The Calling of the Twelve Apostles


Question: How did Jesus go about calling the men who would later become the apostles?

Answer: Thanks for the question; I’ll do my best to answer it for you. The call of the apostles can be seen in three distinct phases.

First Contact and Part-Time Discipleship:

the 12 apostlesThe first contact between Jesus and any of the apostles is recorded in John 1:35-51. It’s here that Andrew, John, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel meet Jesus for the first time. These encounters occurred in the wilderness where John the Baptist was preaching at the start of Jesus’ ministry. The text reveals that these men were first disciples of John who had heeded his preaching in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah (cf. John 1:15-34; Mark 1:4-5). When John identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (v. 35), Andrew and an unnamed disciple (presumably the apostle John) left John the Baptist and followed Jesus (v. 36). Later that day, Andrew brought his brother Simon to meet Jesus and it is at this time that Jesus began to call him Peter (vv. 40-42). On the next day, as Jesus was leaving the area, He called Philip and Nathanael to follow Him (vv. 43-51). It is generally understood like John, Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathanael were disciples of John the Baptist as well. While these five men “followed Jesus” (vv. 37, 43) they were not full-time disciples, that is, they had not left their day-jobs to follow Him around. They were part-timers we might say, coming and going as Jesus was in or around Galilee. That is why we will later find them fishing and mending their nets while Jesus is off preaching.

A Call to Full-Time Discipleship:

Phase two of the apostles’ calling was a call to full-time discipleship. This is where the dramatic scenes of Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9-17; Mark 1:16-20; 2:14-22; and Luke 5:1-11; 27-32 come into focus. These disciples had already encountered Jesus through the work of John the Baptist. They had accepted Him as the Christ and they had spent some time with Him (cf. John 2:2). However, their time with Him was brief and they went back to their lives of fishing, tax collecting, etc. It is within the context of this second call of Peter, Andrew, James and John that Jesus performs the miracle of the large catch of fish (Luke 5:4-7), extends the call to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17; cf. Luke 5:10) and we read venerable phrase, “immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Luke 5:11; cf. Matthew 4:20, 22; Mark 1:18, 20). In a less dramatic way, Matthew (Levi) was called to full-time discipleship, but the result was the same, “and leaving everything, he rose and followed Him” (Luke 5:28; cf. Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:12). Judging from Peter’s words in Mark 10:28, “See, we have left everything and followed you” it appears that all twelve apostles were called in similar fashion as those who’s calling were recorded in the gospels (perhaps even the seventy-two where called in the same manner; cf. Luke 10:1). During this short phase, these men would live, travel, aid and learn from Jesus like so many others. But their greatest call still lay ahead.

The Call to Apostleship:

The last phase of the disciples’ calling was to designate them as apostles or the sent ones (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). Jesus’ teaching and work was met with great resistance by the Pharisees and scribes (cf. Luke 5:17-6:11; Mark 2:1-3:6). As it reached a climax, Mark graphically records, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). It was with this back drop, that Jesus selected the apostles. Because of the importance of the role this office would play in the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14), Jesus spent all night in prayer before He selected the twelve (Luke 6:12). From the ranks of His disciples (there must have been hundreds), our Lord “chose twelve, whom He named apostles” (Luke 6:13). Using Luke’s account we find their names were: “Simon, whom He called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (Luke 6:14-16; cf. Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19). For roughly a year and half, these twelve men would live and learn from Jesus. He would teach and train them to be the bearers of His gospel message. Through triumph and failure, these men will come through the crucible (sans Judas), ready to spread the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:16-20).

Did that answer your question? I hope it did and thank you again for the question. If I can answer any other questions for I would be happy to do so or, if I can be of any help to you in your spiritual race, feel free to email me at clay@claygentry.com. May God bless you and remember, share the good news of Jesus with someone today.

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Caleb: A Man Favored By God


Does God have favorites? Oh I know He loves everybody. John 3:16 settles that argument. We also know that He does not show partiality toward men but calls all of every nation (Acts 10:34). And yet, when we survey the annuls of scripture, we clearly see that God was drawn to certain individuals more than He was to others. And for those who God was drawn to He showed them favor by granting them certain blessings that were not given to others.

