Running out of Things to Say

This morning INikolai_Bodarevsky_001 read Paul’s third account of his conversion in the book of Acts, before King Agrippa in chapter 26, and I noticed that it includes Christ’s commission to Paul (which is not recorded in the first two). It reads as follows: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (verses 15-18).

The words “a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you” struck me. Evidently Paul was appointed as a witness not only to his Damascus road experience, but to the continual appearances of Christ to him throughout his ministry. And this is what you can see happening in Acts: in his vision of Christ calling him to keep speaking in Corinth (Acts 18:9-11), for example, or in Christ’s appearance to him after his defense in front of the Jewish council: “the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome’” (23:11). I love that verse – I wonder what exactly the words “stood by” mean?

The reason this encouraged me is that sometimes I worry I will run out of things to say in ministry. I don’t worry so much that I will have said it all, but rather that I will personally stop receiving the kinds of promptings and insights from the Lord that make the message come across as fresh and authentic. This passage reminded me that when Christ calls us unto a particular task or ministry, He gives us all the resources needed to get the job done. He is not like foolish traveler who takes you on a journey lasting 2 months but only brings enough food for 4 days. Christ calls us to witness to the grace we have previously received, but He also gives us continually fresh supplies grace in the midst of that witnessing. As long as we remain open to the Lord, we will never run out of things to say – because the object of our communication is not merely a unique event in the past, but a living reality in the present.

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