Friday, October 7, 2011

Ministering In The Shadows


Do you feel spiritually handicapped by your current situation and unable to do what you would like to do for God?  Did you know that at least five of Paul’s epistles were written while imprisoned?  Four of these were during his Roman imprisonment in which he was permitted to live in his own hired house.  He was under the scrutiny of the Roman guards when he penned the Ephesian, Philippian, Colossian, and Philemon letters, as well as his second letter to Timothy.  I wonder if he was watching one of those Roman guards pacing outside his window and possibly studying his armor when he wrote the wonderful “Armor of God” passage in Ephesians 6.  Was he enduring some type of cruel treatment when the words “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” found in Philippians 1:21 were flowing through his pen?  Did he feel the pangs of loneliness and abandonment when he said “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit…” in Colossians 2:5?    Could he have been experiencing some type of old-age symptoms when he called himself “Paul the aged” in the ninth verse of his letter to Philemon?  Chronologically, the last Bible letter the Apostle Paul wrote was to his special, spiritual “son”, Timothy.  He must have sensed that he was nearing the end of his life when he penned those famous words, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:  and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” in II Timothy 4:7,8. 

You know, until recently, when I thought of the Apostle Paul, I thought of his highly-visible preached messages.  Thoughts of his bold and powerful sermons preached in Damascus immediately after his conversion (Acts 9:20, 27), memories of reading how he mightily preached in Salamis (Acts 13:5), his deliverance of a powerful sermon at the invitation of the rulers of the Antioch synagogue (Acts 13:14-41), and how he continued to strongly proclaim the Gospel in the midst of impending persecution (Acts 14:1-4), came to mind when I thought of him. 

But, what about the work God used him to do while he was alone, secluded, and obscure to the world around him?  What about the letters he was writing that would go on to become major components of what we now call the New Testament?  Wasn’t his quiet work for God equally as important as the awe-inspiring work God wrought through him while preaching to the multitudes?  He may have felt frustrated, feeling the need to get out and speak loudly from places like Mars Hill (Acts 17:22), and yet being held under bondage to the prison of Rome.  Maybe he thought the letters he was writing would reach their destination only to be discarded and disregarded by future generations. 

Where are you, my friend?  Are you laid aside through some physical disability?  Do you long to be out “on the battlefield” for God, only to find yourself disillusioned by your dreams of grandeur of working in the open harvest field?  Maybe there is something you can do…right where you are.  It is not ALL contained in the highly-visible.  There is much to be done in the shadows, and only eternity may reveal the impacts made by those who are on the sidelines feeling unnecessary. 

You may say, “There is nothing I can do.  I am in a place of obscurity.  No one notices me.  And, I certainly can’t write like Paul.  My time and life is a waste.”  May I remind you of another thing Paul was doing, while held captive?  Colossians 1:9 says this, “For this cause we also….do not cease to pray for you…”  If you can’t be out on the battlefield preaching, and you don’t have the gift to write, you can pray for those who are doing those things.  Your life is NOT a waste.  You are not where you are by accident.  God has a plan for your life, just as He did for the Apostle Paul.

 Obviously, you and I did not live during Paul’s time on earth.  And, unfortunately, there were no tape/CD recorders, MP3 downloads, or DVDs of his preaching to purchase for later use.  So, we will never be privileged to hear or see those wonderful, powerful verbal sermons he delivered to the people.  But, we have something precious…wrenched from his heart during times of distress, abandonment, imprisonment, on the sidelines of activity.  We have the comfort of picking up our Bibles and reading the inspired Word of God brought forth by his pen.  It couldn’t have been easy for him.  How did he acquire ink?  Where did the parchment come from?  Did someone have to smuggle it in to him when they came to visit?  Did he peril his life to write when the Roman soldier’s back was turned?

Ministry in the shadows is equally as important as open, visible ministry.  Recently, someone carelessly said something that hurt and discouraged me deeply.  It made me feel hopeless about my future and the direction God is leading my family and me.  I talked about it with my dear mother, and she encouraged me by saying, “You don’t have to be seen to be heard”.  How true her words!  God has a plan, my friend, and the best thing you and I can do is to consecrate to it and do His work…wherever we are with whatever we have been given.

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