For example, who would argue that God wasn’t drawn to Noah and his family, favoring them more than all others during his time (Genesis 6:17-18)? Or what about Abraham? Didn’t he and God have a special friendship (James 2:23) that was not shared with others? Consider Joseph, is there any doubt that God was specifically working in his life (Genesis 39:2)? And, who would deny that God had special plans for an obscure shepherd boy named David (1 Samuel 16:12-13). Or that He didn’t favor Mary over all the young Jewish girls in Judea (Luke 1:26-28)?[i] So we see God has favored certain people above others. So what does it take to be one of God’s special people, to be favored by Him? To answer that question let’s look at another of God’s favored people, Caleb and learn from Him the traits that God looks for in a person with whom He will favor.

The key to understanding why God favored Caleb can be found in Numbers 14:24, where God said:

“But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” (ESV)

Embedded within this one statement is the three keys for being favored by God. Let’s learn them together so that we too may be one of God’s special people.

Caleb was a Servant

The first reason God favored Caleb was because he was a servant. We’re first introduced to Caleb in Numbers 13. There in verse 2 we learn that God commanded Moses to “send men to spy out the land of Canaan… From each tribe… you shall send one man, everyone a chief among them.” A few verses down in verse 6 we find that the chief that was selected from the tribe of Judah was Caleb. At the very outset of meeting Caleb we see his servant heart.

Not only was Caleb a member of an elite spy organization, (for kicks let’s call it the CIIA, Children of Israel Intelligence Agency) he was also a leader among the tribe of Judah. That’s enough to give anybody the big head is it not? Yet when God looked down and examined the heart of this man He said there’s “my servant.” Caleb was one of those special people who understood the power of a position didn’t come from lording over others; instead it came by serving others. He, unlike other leaders in the Old Testament (i.e. 1 Samuel 12:12-21), knew that being a leader first meant humbling yourself to serve those whom you lead.

Do you want God’s favor then be a servant leader. From Ephesians 5:23 we learn that the “Husband is head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.” Husbands, do you want to be favored by God? Then be like Jesus and be a servant leader of your wife and family (Ephesians 5:25-27). Fathers, do you want to be favored by God? Then be a servant leader for your children humbly teaching them God’s word both verbally and by your actions (Ephesians 6:4). Elders, deacons, and preachers, do you want to be favored by God? Then be servant leaders to those the Spirit has entrusted you with, not lording over them but humbling yourself and serving as if you were their slave (Matthew 20:25-28). Ladies, do you want to be favored by God? Then be a servant leader in to your family (Proverbs 31:10-31; 1 Timothy 5:14). I think I have expressed this before, but women are to be the heads of the house (“keepers of home” (NKJV) “work at home” (ESV) literally means rule the house[ii]), or in the context of our lesson, servant leaders of the house. She is not to lord over her husband or children but serves them while she leads the house. (Men are head of the family, Ephesians 5:25-27; 6:4, while women are heads of the house affairs.) What do we seen? A servant leader is the kind of leader that is favored by God.

What’s the key then to being a servant leader? That can be found in Philippians 2:3-7. Here the apostle Paul said:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look no only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

What’s the key to be a servant leader that is favored by God? Paul said humbly put others and their interest before yours, serving them like Christ has served us. How much better would our homes be if husbands and fathers, wives and mothers had this spirit of leadership? How much better would our congregations be if elders, deacons and preachers possessed this spirit of as the heart of their leadership? How much better off would our children be if we as parents lead them in this fashion? The answer is, it all would be so much better because it would receive God’s favor.

We see that Caleb was favored by God because he humbly served others as God’s servant leader.

