True Ministers

23. December 2023 Acts 0

Text: Acts 16:11-40

Theme: True ministers find opportunities to minister, regardless.

Key verses: “On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia…who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying” (v. 13-15). “One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future” (v. 16a). “Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And instantly it left her” (v. 18b). “A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison…the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (v. 22-25). “The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, ‘Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.’ And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household…Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, ‘Let those men go!'” (v. 27-35). “When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town” (v. 40).

What His Word showed me: Notice some important qualities Paul exhibited in this passage. 1) He went to a river bank on the Sabbath and talked with a bunch of women. Who would do that? See how little he thought of himself. Most preachers and men of so-called “stature” would turn their nose up at such an opportunity. In fact, they wouldn’t see it as an opportunity at all. They would be trying to preach to the large crowds in the synagogue. But not Paul and Silas. They just went to where people were, and they trusted me to lead them to those I wanted them to minister to. 2) They treated beatings and persecutions as par for the course. It didn’t deter them in the least. 3) They chose to praise me, to sing out loud to me, in their pain and in their chains. While most would be feeling sorry for themselves in such a state, not Paul and Silas. They worshiped me in every circumstance. And don’t miss that I noticed! I heard their praise. There is no record of them praying for themselves to be released. Don’t you find that startling? They weren’t looking for ways to get out of their dire circumstances. Instead, they were praising me and making the most of their time in those circumstances. 4) After all they’d been through, they still had the wherewithal to think of others first, to encourage and share with them. First, they kept the jailor from killing himself (the very one who had “clamped” them in irons). Then they took time to share with him and his household about me and my salvation. Then, they rejoiced with them (even in their pain and discomforts from the beatings). And they weren’t done encouraging others yet. Before they left that city that had been so cruel to them, they took time to return to Lydia’s home, to encourage her and the other local saints. Talk about knowing how to win friends and influence people. Paul and Silas had it down to an art. Who goes back to encourage others when they themselves are in such need of encouragement and help? Those saints saw firsthand the depth of love and friendship of Paul and Silas. And you can bet they never forgot that incredible gesture of kindness and selflessness. That encounter, those intimate moments of fellowship, no doubt changed their lives forever. This is what it looks like to be a true minister of the Gospel. This is what it should look like for you, as well.

How I responded: Father, thank You for a good night’s rest and for waking me early this morning. Thank you that our boys are home with us for Christmas, if only for a couple of days. Thank You for the amazing time together that we had yesterday, opening gifts and playing cards. Thanks especially for that God-moment you set up for Stephen and me to talk in the car. What a blessing You’ve given us in our sons and in my wife. Regarding this passage, I’m blown away that You showed me so much from these verses. Paul was incredibly selfless and God-full. Please help me supernaturally think of others before myself, and may I never shy away from opportunities to worship You and represent You to others–even if it means my own discomfort and inconvenience. Help me be a true minister of Your pure and life-giving Gospel.