As believers, we are not doers of the gospel in order to be recognized for it. In fact, I get embarrassed if recognized for something I did in Jesus’ name, for it is to Him that I would rather the praise be given. However, at the end of the day, or at the end of our earthly life, what are some of the characteristics that we might be remembered for? Does our testimony speak to others? Does our works bear testimony of the One in whom we believe? I intend to attend the funeral of a dear friend today, and as Tabitha was recognized, I believe that she was also recognized – a believer and a doer! Thank God for people like that! Dear Jesus, I pray that I would daily live like that, in desiring no personal praise, but that You may be glorified, and that You may be recognized by the lost in and through my Godly actions.
I first reflected on church growth when I read this verse, but then I believe that God changed my thoughts, as these thoughts apply to personal Christian growth and to church growth. I discerned two things from this verse that spoke to me: 1). It was with the help of the Holy Spirit that the church grew in peace, was strengthened and grew in numbers. Think about it friend. Nothing was mentioned about the dynamic speaker that Paul was – although I believe that a preacher can only preach about something that really dwells inside of him and directs his thoughts and his mind, like the Holy Spirit will aptly do when one is connected to Him. Nothing was mentioned about the church location or the beauty of its building, or the money it had saved. It truly is a God-thing. Without the Holy Spirit, nothing Godly is accomplished. 2). The church lived in reverence for the Lord – a key ingredient to church and personal growth is loyalty, love and respect for the Lord. Think about it – anytime a pastor, or church leaders feel like they have everything under control and there is no need to operate in the fear and reverence of God, then the individual and/or the church will be destined for failure in its mission. Friends, let’s return to the basics of our belief and the founder and maker of all Godly things, Jesus Christ, through the work of His Holy Spirit. It produced results for the work Saul was involved in, and knowing that our God has not changed, assures me that He can still do an awesome job in our personal lives, and in rejuvenating our respective churches!
Today we seldom use the word ‘confound’, but according to my studies on this, this verse can be translated: “Saul’s preaching left the Jews speechless and prevented them from arguing against Christianity”. Friend, is this not what we need more of today in our churches (sermons, Sunday/Sabbath School and other teachings)? Is this not what we need to practice in our own lives? Doesn’t it appear to you that our shyness is caused by the questions that may be posed by our opponents in order to confuse us and make us speechless? Then for us to follow Saul’s example, we must be prepared to talk about Jesus and His mighty acts and His power to save. OK, STOP, is probably what you are thinking very loudly right now, as you say: But I’m not a preacher or even a Bible Scholar, so how can I confound, or leave my opponents speechless. Re-read the last sentence and notice the ‘I’ and ‘My’. Saul was a brand new Christian, so we knew this act of leaving his opponents speechless was nothing studied in Seminary or in years of church attendance, instead, it was the power of the Holy Spirit that Saul surrendered to and allowed to guide his thoughts and his words. As Christians, we have access to this same Holy Spirit. Set self aside and ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your thoughts, actions and words, so that the Father might receive glory for all that is accomplished through you (His servant). In recent studies on this through my church, I was reminded that daily I must ask for this power, just like I ask for breath, health, guidance, and direction for my day. So Lord, again today, please fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that You may accomplish Your work through me, and may all who I come into contact with see You in action and hear a word of encouragement, or be led to a life in You. You are God alone, and only You can touch the hearts of sinners and draw them to You. I make myself available to be used by You today. Friend, won’t you open your heart and life to be used by Jesus today also? We are His hands and feet, His army on the ground to serve Him!
But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews that dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.
This particular verse really opened the floodgates for me for understanding sincere obedience to God. So often we do Christian-based things because of the company in which we find ourselves, or because of the teachings of our church, or because a particular thing is the root of ministry by a certain individual that we admire and follow. When we make a covenant with God, without conditions attached, we are basically agreeing to follow that covenant regardless of circumstance around us. Oh that I could make a covenant like King Josiah did: to obey God, keep His laws and commands with all my heart and soul, and to put into practice all that His book of instructions (the Bible) demands of me. How about you friend, are you ready to make such a covenant with God? I know that He is looking for that kind of people so that He might grow His kingdom using totally committed individuals, and not half-hearted Christians swayed by every wind or fashion or worldly trend. God will direct our path and give us the strength to stay true to such a commitment! Let’s start a new revolution by making such an awesome covenant today! I believe that God is anxiously awaiting committed individuals that He could use to touch the lives of so many unsaved, and also the wandering and uncommitted folk who carry the badge of being a ‘Christian’/believer/follower of Christ!
