March 4, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Michelle Sun, Gracepoint Berkeley

Acts 28:30-31

For the two whole years, Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.  Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

As I think about Apostle Paul’s life, I think these two verses that appear at the end of the book of Acts aptly describes what he was like.  It says that he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ, boldly and without hindrance.   He was bold, because he didn’t seem to fear anything else except he held the fear of not finishing the race and completing the task that God had given him to do.  He was bold because he had pretty much given up on his life.  At this point of his life when he was in Rome for two years, in house arrest and praeching the gospel, he was fully ready for the worst that can happen to anyone.  He was ready for death.  He had gone through other type of sufferings in his life already, like beating, imprisonment, shipwreck, a mob trying to kill him. Given all that he had gone through already, and given the fact that he was awaiting a trial before Caesar, his hope in his own life was not there any more.  This kind of complete surrender of himself made him a bold person.  He was already arrested in Rome and so there was no fear in him.  If you are already imprisoned, you do not fear imprisonment.  If you are already dead, you do not fear death.  He was able to boldly preach the gospel in this way.

He preached the gospel and taught without hindrance.  I think this is pretty remarkable given the fact that there were a lot of hidnrances in his life.  He was a prisoner and there were much restrictions placed in his life.  Even then he was able to preach without hindrance… He found ways to preach and teach, and God opened the doors for him even through the seemingly impossible human restrictions that were put upon his life.  I think about the ridiculousness of this situation when I compare my life to his.  My lfe is so free and without any restrictions.  I do not have a husband that persecutes me or any physical handicap, emotional trauma.  I have a restriction free kind of life.  The only kind of hindrance is the kind of place on my own self by being lazy, by being timid, by being risk-averse, by being calculating, by being comfort-seeking, by being deadened in my spiritual awareness.  I learned through Apostle Paul’s life, that a Christian’s life is governed by the God above, who can work through human restrictions and seemingly impossible barriers.  Our lives are not governed by any obstacles because we serve a living and mighty God who can transcend all these issues.  It’s a matter of my own desire to overcome these issues and not make them into hindrances.  We so quickly grab onto any excuses and say “that’s why I cannot do this  or that.”  We would rather be hindered and take comfort in that rather than being like Apostle Paul who knew he was serving a great God who is not hindered at all.

I think about the power displayed in Apostle Paul’s life and I don’t mean his power to miraculously heal people or his oratory powers to convince others.  Those were ways of God’s power manifested in his life as well. However, what is really powerful in Apostle Paul is his hope and strength that is displayed in his inner life.  I have never seen anyone like Apostle Paul who is so completely transcendscent of this world and it’s system, so poweful inside because of his confidence in God.  Nothing could stop him and nothing could discourage him either. The power of God was displayed in Apostle Paul’s life through his intense focus and hope in heaven and the ability to die to himself in this life.  That is no ordinary human.  He was truly someone who was won over, tranformed by and living accoring to the power of God.

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Submitted by George Hu, Gracepoint Berkeley.

As I read today’s passage, I was struck by Apostle Paul’s calmness in the midst of many trials and storms (literally).  Before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, he calmly states his case, defending not only himself and that he did not nothing wrong, but uses the opportunity to share the gospel with them, the very people who hold his fate in their hands.  Instead of being defensive and feeling like a victim of injustice, he turns the situation into one where he can share his testimony with them.  On the ship to Rome, Paul is calm and collected, trusting in God and taking even that life-threatening opportunity to bear witness to the sailors he was with.

“But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.  I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

This part really struck me because even in such a situation, Paul is clear on the mission of his life.  He does not lose focus on the fact that he is now a minister of Jesus, and his mission of evangelism.  He sees even his imprisonment as an opportunity for God to work.

One sentence he says sums up Paul’s attitude, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am,except for these chains.”  Who is he at that point?  Paul doesn’t see himself as a prisoner, a victim, helpless, devoid of freedom.  He does not view himself in terms of his circumstance, but wholly in terms of his identity as God’s servant, the path to which he just summarized before Festus.  “I have had God’s help to this very day”– He connects everything that happens to him with God, and because he is so clear on the way that God has worked in his own life, he now is unwaveringly secure in God’s presence with him and desire to use him in his present circumstance.

This is very different from me—I tend to become easily discouraged by circumstances and tend to easily think that God cannot use me because of things that are out of my control.  Paul was a prisoner, but his attitude is so free, and he is very clear on his mission and cannot be deterred by his circumstances.  Though I sometimes feel imprisoned by negative circumstances in my life, the greater imprisonment is the cynicism and Denathor-like hopelessness that comes when I forget how God has worked in the past, whether through my own life, the people around me, or the lives of people in the Bible like Paul.  In counseling, we often ask clients to take a step out of their own lives and look at it from the perspective of someone else, and I think that that is what God is asking me to do here.  This is my prayer for myself—that I can have this perspective that God wants to use me through whatever circumstances in my life.  I need to have regular times of reflection on what I have to be thankful for and the ways that God has worked in my life so that I can see that indeed I have had God’s help to this very day.  In short, I need to keep my eyes on the mission of saving souls and loving people, instead of on my own circumstances.

 

 

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