From The Pastor’s Desk……
We are getting used to a new word, “Lockdown.”
Preparing for ministry last Sunday I sat praying. The Holy Spirit began to make me aware that this situation is not new.
Many Biblical characters found themselves in situations of Lockdown. And so a new series of messages has begun to be birthed!
Last Sunday we looked at the life of Saul, later renamed Paul.
Reading: Acts 9: 1-18
Saul/Paul experienced Three Lockdowns in his life.
1. Lockdown One : The Road To Damascus.
Saul was breathing threats against The Lord’s Disciples. He had in his possession letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found people of The Way, whether men or women, he could take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
Jesus stepped in! Asking, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”
Saul’s reply, ” Who are You, Lord?”
“I Am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting,” He replied.
When Saul opened his eyes he was blind. Saul’s life “crashed!”
The men with him led him by the hand to Damascus.
For three days Saul was in Lockdown – praying. Saul’s life was “Re-Set,” through asking, “Who are You Lord?” and “What do You want me to do for You?”
Saul must have wondered how long Lockdown would continue! But, he was about to get a “Re- Start,” through the visit of Ananias.
Understandably Ananias was questioning of The Lord and the Mission that He was sending him on. I suspect that Ananias might have preferred to be in Lockdown!! Ananias was obedient to The Lord. He went to the house of Judas on Straight Street. In verse 17 we are told, ” Placing his hands on Saul, he said, Brother Saul, The Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with The Holy Spirit.”
“Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised, and after taking some some food, he regained his strength.”
Saul, and we, might have thought he’d be released straight into the international apostolic ministry that The Lord was birthing in him. But, no…….
2. Lockdown Two : The Wilderness of Arabia
The Holy Spirit does His finest work of development on us in times of Wilderness. After Jesus was baptised in water He was led by The Spirit into the Wilderness (Luke 4:1f). Galatians 1:17-18 “I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went into Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days.”
Saul had been trained by Gamaliel in the Old Testament and Jewish Doctrine. Now He was being taught by The Holy Spirit to understand about Jesus Christ, The Messiah and Saviour of the world. Saul was being prepared to fulfil his calling to spread The Gospel to the then known world.
“Then after fourteen years, I went again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the Gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running the race in vain.” (Galatians 2:1-2)
Missionary Trips followed as Paul’s ministry saw him plant churches, raise up Leaders, teach and fulfil the miraculous ministry of Apostle. I once heard Reinhard Bonkers preach saying, “They threw stones at Paul. He caught them and, with them, built churches!”
In Acts 21, with things going so well, Paul begins to hear that a Third Lockdown is approaching. I remember being in the Assemblies of God Church, Talbot Street, Nottingham, listening to Graham Cooke who, as a Prophet, said, ” I love Wilderness times. I know when the next one is and I know what The Lord is going to teach me through it. I can’t wait!” Most Leaders in the room gasped! Back to Paul in Acts 21… “Agabus,” (v11) “coming over to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, The Holy Spirit says, In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.” The fulfilment of this prophetic word would lead Paul to Rome, and to prison.
3. Lockdown Three : Prison : In Rome
Chained to Roman Guards – Paul led them into a personal relationship with Jesus – Evangelism.
Under House Arrest – Paul was visited by and supported by Friends – Friendships blossomed.
Taking up his quill and parchment – Paul began writing, under the Inspiration of The Holy Spirit, The Prison Epistles. Wonderful letters that give us so much Rich, Practical Theology.
We see from the life of Saul/Paul that The Lord uses Lockdown:-
To Take Hold Of, And Redirect, A Life.
To Teach and Train A Life, Bringing It To Maturity.
To Position A Life For Fruitfulness, Beyond Our Wildest Dreams.
Let’s be totally open to The Holy Spirit during Lockdown. He may not have sent it but He will work all things together for Good. So, let’s give Him space and place. As we develop an “ear to hear,” we will!!