Jump Start # 2546
Acts 15:41 “And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
In our verse today, Luke is tracing the steps of Paul and Barnabas. They had been on a long journey preaching the Gospel. Great things have taken place. Now, they wanted to go back and see how things were. It is in this atmosphere, that our verse today is found. Paul was strengthening the churches.
Boy, that’s needed these days. The opposite of a strong church, is a weak church. And, a weak church, like weak coffee, just doesn’t set well with most of us. In a weak church there are more things that seem to be wrong than there are right. A weak church is like sitting in a boat with multiple holes in it. Where do you begin? There are too many things that need fixing. And, do you know how a church becomes weak? It’s weak because the members are weak. You can’t have a weak church and strong members. The church is a reflection of the members. A weak church means the members are weak.
Paul was strengthening the churches. I don’t think that is something only an apostle can do. We all can be part of helping a congregation get stronger. Now, just how is that done?
First, there has to be a desire aspect. You can’t move people that do not want to move. Yagottawanna, is not an Indian term. It means, You—got-to-want-to, or Yagottawanna. And, when there is no Yagottawanna, then folks are content to drift, sit and even die spiritually. Be diligent, as the Bible tells us to be, involves an inner drive and an inner goal. Saving money isn’t all that hard, if a person wants to. Get a person who is tired of being broke and living paycheck to paycheck, step back and watch him go. He’ll cut expenses. He’ll follow a budget like it’s the Bible. He is intent and he’ll save money. As long as folks are happy doing nothing spiritually, and going no where spiritually, there isn’t much strengthening that is going to take place.
How do you create that desire? How do you get people to want to? You paint a picture of what life could be like. You show that broke guy what it would be like to go on vacation and to have it paid for before you leave. You show that person who is overweight how much better they would feel if they lost a few pounds. And, you show that child of God who powerful it is to walk with joy and confidence, knowing that the Lord loves you and wants you to be with Him. You show what a difference being strong makes in your family. You show how being strong reaches others and helps them out.
Second, Biblical strength comes from being together with our Bibles open. It takes both. We can be together at a ballgame and have the time of our lives. Our friendships will grow closer but ballgames cannot strengthen us spiritually. There is only one way and that is opening the Bible and learning. Teaching each other. Having challenging classes. Learning to lower the nets and look deeper into the message of God. Grabbing amazing applications and sharing insights with each other is how we grow, develop and become stronger.
Third, worship must be included in all of this. There is one common place where you will find strong Christians, and that is at worship. They love to honor God. They love to sing with others. They love the teaching of God’s word. You want to be stronger in the Lord, then get down to the church house. Not, now and again, but all the time. Put it first on your list. It comes before fun and games. It comes before self. You go because of all the wonderful things connected with it. Paul strengthened the churches. Something is implied there. Paul taught and they heard. They were there. Can’t be strengthened when I’m not there. Sometimes I wonder if we have just too much going on in our lives. We take on more and more, and we become stretched like that rubber band. It’s no wonder that some of us snap. With all of these obligations, activities, there remains so little time to get together and to be strengthened.
Fourth, there is also implied within our passage the idea that one can become stronger. You cannot strengthen something that cannot be strengthened, if that makes any sense. Weak can become strong. Indifferent can become compassionate. Not caring can care. Selfish can become a servant. We can become stronger in the Lord. The best among us can even become stronger in the Lord.
It has always impressed me that in 2 Timothy 4, as Paul awaits yet another trial and appearance before Caesar, that he asks Timothy to bring things. Bring his coat. Bring some paper. And, bring books. Paul wanted to read. I’d love to know what those books were. I doubt they were how to saw through prison bars and escape. If anything, they were things to help strengthen him. Alone in a prison, facing the end of the journey, Paul wanted books. Books that can encourage. Books that can build hope. Books that remind. Books that can strengthen.
Strengthening churches—wish everyone had that spirit. Can you imagine what things would look like if everyone caught that dream? Do your part. Do it well. Do it often.
Strengthen others…and as you do, you’ll find out that it also strengthens you.