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Optimal Conditions Not Necessary

March 3, 2021·Deborah Clark

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ — with all boldness and without hindrance.”
(Acts 28:30-31)

In this week’s Pause reading, we wrapped up Acts. I LOVE the Book of Acts, as it chronicles the beginning of the Church. There is so much to be learned by watching these scrappy disciples spread the truth of the Gospel. They had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13) and it changed them. Then, full of the Holy Spirit, they changed the world!

In Viral, a book that Pastor Tim wrote on Acts, he says this about Acts 28:

Paul, who is a defining early figure in Christianity, is confined under house arrest in Rome. This is not the most optimal situation for someone called to spread the Gospel. Then again, if you reflect on Paul’s life as recorded in Acts, he rarely seems to find optimal circumstances.

If we encountered the same opposition Paul did, I think we may have thrown in the towel early on. He didn’t deserve to be in prison, he didn’t have the freedom of choice and movement, and he was completely at the mercy of Rome. But, like the Energizer Bunny, Paul just kept on going and going and going. Nothing was going to stop him from carrying out his God-given mission.

He had understood the context under which he was serving. Though it wasn’t what he would have chosen for his ministry, he fully embraced it as a situation God could and would use for His glory. Paul, who never seemed to be all that shaken by his surroundings, could honestly write, “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV)

As I read through Acts this time, some of it seemed much more personal. And while not in prison, I could relate more than ever to Paul’s less-than-optimal circumstances for sharing Jesus. In many ways, the Church is starting over. It’s a whole new reality and, like Paul, I want to embrace my situation and not be shaken. I want to learn the secret of being content whatever my circumstances.

And you, Church, have been learning to do that. Has it been easy? No. We could have thrown in the towel, but instead we have persevered, together!

In our staff chapel last week, we heard stories of young people who have found our church during the shutdown, and about some who have recently come to find Jesus for the first time. A group of people were baptized in the Holy Spirit. And others are making plans to be baptized in someone’s backyard pool. Groups have been praying online. Financial needs have been met by you taking care of each other. I could go on, and on…

But I want to encourage you that optimal conditions are not necessary for the love and truth of Jesus to be spread to our world. No matter what challenge we face, let’s recognize God’s ability to work through it for our good and His glory!

Pastor Deborah Clark

The Church on the Way