Caleb was Different

A second quality of Caleb that brought about God’s favor was that he had a “different spirit.” Flash-forward from where we started in Numbers 13:2, 6 to Numbers 14:5-9. The spies have already gone through the land and have come back to give their report. You’ll remember that ten of the spies disheartened the people by giving them a bad report (Numbers 13:30-33). Following the “bad report” the Children of Israel wept all night, grumbling against Moses and Aaron, ready to select new leaders and return to Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4). In an effort to stop the people from sinning, Caleb stood up and said to the people:

“The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-10)

It was with this statement that Caleb exhibited his God favoring trait of being different. What is it about this statement that’s so special? Let’s compare him to the 10 spies who gave the bad report. They were all chief’s from their tribes. They had all gone on the mission together and all it entailed. And they both started their speeches talking about how great the land was (compare Numbers 13:27 to 14:7b). What separated him from the rest? What was it that made Caleb different? It was that he brought God into the conversation of taking the Land. Aside from Joshua, Caleb is the only person in this whole scene who is talking about God. Because God was in Caleb’s heart, God was on Caleb’s lips. This is what made him different from the rest.

There’s no doubt we as Christian are to be different people. Our outlook on life is to be different from the rest of the world. Because our outlook is different, our priorities are to be different. Since our priorities are different then our activities are to be different. These differences lead to our moral and ethical standards being different from the world as well. This is nothing new. If you’ve been in a church for any length of time you have heard countless sermons on these subjects, especially about how we’re to be different by refraining from the doing the things the world does. But may I submit to you that if we are to be favored by God then we need to be different, not by merely refraining from certain behaviors, but also by engaging in God-favoring behaviors. That’s why Caleb was different. He was different because he was engaging in a God-favoring behavior that was different from those around him. And if we’re going to be people who are favored by God then we need to be different like Caleb by doing something different, and that is bring God into the conversation of our lives.

How do we bring God into the conversation of our lives? First, talk about Him at home. God’s words in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 are quite clear. God wants to be a part of the conversation of our lives at home. Hear what He said:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day. He was lamenting a remark made by one of his students in Bible class. My friend said, “One of my students told me that his parents don’t talk about God at home. They are just too busy.” That’s sad. That’s sad that God is not spoken of in this supposed Christian home. Will God favor this home? He won’t unless they begin to be different and bring God into the conversation of their home.

The second area we need to bring God into is the conversation of our plans. That’s what James is teaching in James 4:15 where he said, “Say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” Bring God into the conversation of our plans. Recognizing that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 18:28). Do you want to be favored by God? Recognize that you live for His will, and at His good pleasure He allows you to do this or that. But just don’t think it in your heart, express it with your lips to God, to yourself and to others. Let everyone know that you’re different, that you freely submit to the will of the God for your life.

Finally, we need to bring God into the conversation of our thanksgiving. We recognize that God’s will for us is to be people who “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and “[give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20). We do a good job with that when it comes to thanking God in private but what about in front of others? Caleb wasn’t different because he kept God in his heart. He was different because God was on his lips. We need to bring God into the conversation of our lives by giving thanks in front of others. Let me give you two passages to consider. The first is Psalm 35:18“I will thank You in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.” Here David says I will thank You in the assembly of Your people. Friends it is so very important that we thank God in the assembly, it will go a long way in stirring up love and good works (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25). The second is Psalm 18:49 (NKJV), I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles.” Again David is giving God thanks but not in front of believers, but in front of Gentiles, those who were outside the fellowship of God. If we would do the same, if we would give thanks to God, bring Him into the conversation of our lives and do it in front of non-Christians, then it would go a long way in prompting them to ask “for a reason for the hope that is in” us (1 Peter 3:15).

It takes courage to be different from a world that worships conformity. But if we are to be people who are favored by God, we’re going to have to be different by bringing God into the conversation of our lives. And if we have the courage to do that, His favor will be upon us.

Caleb Remained Loyal

So far we have considered two God-favoring qualities that Caleb possessed, first, he was a servant, and second, he was different. The third God-faoving quality that Caleb possessed was that he remained loyal. You’ll recall from our original text, Numbers 14:24 that God said of Caleb, “He… had followed Me fully.” That’s another way of saying, “He has remained loyal.” For Caleb being loyal to God, following Him fully would have been easy in the camp of the Israelites. It would have been easy to be loyal when he spied out Canaan with his “band of brothers.” But God didn’t favor Caleb because he was loyal, or because he followed Him. He favored Caleb because he remained loyal, because he fully followed God. He remained loyal despite the fortified cities, in the face of the giants, even with the strong nations they would have to fight and he remained loyal even when his fellow Israelites were ready to stone him (Numbers 14:10). God favored Caleb because Caleb stood out from the rest, while their loyalty was failing, his loyalty to God remained intact.

