October 23, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4.17-18)
Who is your given audience to whom the fully proclaimed message is intended? Have you ever considered that the evangelistic calling and commissioning of the Church, and each member of it, was never meant to be haphazard and random? Even Philip was ordered to leave Samaria where he was and go into the wilderness on the road leading south out of Jerusalem. There he would minister to the Ethiopian eunuch who had been worshipping at the Temple. He arrived at the very moment when the representative of Queen Candace’s court was reading the Messianic prophecy from the Book of Isaiah. We do not know how long the journey took nor in what season. We are not informed of the mode of transportation Philip took to arrive there at the opportune moment. It may have been like Ezekiel being lifted up by the hair of his head as he was “in the Spirit.” It may have been on foot, on a donkey or hitching a ride on a wagon or chariot in a caravan heading south to Egypt or beyond. Regardless, Philip just didn’t happen on the scene. He was ordered, led, directed and empowered to represent the truth of the gospel to one who desired to know. Whether the Eunuch was a Jewish proselyte, a convert to Judaism, or was a descendant from a Jewish community living in Ethiopia perhaps associated with a report that the Ark of the Covenant was kept there so it would not fall into enemy hands makes no difference. The impact of the story is that this Spirit-led meeting was not by chance.
As Paul admonishes Timothy to stand fast to his first love and his first calling, he speaks to the very order of his own life. He, too, was directed with a mission by the Resurrected Jesus who is the Christ to minister the gospel to the Gentiles. He was fulfilling the prime directive of the Jewish community with the commissioning of Christ given to all disciples. which Israel was intended to be as “a light to the world” by which all people everywhere would see the truth concerning God and draw near to Him on earth as it would one day be in Heaven. For Paul, in his message to Timothy, the task was clear: everyone has someone (singular and plural) to whom they would bring the ministry of the gospel concerning their salvation in Jesus Christ. Of course, we can choose to “accept or reject” the mission that is given to us but that does not diminish the fact that we are given a mission to proclaim the acceptable day of the Lord and promote the truth of God’s love made available through Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God and Savior of the world on earth so that it would be also in Heaven.
Our ministry, as it was for Paul, Timothy, the apostles and other Church leaders, is limited only by our faith and trust in the Spirit of God to lead, guide and direct our lives. What may seem impossible for us is possible for those whose trust is in the Lord given with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. It is a labor of love for which we have already been compensated by the blood of the Lamb shed for our salvation by grace. We are contracted labor in the service of the King of kings, Lord of lords, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and the bearer of the governance of humankind. Oh, yes, that is from Isaiah, too, and would have been read by the Ethiopian Eunuch on his journey home. Perhaps it was that the Eunuch was asking God for understanding as he read. Philip would have been that answered prayer sent by God. He did not kick against the goads but accepted the charge as holy and the challenge as doable. What about us? Are we living in our discipleship with such desire that we would not question that “still small voice” which speaks to us of our purpose? Do we set aside the charge to share the good news to a person and people (remember from the Gospel of The Acts of the Apostles that whole families were baptized because one person in the family believed and thus lead them all into faith)? Do we set it aside because we fear the “challenge” is too great, too costly, too dangerous, too outlandish or worse too worthy of our meager efforts? Are we willing to consider those “random” opportunities presented to us as mere coincidences and fumble them away? I know I did just the other day and I lament it even now. All it would have taken was a simple question of “Do you know Christ as Lord and Savior?” What, we don’t want to interfere, intrude, presume or offend? If we are showing care and not condemnation then how could it be anything else but compassion and love? True, I offered “we will pray for you” but I didn’t say “in Jesus’ name.” How easily I cast aside mercy and concern as a tokenism. Instead of promising I would pray shouldn’t I have prayed. I could have stood their silently for a moment and allow the pause to speak for itself, if nothing else. And in so doing, I am beginning to bear witness that “Jesus is standing by my side and strengthening me so that the message coming through me might be fully heard and available.” This is our challenge, mighty ones of God. It is the same challenge Paul extended to Timothy. It was the same challenge extended to Paul and the disciples by the Resurrected Lord. We are not more than them nor are we less than them. We are all equal to the task as we allow the Spirit of Christ given by God to work in us, through us and for Him as it is for others. Trust in the Lord and His Word shall set you free to accomplish all that He is asking of you to do.
Here we are, Lord, send us just as we are. We are willing even if we do not feel up the charge because while the flesh is weak Your Spirit is strong. It is strong enough to break the bonds that bind us to death and tie those which bind us to mercy, grace and eternal life in Jesus’ name. AMEN.