Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Be A Missionary Wherever God Places You

On occasion, I've had some Christian friends say that they feel bad for not going abroad to do mission work.  They give reasons of job and family obligations -- huge barriers, indeed, to overseas evangelism.  However, we should not lose sight of the mission field that is right outside our homes.  I was greatly inspired to have learned recently that Saint Paul, in his final years as a prisoner of Rome chained to a Roman soldier, continued his work of sharing the Gospel with the world -- and successfully so.

As I started checking into this bit of history, I had to smile at some of the results I got while using Google.  I believe I tried googling "Paul under house arrest", and one of the results was for a company: “Do you need to be on house arrest?  Inexpensive and No Ankle bracelets …”  Wow!  I didn't know such services were available!

But, as I ferreted through the different search results, I came up with a bit of background on Paul's situation in Rome:

- From Wikipedia: "He arrived in Rome c 60 and spent two years under house arrest.[9][Acts 28:16] All told, during his ministry the Apostle Paul spent roughly 5 1/2 to 6 years as a prisoner or in prison."

- From Christianinconnect:
What Paul wrote in prison in Rome: Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians
Paul finally arrived in Rome around A.D. 59 to 60. There he was held under house arrest and guard for the next two years. His Roman imprisonment, or captivity, has been dated as A.D. 59-61, and even as A.D. 61-63.
- What was Paul's house arrest like?  This from Yahoo Answers:
The bulk of the information available comes from Acts 28...

16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.
23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (TNIV)

He was renting a house.
He was under military guard.
He was allowed to meet with and teach anyone who wanted to come.
This went on for two years.
 - More about Paul's house arrest from Adventist Archives:
Paul was a prisoner under house arrest in the capital of the Roman Empire.  During this, his first imprisonment, he was not in a dungeon, but was permitted to live in his own rented quarters with a Roman soldier as guard.  Perhaps he was chained some of the time, but he was permitted to entertain guests and to preach the gospel.

Paul took advantage of this opportunity and used his time profitably.  He had assistants who ran errands for him and invited the people.  First of all, he invited his own people, the Jews, that he might explain to them why he was a prisoner, and present to them the great theme of his life, Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  As a result he won some of them, as well as some from Caesar’s household, a runaway slave, and others. 

"And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ." (Philippians 1:12-14)

Luke concludes his account with:
"Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 28:31)
Just think about it: Paul was chained to a Roman soldier.  It is logical to assume that these guards, who were rotated every couple of hours, would have been witness to Paul's entertaining of guests and preaching of the Gospel.  How many of them would have been converts?  What impact did these Roman converts have on spreading God's Word even farther?
The praetorian guard can mean the barracks of the soldiers or the soldiers themselves – ten thousand elite, hand picked heroes of Rome. How did they know? Paul told them.

Every day, for eight hour shifts, day and night, Paul had two soldiers, six a day, chained to his wrist.

He had a captive audience.

What did Paul see in these men? Brutality? Bonds? No. He saw each one as a person that Christ died for.

How many times did they tell him to shut up? How many times did they slap his face? How many times did they laugh at him?

Don’t be chained by your chains!  [source]
Or, as George Cladis of Christianity Today put the question: "Pardon me, but who is chained to whom?" 
Perhaps he prayed furiously, "Lord, unchain me from this guard; set me free to do your work."

"Paul," God must have said to him. "Look! You've got it all wrong. You're not chained to that guard. He's chained to you! And I gave you the gift of preaching. Preach, Paul! Preach!" Paul literally had a captured audience in the persons of these imperial guards who arrived every eight hours for their shift. Some of them became believers and in turn spread the gospel throughout the imperial guard—a special force of men from Rome's elite families. God used Paul's "imprisonment" to influence Rome's high society with the gospel!

Paul's perseverance in prison, shrewd evangelistic tactic, and courage to preach to the very guards who held him down, encouraged other Christians to be bold as well.

Questions for discussion:
  • Now, what are you chained to that is actually chained to you?
  • How can you turn around a difficult situation to advance the Kingdom of God?
Great ideas to consider!  Who are you chained to?  Who is chained to you?  In your sharing of the Gospel, how far will those messengers carry God's Word?

Don't forget that our immediate world is a tremendous mission field, and there is much work to be done.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this devotional. Currently, I am struggling whether to stay and practice medicine at the secular free clinic that I have worked at for 2 1/2 years or to pursue employment elsewhere. At first, this was my mission, however, I now have multiple frustrations with this place of employment and leaving seems like an easy fix. After reading your article, I was encouraged to ask myself the question: who is chained to me? I have an opportunity to provide quality health care with a caring, Christian character. I have the opportunity to rally support and change the course of events at the clinic. I am a Christian influence there and I think God will allow me to stay to do his work.


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