The real challenge of this lesson is to remain loyal. For the vast majority of the time, being loyal to God is no problem. We all know too well that the moment we think life’s going good, then Murphy moves in and everything crumbles. All of us from time to time will face our proverbial strong cities, our towering giants, and our mobs rock wielding brethren. For you it might be financial woes that you’re fighting against. Do you want to be favored by God in that struggle? Then don’t waver, remain loyal. It might be sickness and the consequences of old age that you’re facing. Don’t give in embrace God’s favor by remaining loyal. It might be the temptations of Satan that you’re fighting against. Don’t budge, instead resist him, remaining loyal to God and He will give you His favor to overcome. You can do it friends you can remain loyal. Will be hard at times? Sure but just like Caleb you can do it.

Finally, in Joshua 14:6-15 we have the last scene of Caleb’s life. By this time he’s eighty-five years old. And what is he doing? He’s getting ready to take the land that God promised him when they came back from their spy mission (Numbers 14:24). What do we see here? We see a man who in the twilight of his life of who has remained loyal to God. The text goes on to say that he conquer Hebron in Judah and from there he conquered Debir (Joshua 15:13-19). Why was he able to accomplish this feat at such an age? Because God favored him. Why did God favor Caleb? Because he was a servant, he was different and because he remained loyal. And therein lies the true incentive for possessing these God-favoring qualities; if we will be servants, be different and remain loyal then God will give us our promised land in His time, just like He did for Caleb.

I have no doubt that you want to do great things for the Lord as well; that you want to receive His favor just as He has bestowed on others throughout the scriptures. I’m here to tell today that you can. You can be favored by God when you’ll be like Caleb and possess the God-favoring qualities that we have discussed. Will it be hard? Sure, but I know you’re up for the challenge because God wouldn’t call you to it accept it if He first hadn’t empowered you to accomplish it.

Thank you for taking this journey with me into the life of Caleb. I hope that you’ll give consideration to the lessons we have discussed that you too will work to possess the God-favoring qualities that Caleb had.


[i] Atteberry, Mark. The Caleb Quest: What You Can Learn From The Boldest Dreamer In The Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1996. Print Page 36-37.

[ii] Thayer – G3616 (1)to be master (or head) of a house. (2) to rule a household, manage family affairs.

Three Costs of Influence and Leadership


There are people in this world who possess the natural ability to lead and command the respect of others. Whether you call it charm, charisma, magnetism, or whatever, such people wield a powerful influence on those who look up to them as the embodiment of all they would like to become themselves.

Peter apparently possessed such qualities and was a leader among the apostles. It was Peter who always listed first when the apostles are named in scripture (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). It was Peter who declared Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:16). It was Peter who took the lead in seeing the need to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-26). It was Peter who stood up and raised his voice above and proclaimed Jesus as the Christ on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14).

We have all known and have been influenced by people like Peter. Every one of us has our “hero” that we have looked up to through the years. Perhaps it was a parent that was your hero, or an uncle/aunt, or grandparent. Perhaps it was a helpful teacher or an encouraging coach. Perhaps it was a preacher, or pastor, or a silver-haired saint.

The opportunities for good that leaders and hero’s possess are tremendous; but so are the responsibilities. The confidence of others is a trust that must be carefully protected. On one hand a leader can influence someone to achieve greater heights; while on the other the sinful actions of a leader can lead their admirers to the lowest of lows.

Such was the case with the apostle Peter and his refusal to eat with the Gentile Christians at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-21). Peter had come down to Antioch and was socializing and eating with the Gentile Christians in the church there. But when certain Christians came from James in Jerusalem, Peter was afraid of what they might say about him eating with Gentiles (see Acts 10:28; 11:2-3for an explanation of Jewish thoughts on eating with Gentiles) so he separated himself from the Gentile Christians and wouldn’t eat with them. Peter’s hypocritical actions lead the rest of the Jews in the church at Antioch, including Barnabas, to stop eating and having fellowship with their Gentile brethren. When Paul saw Peter’s actions he rebuked him to his face in front of those who were led astray by his actions.

