What happened to the New Testament followers of Jesus who used their gifts to serve him? What occurred when they followed Jesus’ instructions to tell the gospel to their friends, neighbors, and society?
They were persecuted; they lost their homes; they were taken ill; they were shipwrecked, beaten, and scattered. They died. But their eyes were on Jesus, and they knew this wasn’t their home.
Like us, they lived in an unbelieving culture, but had an even more hostile government. Yet this was the seedbed of Christianity. We need not be dismayed by our circumstances. The gospel is not thwarted.
Often we believe that if we obey God, all will be rosy. We’ll be healthy and comfortable, obtain lavish contracts, and write NYT bestsellers.
But that isn’t the New Testament model. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Maybe you’ve used your gifts as a writer for God’s glory, and your life has looked more like Epaphroditus’, who left home to serve the Lord by helping the Apostle Paul. Instead, he arrived almost dead; Paul nursed him back to health and then sent him home.
Maybe publishing hasn’t happened for you. Maybe your health and finances have been destroyed during this writing endeavor. Maybe you feel like a failure.
Here’s what Paul said about Epaphroditus’ similar result: “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him” (Philippians 2:30).
He didn’t accomplish what he thought he would, but it counts. The offering of his gifts was valuable in God’s eyes.
Maybe you’ve been like Timothy. The trials have multiplied. You’ve realized that strong words of reproof must be written to hardhearted people. But you’ve quit writing, certain your words won’t be effective and afraid of the persecution that will follow.
Here’s what Paul said to Timothy: “Fan into flame the gift of God…For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:6-8).
Maybe you’re like Priscilla and Aquila whose household was uprooted repeatedly as they bounced between Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus. Or maybe you’re like Paul and his team, who were constantly moving.
With all the upheaval in your life, you wonder how God could possibly use you. Yet examine the biblical model.
Priscilla and Aquila simply served wherever they were. Paul wrote most of his epistles with constant interruptions, conflicts, and movement. His mostly Gentile team traveled non-stop, Timothy with a sick stomach.
They kept using their gifts. They continued to serve.
Like them, we may not know what eternal impact our service has produced. Like them, our conditions will never be perfect. We will feel out of control, as if we’re on a wild ride.
This world is not our home. We’re headed toward a better place. There we’ll see the results.
But here we’re engaged in the same warfare as the first-century believers, the taking of the best news ever to a fallen world. Let’s entrust our circumstances into God’s hands, knowing he manages the outcome and our eternity.
This is our model. At the end of his life, Paul reminded Timothy:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” ( 2 Timothy 4:7-8).
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