Mark held no ill feelings against Paul for what had happened in Acts 15, and be a messenger of Paul’s heart.
This is the kind of ‘bridge-building’ we need among the people of God. It requires looking past faults to the potential God has placed in people. There are times when the Lord has reminded us of this principle and helped us put it into practice. Are you bridge-building for more effective ministry and greater glory for God?
YOU AND I NEED A BARNABAS
Saul had just been converted from being a hater of Christ and His church, to a ‘sold out’ disciple of Jesus. The proof of his conversion was that he “immediately proclaimed Jesus in synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). While some were amazed at the transformation and power with which Saul spoke after his conversion, other Jews who knew him plotted to kill Saul (9:23). Even the church at Jerusalem doubted the genuineness of what took place in this man.
Saul needed someone to stand with him and be an encourager. God had the right man for this assignment in Barnabas (“son of encouragement or conciliation”). He was familiar with what took place in Saul, stood with him when others doubted and vouched for the reality of God’s work.
Later when Saul became Paul, the Holy Spirit sent out these two for another special assignment; to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles, plant churches and strengthen them, and appoint elders for faithful leadership. The mentoring process is most effective when it includes encouragement.
You and I need a Barnabas! I am so thankful for the persons God has put in my life who strengthen and encourage me. Who is your Barnabas? If you do not have one, ask God to prepare and send one your way. It does not matter how long we have been on the Christian road, we need those who will stand by us in time of discouragement and testing.
REFLECTIONS FROM THAILAND
In every culture, houses and diets change, but the one constant for all people is our need to know God. Matthew 24:14 presents both God’s passion for all people and the reason Christ has not returned yet. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (ethnos or people groups), and then the end will come.” This gospel that has been entrusted to us MUST be proclaimed to every ethnic group that inhabits this planet. And how can we complete this task to which we are called?
Without God’s Spirit empowering indigenous leaders, we will struggle with human efforts to see this Scripture fulfilled. But as we follow God’s plan laid out in Acts and Paul’s epistles, strong, self-supporting, reproducing churches will spread through every region of every nation. It is this plan lived out in God’s strength that will not only reach all people groups, but speed the second coming of Christ. To this end we pray…to this end we “GO”! ~Randy~
Randy’s report from Thailand:
Brother “T” is the director of the Karen Baptist in Thailand. Even in his advanced years, his father is a church planter and evangelist who travels 8 plus hours to reach people on the boarder of Myanmar. “T” desires to pass along his father’s faith and passion to his own son. Please pray for these leaders as they boldly reach out and plant new churches throughout Thailand.
In the rural villages in the mountains of northern Thailand, the pastors and leaders diligently studied God’s Word, looking for God’s plan for His church. It was exciting to see their discipline in searching the Scriptures and the way they helped one another know God’s truth.
These leaders are reaching into the jungles to bring the gospel of Christ to people who have never heard of Jesus, and plant self-sustaining churches. Please pray for these messengers of good news!
One of the most powerful influences in our lives is seeing the true character of faith and wisdom lived out in someone else by the power of the Holy Spirit. Stephen was one of those influences in Paul’s life. How do we know this was a fact? “And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself (Paul) was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’” (Acts 22:20; see also 7:58). This testimony comes from the lips of Paul as he made his defense before the Jews in Jerusalem.
When you read the account of Stephen in Acts 7 and see the strength of his character in active faith and the use of Scripture to display the wisdom of God, it is undeniable that the Holy Spirit filled him to powerfully proclaim truth. Though Saul was on the wrong side of truth at this point in his life, the event left its mark on his heart.
Who has lived Christ before your eyes in a way that you cannot forget? What change has this produced in you so your life can be the same witness to others? As Paul became a living example of Christ to persons like Silas, Timothy, Titus and others, you and I need to continually and purposely live for drawing other to Christ through our character.
MISSION UPDATE - MYANMAR (BURMA)
Tim reports: “I am entering my third week of training, here in Myanmar, with key leaders among the Chin, Burmese, and Karen peoples. How thankful I am for the Holy Spirit Who has enabled them to grasp the big picture of God's Plan for His Church so they will take the gospel to those people groups who have never heard.
Pray for Randy: He leaves tomorrow for Bangkok, Thailand, with only a few hours rest and then flies on to Yangon, Myanmar to join Tim. Adjusting to an eleven hour time difference on top of two long flights can be brutal on the body. We are so encouraged with how God is using him to reach the unreached peoples of the world. Praise our wonderful Savior for the awesome privilege to join our Great God at work in these last days of preparing His Bride for His soon return!
Myanmar: Key leaders are being trained for three weeks. Please pray that these young leaders will begin a church planting movement in their country; reaching the unreached people groups of Myanmar with the glorious gospel of grace. The leaders here are hungry for kingdom expansion. We see so much potential in this group. Pray that God’s Spirit equips them in God’s Word and sets the course for fruitful church planting and establishing existing churches for many years and generations to come.