There are three lessons we, as leaders, can learn from this incident that will help us maintain our influence with those who look up to us:

Leaders must live more cautiously than others. Every Christian is warned not to place a stumbling block in his brother’s way (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9). Because of their potential for influence, leaders are to live even more cautiously than others. While it may not have mattered much for one Jew to not have eaten with Gentiles, it mattered tremendously when Peter did not eat with them. Peter failed to live more cautiously than others. He failed to realize that others would follow his lead and sin by “playing the hypocrite.”

As leaders, whether as parents, or preachers, or professionals, we must live more cautiously than others. People (our children, our congregations, our friends) are looking up to us as leaders for guidance in what to do, for permission to do it, and for the encouragement to keep it up. Many times the guidance, permission and encouragement they are seeking comes not from our words, but from our actions. Since our actions speak as loudly as our words, we need to exercise caution in the way we live our lives. Cautious living is simply a cost – an inevitable cost – of influence and leadership.

Leaders must weigh the impact of their decisions. Leaders must be prepared that their decisions will have a greater impact on others than the actions of those with lesser influence. While Peter was probably not the first Jewish Christian to not eat with Gentiles the actions of the less influential had gone unnoticed by the majority. It was inevitable that Peter’s sin would result in greater impact by all the Jews in the church at Antioch, including Barnabas, refused to eat with their Gentile brethren (Galatians 2:13).

As leaders we must carefully weigh the decisions that we make, because our decisions impact the lives of others. We must weigh the impact of the words we say, the purchases we make, the relationships we keep, the jobs we take, the hobbies we have, the places we live, the church we attend, and the list goes on and on. And while it may seem overwhelming, having to weigh the impact of our decisions is simply a cost – an inevitable cost – of influence and leadership.

Leaders must endure sterner rebukes. Paul said that he withstood Peter “to his face… before everyone.” (cf. Galatians 2:11, 14) Paul recognized that Peter’s actions required an immediate and stern rebuke in front of those whom he led astray and those whom he hurt by his sin. Peter could not have the luxury of a private meeting with Paul; Peter had betrayed a trust. Nothing less than an open rebuke could counteract the harm that had resulted from his sinful action.

As leaders we must endure sterner rebukes when we do wrong. It’s inevitable that when we have not lived cautiously, nor weighed the impact of our decisions we will led others astray by our actions. The temptation is to demand our right for a matter to be treated fairly (which means privately) but it is only fair that as public leaders we receive stern, public rebukes for our errors. Sterner rebukes are simply a cost – an inevitable cost – of influence and leadership.

When “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was involved in the Black Sox Scandal of the 1919 and was on his way to trial, a small boy, hurt, disappointed, with tears in his eyes, was heard to cry, “Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.” Each of us is likely someone’s hero and a looked up to leader. Let us, when we are presented with temptation, look ahead to the potential tears, and hurt and disillusionment that we could bring upon those who look up to us; let the cries of, “say it ain’t so…” ring in our ears and motivate us to live cautiously, weighing the impact of our decisions, and accept a sterner rebuke for our errors.

This article has been adapted from Bill Hall’s article entitled, The Cost of Influence and Reputation from his book Two Men… Articles on Practical Christian Living published by Gary Fisher, 1998.

Titus – Paul’s Partner and Fellow Worker


When we survey the later part of the book of Acts we find a faithful band of men and women who traveled the ancient world preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the center of this sojourners and pilgrims was the apostle Paul, the tireless workhorse of the early church. But Paul didn’t work alone. He was not an army of one. He was not a one man show. Instead he surrounded himself with people he called “his partners and fellow workers.”

