A great post from my sister about what the Church should look like.
And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
– Acts 20:36-38
This is such a beautiful passage in Scripture. The context is even more stunning. Paul was preparing to leaven for Jerusalem. He wanted to be there during Pentecost. He stopped quickly in Ephesus to encourage them. He said that he had worked hard to share the gospel with them. He worked hard so he could build them up. He worked hard and gave it all away because Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Then, as Paul is preparing to board the ship again, they prayed and wept together. They hugged and kissed. This is the prototypical picture of a deep-soul connection between believers.
When I read this, I couldn’t help but think about this summer going to South Africa and then in August moving to either St. Louis or Orlando for seminary. With every step of faith I take for the Lord, it could be the last time I see my family, friends, and those I lead in the Lord. I remember a July evening this past summer, when eight Campus Crusade interns were gathered in my living room, praying for the ones who were going overseas. There was much weeping. We prayed for an hour for everyone. The truth was, and still is, we might not ever see them face to face again. That is a sobering and terrifying thought, yet one that can be distilled when I take comfort in my Savior. He is more glorious and satisfying than anything else. My friends overseas are doing the work of the Lord. When I go to Africa, and then on to seminary, I will be laboring for the Lord. Knowing that Jesus guides, sustains, and uplifts me is more splendid than the greatest friends at my side.
Paul gave everything he had to the Ephesians. He did it because Jesus gave all he had for our salvation. So, with all I have, I’ll take the free grace God offers to the hard places in this world. And when I leave the ones I love, I will do it with weeping and in prayer.
Even still, it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.
Acts 23:11 says,
The following night the Lord stood by him [Paul] and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
As I was reflecting on this passage in prayer and even now, I notice a few things about this statement that God spoke to Paul after he appeared before the Jerusalem Council.
1) Take courage. God told Paul not to be afraid. That’s fairly explicit in the verse. The reason Paul can write, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16) is because the Lord Jesus himself appeared to him and said, “Take courage”. Also, Paul could say to Timothy, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7) because Jesus said to him, “Take courage”.
2) You have testified to the facts about me. Paul did not believe in some random set of mystical opinions about Jesus. These were cold, hard facts. The reason Paul could write, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:16-17, 19). Paul was so confident in the resurrection of Jesus that he risked being wrong and pitied by men. Because of the facts, however, Paul can say, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21).
3) You must testify also in Rome. Paul wasn’t just commanded to go to Jerusalem, he was called to Rome–the New Yorks, the Tokyos, the L.A.s, the Londons of the world. Rome was the center of religion, government, trade, and social interaction. Because the Lord said, “Take courage” and because Paul knew facts about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Paul could go to Rome.
As I begin to apply this to my own life, I think of times I lack courage. I think of situations when I don’t know the facts about Jesus. I think of chances I’ve had to “go to Rome” for Jesus and didn’t do it. May we be encouraged that Jesus gives us courage, shows us the facts, and leads us to where he wants us to be.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Rom. 10:15). Is there any greater duty to be done for the kingdom? How beautiful it is. We must share the gospel. Without it, there is no forgiveness, no redemption, no salvation, no everlasting life. If God is truly for us, how can the world be against us? He gives us comfort in the face of affliction. His yoke is easy and burden is light when sufferings bear us down.
Take courage. Go share the gospel with the world.