March 11th 2018: Andy Millership

Andy Millership-March18Acts 16:16

In AD 49 Paul and Silas once again headed for Asia Minor. Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia calling him so they made their way to the regional capital, Philippi. Philippi was an important city – financially and strategically. Rome’s gold, for the most part, came from around Philippi. It was situated on one of the main trading routes; people flocked there. It was such an important place that after Julius Caesar had been assassinated, the legionaries from that region and the Praetorian guards were rewarded for their loyalty; each was given a parcel of land to make sure the place remained secure.

So, we find Paul and Silas here in this very busy, rich, stable city. They are there for a reason – to spread the gospel. There was no synagogue in Philippi so Paul and Silas went to the river, a place of prayer (Acts 13:16). This was where Lydia heard the gospel and was saved. On their way back, Paul and Silas came across a slave girl who had been cruelly treated by her masters. She was possessed of a spirit. People paid to hear her tell their fortune. Paul dealt with the spirit and so her masters couldn’t make money out of her. They complained to the authorities and Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison.

‘At about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.’ (Acts 16: 25-27). This was a dramatic picture. The earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and the prisoners’ chains fell off. The reaction of the jailor was extreme, ‘He drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”’ The jailor wanted to kill himself. Why? This was a military posting. This man was a soldier, a legionary, a man who was quite senior. He was a man who had seen battle on numerous occasions. He would have been a strong, disciplined, controlled man. His high position allowed him to bring Paul and Silas out of prison to his own home for a meal (Acts 16:34). He had full responsibility for the prisoners who had been given to him; he didn’t need to ask others’ permission. He wasn’t just any old jailor, he was important. In modern terms, he was a prison governor. So why did he have this extreme reaction when he found the prison doors were off.

The jailor had family, slaves and servants. He was certainly comfortably off. He had social responsibilities. He was an important man. So why did he want to commit suicide? He’d faced fear before, so it wasn’t that. Insight comes from the question he asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). That was his priority.

Paul and Silas had nothing – no money. All they had were the clothes they stood in, yet even these were torn off them. But having been beaten they were worshipping God. They appeared to have nothing, but they had more than all around them – they had hope in a Saviour. What do we have? An important job that carries with it an enviable reputation? Do you have responsibility? Are you a good person with responsibilities? Are you doing well for yourself financially? These are not bad things but if that is all you have, then you have no hope. When the doors fall off and the earthquake comes, if that is all you have, you have no hope.

Paul and Silas had something more than the jailor ever had. His position, money and responsibility meant nothing – he recognised he needed a Saviour. He understood that. That’s what you need as well – one who can stand before God in your place, a God who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. You need someone who is  pure, who is faultless. Your best is filthy rags. If we have any hope at all, it must be in a Saviour because we cannot do it ourselves. We need one who lived, died and rose again for us, one who stood in our place. Don’t rely and hold onto your best because your best is not good enough. Without a Saviour you have nothing, ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ (Mark 8:36). You haven’t got the whole world to offer. The jailor needs a Saviour and you need a Saviour. It must be a hope in Him, not in you.

November 12th 2017: Lawrence Mitchell

On Remembrance Sunday we listened to a Remembrance poem written by Philip Hancock and read out by John Hancock. Before observing two minutes silence in honour of those who have given their lives in battle and those who continue to serve today, we listened to a prayer written by Private William Evans, an uncle of Pearl and Alec Davies, who died serving his country 100 years ago in the Great War.

Our service was led by Lawrence Mitchell who preached on 2 Timothy 2:4

‘No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.’ (2 Timothy 2:4 KJV).

‘No soldier gets entangles in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.’ (2 Timothy 2:4 ESV).

Paul is reminding Timothy he is chosen by God to be a soldier. God Himself, as the Bible tells us in Exodus, is a great God, a mighty God. He is a God of grace and mercy. Exodus tells us God is a God of war. He was against the sins of the nations and had to punish them. God was for the children of Israel and wanted them to walk in His light. There are many battles and wars in the Old Testament. Prayers were said before going into battle. God is a God of war but He is also a God of holiness. He guided those who sought Him in prayer. Sometimes, the people would send singers before they would fight. We read of this in Judges and the Psalms. God gave victory as the people honoured Him.

Today we are going to think of a different battle.

We are called as sinners to the Saviour. He chose us before the foundations of the world. He chose men to be converted. We are called by God’s grace, it is not of us. Paul talks here to Timothy, saying he’s been chosen by God to be a soldier. Paul led this young man to God. It’s wonderful to pray for someone to come to Christ and see this happen. God is able to save, God is able to subdue, God is able to keep.

Paul says to Timothy he’s now a son in the faith and gives him a charge, ‘This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. (1 Timothy 1:18-19).

Paul warns Timothy about being entangled by the things of this world, ‘No soldier gets entangles in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.’ (2 Timothy 2:4). Paul encourages him to endure by trusting in the Lord and believing in His promises. Paul not only tells us of the choices God has made, but how we can be entangled, mixed up in the wrong things of life. Paul is instructing his young son in the faith.

Paul also brings the message not only to Timothy but to all of us; we are encouraged to endure, ‘Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Timothy 2:3 KJV).

‘Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 2:3 ESV). Paul says we must endure hardship that we come across in this life. Timothy was a great minister to Paul. The young convert brought blessings to Paul. The younger can bring blessing to the older. It’s a humbling yet blessed experience.

God’s soldiers are enveloped. There is a way out of the hardness, the disappointments and difficulties, the darkness of the tunnel. There is light for the true believer. Endure the hardness for God will guide and bless.

As soldiers of Christ we can, as John Wesley says, arise and put our armour on. We are chosen, guided, used and blessed. This is all of God, not of us.