Some of Paul’s “partners and fellow workers” that Luke mentions are well known to most Bible students, such as: Barnabas, Silas, Pricilla and Aquila, Timothy, Apollos and Aristarchus. While others, such as Gaius, Secundus, Sopater, Tychicus Trophimus, and Erastus are not as well known. But there is one “partner and fellow worker” that Luke never mentions and that’s Titus. Titus was always there, tirelessly working behind the scenes, go where he was needed, saying what needed to be said and that’s why Paul would call him “my partner and fellow worker” (2 Cor 8:23). Titus is only mentioned twelve times in the New Testament[i] which has lead him to be an overlooked man of the faith. There’s a lot to be learned from Titus. Let’s his work with the early church and then learn four lessons from his life that will help strengthen our faith today.

[read more: Titus – Paul’s Partner and Fellow Worker]


[i] Passages that mention Titus by name: 2 Cor 2:13, 7:6, 13, 14, 8:6, 16, 23, 12:18; Gal 2:1, 3; 2 Tim 4:10; Tit 1:4.

 

You Were Ready A Year Ago


In the second letter to the Corinthians Paul dedicates two chapters (8, 9) to persuading the Corinthians to complete their collection of funds for the needy Saints in Judea before he arrives.  For the purposes of this study I would like for us to focus our attention on what Paul writes in 2 Cor 9:2.

“for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority.”

In this verse you can see that the Corinthians possessed a willingness to collect money for the Saints in Judea.  As a matter of fact, they were more than willing; they were zealous with such zeal that other churches were stirred up by the Corinthians willingness and zeal.  But sadly a year had passed; their willingness and zeal had waned and the collection had not been completed.  Paul is writing to them urging them through persuasive statements to get their act together, be ready for his coming and finish the work they had so zealously started.

Times have not changed.  As Christians today we are prone to begin a work with all willingness and zeal to only find the task not completed after a year or more.  How many good works have you started that were never completed for one reason or another?  I would suspect the reasons the Corinthians did not complete their work would apply to us today.  Such reasons as losing heart, letting life get in the way, or growing weary in doing good do not only apply to the Corinthians but to us as well.  How then can we overcome these obstacles to completing works we were so willing and zealous to complete “a year ago”?

“Do Not Lose Heart…” – Four times in the epistles of Paul he tells his readers “do not lose heart” (2 Cor 4:1, 16, Gal 6:9, Eph 3:13 NKJV). How many Christians, then and now, need to heed those same words, “do not lose heart?” Think back to when you were baptized into Christ.  When we “put on Christ” (Gal 3:27) we were like the Ethiopian Eunuch who went “on his way rejoicing” ready to take on the world.  Who didn’t feel “ten foot tall and bullet proof” but somehow and somewhere along the way our stature shrank back down and we didn’t feel so invincible so we lost heart.

When we first become Christians we possess a willingness and zeal to work for the cause of Christ and the Kingdom but we meet with some disappointment or failure and we lose heart.  I think about what Paul endured in his travels and especially the physical beating he endured at Lystra (Acts 14:19, 20). The Jews had stoned him, dragged him out of the city and supposing him dead leave him outside the city.  Can you see Paul bruised and bloody; knocked down and beat up and left for dead?  But he doesn’t “lose heart”; he gets up, dusts himself off, and goes back into the city to complete his work.  We know from Acts that his willingness and zeal never faulted but grew stronger as he worked for the Lord.  We too must not lose heart even when we face disappointment, or we get knocked down.  The price for losing heart is too great; our soul’s salvation is dependent upon our willingness to serve God with zeal.

Life Got In The Way – Another reason for the Corinthians delay in collecting the funds could be that life got in the way.  Other responsibilities took precedent over the work of reliving the needy Saints of Judea.  When you read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians you can see they had a lot of work ahead of them if they were to be a sound church.  There were divisions to heal, a sinful brother to rebuke and bring back, lawsuits to settle, and doctrines to teach on marriage, idol’s meat, head coverings, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts and Christ’s resurrection.  Essentially life got in the way because of the mountain of work in correcting the problems the church faced.

Jesus taught about similar people his Parable of the Great Supper found in Luke 14:15-24. When these people were invited to the great supper, life got in the way of their attendance.  One could not come because of the obligation of a land transaction, another because of his livestock and the last because he had just married.  These three thought that the necessities of this life took precedent over the call of the Lord.  Their soul’s were damned because the let life get in the way of setting at the table of the great master.  May we never let life get in the way of serving our God.  He and his work must be first and foremost in our lives.