Unfortunately there are times in the lives of individuals that, although God made them to love Him, Worship Him and Obey Him, yet in their minds, confused and controlled by Satan, they decide to do their own thing. In doing the opposite of what they think God might want from them, they often attack the people and things of God – Christians and the church as a whole. Saul was a good example of this. But also in my Old Testament reading this morning another such character is identified – Manessah (2 Chronicles 33:1-20). In Manessah’s case, God got his attention by allowing his enemy to attack him and badly hurt him (almost to the point of death). While in a vulnerable position, he pleaded to God for help and, because of God’s mercy and love, He forgave him and Manessah made a 180 degree turn/change in his life’s direction and purpose. In Saul’s case, God boldly got his attention while on the road to his next mission to destroy the Christians in Damascus. He, also, made a 180 degree turn/change in his life. I feel compelled to remind Christians that there are misguided folk that we come into contact with every day. I challenge you to be that forgiving, loving, accepting, life-changing representative of God that will help them to make that same 180 degree change that Saul and Manessah made. It will make the difference of eternal death or eternal life to them, and you will then boldly stand before Jesus on the day of His return and not be ashamed of having obeyed Him, even in challenging circumstances. I also feel compelled to warn those who have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord of their life that it is important that you listen and obey the voice of Jesus when He touches your life. Just as He was powerful enough to touch the lives of these two men whose mission it was to destroy God’s work, He too can lift you up from the evil things that you may be involved in. Remember, there is only one God, and He alone is powerful enough to help you make a 180 degree change in the way you are living your life. He is seeking your attention and wanting to see you on the right path that He sacrificed His life to provide for you. Won’t you stop, listen and obey today? Jesus loves you right where you are at, just let Him work in you friend!
There are two aspects to these verses that spoke to me, and I wanted to share it with you as a reminder of how the Holy Spirit works in us and through us. First, to the Ethiopian, the Spirit worked in his life to prioritize reading of God’s Word. Yes friend, to the unsaved it would not be normal for them to open the Word of God. But through the urging and prompting of the Holy Spirit, and in His perfect timing, the good gentlemen found himself immersed in the Word. Also, wouldn’t you agree that it was miraculous that even out in the desert there was someone available to answer his questions about what he was reading? Secondly, this was a divine appointment for Philip to be available, even in such a deserted place. When God prompts us to visit a certain place, or with certain folk, yes even strangers, we should never question. God had a divine appointment for Philip in a very unlikely place. How much more should we expect to see the miraculous hand of God in and through us, when we are obedient to Him? So a plea for obedience is actually commanded to the only two types of individuals that exist: 1). To the unbeliever (those who have not invited Jesus into their hearts and lives yet), please be obedient to follow prompting that you know must have come from God, because you suddenly have an urge to do something spiritual (go to church; read the Bible; ask someone questions about the Bible, etc.), for this may be a divine appointment being arranged by God. This may be your day of salvation! 2). To the believer, please ask God daily for ears to hear and eyes to see, so that you may be fully aware of His prompting to witness for Him or help someone searching for Him. Failure in being obedient in this way could totally distract the desire of an unbeliever to come to Jesus, so it is very important that we be obedient. Not a preacher? Not a problem, remember that God can do all things in and through you! In faith, be obedient to whatever God is prompting you to do.
I can hardly imagine what our families, our churches, our cities and our nation would be like if we had men following the example of King Hezekiah! We are told in verse 21 that this king was extremely successful because….. everything he did was in a spirit of complete loyalty and devotion to God! Wow! In our Bible Study last night I was reminded about the importance of loving my wife in complete loyalty and obedience to God, and the difference this made in the life and marriage of at least one brother at the study who shared with us. I could only imagine how much better our workplaces would be if we (Christians) went to work with a spirit of complete loyalty and devotion to God. Friends, I know that many jobs will not allow Christianity to be advertised or practiced within its walls, but what is inside of us cannot be taken away! We take Christ into our jobs through our actions, our stands on certain things, through our sincere dedication to our work and our bosses. Christians should be the best employees for any employer, if we do our jobs in complete loyalty and dedication to God. He will stop us from cheating, stealing, lying, gossiping, and any other ungodly actions. God will drive us towards being the best in everything expected of us by our employer. In addition to committing yourself to loyalty and devotion to God, please remember to daily pray God’s blessings on your boss and your employer every day. Yes, even the boss that may seem hard and uncaring towards you. Just as Jesus made a difference in your life, He will also impact the life of your boss! As you meditate on this and consider following this commitment, please notice that Hezekiah had no conditions to his commitment. The Word says that as a result of his commitment, many conditions changed for the good, because he was successful in everything he did. So will you join me in committing to being completely loyal and devoted to God? I pray that our commitment will be sincere and that it would impact those around us for the glory of Christ!
Anytime we prepare ourselves for meeting with a famous person, we go to great extremes to clean ourselves up – going to the hair dresser; purchasing the right apparel for the occasion, etc. Yet, just like the tribes that Hezekiah prayed for, we too go to prayer meetings and church services, perhaps less prepared inwardly and outwardly, than if we were going to the movies. Imagine for a moment if, 30 minutes prior to leaving the house, we were to go before God and lay ourselves before Him and seek His face and His forgiveness for our sin, our littleness and our selfishness. Additionally ask God to bless us individually and expand our personal borders so that we might touch the lives of others. Can you possibly dream, or imagine, what our prayer meetings and church services would look like and sound like? Friend, we will never encounter free, unhindered, personal worship when we depend on the Praise Band to build the excitement and raise the entertainment level so that we may become involved in and excited about worshipping. We can’t build our excitement from what we feel in the band, our excitement builds from all that lies within. If we haven’t cleaned up the ‘junk’ in our lives, how can we possibly go before a ‘HOLY’ God and expect to be excited about it? Remember, He knows our every deed and thought. When we haven’t cleaned up those things, we go before Him with the same guilt that we would have if we went straight to church from a cocktail party hoping that no one will smell the alcohol on us! God said that we are to be holy, even as He is holy. Why not join me in doing our best to make sure that we go in a prepared way to meet with Him and worship Him?