It might be our normal expectation to see “contentment” with those who have everything they need and want. In reality, those who have the most of this world’s possessions and accomplishments are the most unhappy and dissatisfied.
God gives us a picture of true contentment in a man who suffered more than anyone, apart from the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul makes this bold statement; “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). In a letter written later from prison, Paul said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
There is no magic formula for being content. As Paul discovered, it is a learning process that requires us to be trained by grace (Titus 3:11-12). If I were to try putting this concept into my own words, I would say that contentment is the resolve of heart to accept whatever circumstances God puts in my life knowing that He will be glorified through my submission and joy in His will. My weakness opens the door for God’s power to be manifested through me.
You may be struggling with this concept because of your circumstances. That is understandable. Let the Holy Spirit and God’s grace teach you the beauty of Christ in contentment.
WHEN IS BOASTING OKAY?
From biblical teaching that we are familiar with, the idea of “boasting” is hardly acceptable. In fact, Paul states that “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Paul follows this in verse 31 with, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” He further explains that boasting is not a quality of love (13:4).
On the other hand, Paul was very willing to boast about God’s work in the saints, especially those at Corinth in whom the Spirit worked such a dramatic change (see 2 Corinthians 7:14; 8:24; 9:2-3).
But there was another kind of boasting that is okay with Paul and should be part of our thinking. Knowing that the grace of Christ was sufficient for all he endured, including the “thorn”, and that the power of God would be made perfect in his weakness, Paul said, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (12:9).
I have been guilty of boasting about my own accomplishments. God is teaching me the value of boasting in my weakness “so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” How is this principle being worked out in your life?
We would all agree that our world is very upside-down. People and nations measure success by physical and political strength, outward possessions and intellectual achievements. It is very rare that anyone will admit that weakness is a blessing.
Yet, in 2 Corinthians 12:9 we see God’s grace was “sufficient” for Paul as he faced a “thorn” given to him to keep him “from becoming conceited”. This however, is only half of the divine formula. The other half is that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.” There must be a real and complete admission on our part that we are incapable of, and without any ability to accomplish God’s will and work without His Holy Spirit enabling us. When that is truly our mind and heart, we will experience the perfecting of God’s power in us. This does not mean that His power is ever less than perfect. What it does mean is that our proving the sufficiency of His grace to empower us “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13) is realized through our admission of weakness.
Is your life and ministry being achieved through your own efforts, or is there a daily admission to God of your weakness and inability if it wasn’t for His grace? Paul concludes this section by saying, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (12:10).
WHAT IS "SUFFICIENT GRACE"?
We saw yesterday the two extremes of God’s preparing and equipping servant leaders so they are most effective in the ministry God has chosen; the revelation of glory and a “thorn” to keep us from conceit. “Three times [Paul] pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave” him (2 Corinthians 12:8). Whatever the “thorn” was, it must have been severe if it caused Paul to “plead” with the Lord three times to remove it.
The Lord’s answer is very instructive: “My grace is sufficient for you” (12:10). The meaning of the word “sufficient” helps us understand what Paul gained from the Lord’s response. It means “to be satisfied, content and confident in God’s adequate provision” (arkeo - Little Kittel). God never afflicts us for His purpose without also supplying what we need to endure the affliction. In a slightly different sense, Paul says that we are “not…sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of the Spirit” (3:5-6). We must always remember that apart from God’s grace, we are not capable of doing anything that glorifies God or does His work.
Has God given you a “thorn” to bear? How are you handling it? Are you chafing under God’s hand upon you and resisting the humbling effect of the “thorn”? Submit to what God allows and seek His sufficient grace to both learn from this trial and let your character be polished to reflect Christ in a fuller, brighter way.
PARADISE AND A THorN
God’s gifting comes with two extremes:
PARADISE – Paul was “caught up to the third heaven…into paradise…and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). We have seen this with Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Peter and others, where the presence of God and His glory are so real they communicate something that cannot be humanly told to anyone else. What is the purpose of this? I believe the greater our assignment by God, the more He will shape our lives by something personal about Himself, something unseen, and something out of this world. It will mark our lives and ministry with a touch of divine quality, power and effectiveness.
A THORN – Such gifting as Paul and others experienced could not be realized without a companion affliction that kept them from self-exaltation and pride. “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given to me in the flesh” (12:7). I have observed that those most used by God are also those that have gone through the severest trials, some that seem to have no termination.
If God is preparing you for a work in His kingdom and to the church, ask Him to reveal His glory in some way that will draw you very close to Himself and also prepare you for the work He has planned. At the same time, expect that He will place on you a “thorn” that will keep you humble and constantly relying on His sufficient grace. Accepting the “thorn” will reveal more of His glory.
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