“Do Not Grow Weary In Doing Good.” – Let’s face it; doing good can be tiresome at times.  The Corinthians were willingly and zealously preparing a “generous gift” (2 Cor 9:5) for the needy Saints in Judea.  The text seems to imply that some may have grown weary in doing this good work; tired of the sacrifice they had to make in order to complete the work.  Paul tells them that he doesn’t want them to give “grudgingly or [out] of necessity” but instead he wants them to give cheerfully “for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Cor 9:7)

Do you grow weary in doing good?  We start a good work with all willingness and zeal; only to find “a year” later that we are doing our good work “grudgingly [and out] of necessity.” Our good works can take on many different forms; teaching, preaching, visiting, preparing meals, etc.  It could also extend to attending worship services, singing certain songs, leading prayer or other acts of worship.  When we find ourselves working (attending, singing or praying) with a grudge full attitude it’s time for us to remember 2 Cor 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Paul says that God will provide an abundance of grace for every good work.  We have all that we need to stay focused on the task at hand so that we can work for God with a willful and zealous attitude.

As we continue to work for God and the Kingdom we should tackle each and every task with a willingness to work and zeal to carry us through its completion.  We will be tempted along the way to lose heart, to make other responsibilities priority, and to grow weary in doing good.  But we must be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  (1 Cor 15:58) Great is the reward for those who persevere.

Two Benefits of Telling Someone You’re Praying For Them


The phrases, “Pray for me” and “I’m praying for you” have been used so much they have become Christian small talk akin to “How you doing?… Fine, thank you.” But when it comes to praying for each other we need to be people who inform others that we are praying for them.

"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." Rom 1:8

Telling someone that you are praying for them and what your prayers for them consist of does two things for the person on whose behalf you are praying:

First: they see your concern for them. Epaphras was a man who was concerned for the church at Colossae. His concern for them caused him to “labor fervently for them in prayer” (Col 4:12). Can you imagine how the church at Colossae felt when they heard that their friend Epaphras was praying for them and that in his prayers he asked God to make them “stand perfect and complete” in His will. Their hearts must have overflowed with joy.

The second benefit is that it gives them strength to continue on in the faith. Why did Paul know that his first imprisonment would end with his deliverance? It was because of a supply of God’s Spirit and because he knew the church at Philippi was praying that his imprisonment would end with his deliverance (Php 1:19). It was because of God’s help and because Paul knew others were praying for him that he had enough strength to “this will turn out for my deliverance… whether by life or by death.” (Php 1:20) Imagine for a moment what it would have been like for Paul if he thought no one was praying for him? Paul would have only been half the man he was.

Paul understood the power of telling people that he was praying for them and what his prayers consisted of. In nearly every one of his epistles he tells his recipients he his praying for them and what he prayed for on their behalf. Paul encouraged the church at Rome (Rom 1:9-12), Corinth (1 Cor 1:4-8; 2 Cor 13:7), the churches of Galatia (Gal 6:18) Ephesus (Eph 1:16-23), Philippi (Php 1:3-6), and Thessalonica (1 Ths 1:2-3; 2 Ths 11-12) by telling them that he prayed for them and what he prayed for on their behalf.

In addition to his letters of encouragement to the churches, Paul also personally encouraged Philemon (Phl 4-7) and Timothy (1 Tim 5:21, 6:13-16; 2 Tim 1:3-7) with news of his prayers for them.

As we pray for others we need to tell them that we are praying for them and what we are praying for on their behalf. You never know, it just might be your encouragement that gives the strength to keep on another day.

Have you been praying for someone special in your life? Maybe it’s a person who is sick, or recently lost a loved one or a job, or perhaps you’ve been praying for someone who is struggle with overcoming sin. Sent them a note or go see them and tell them you have been praying for them and what your prayers for them consist of. They will benefit greatly from your love and that you remembered them.

I would love to know how it went. Drop me an email at clay@claygentry.com and tell me your story of how prayer has changed your life.

He Thanked God and was Encouraged


Paul’s voyage to Rome, as recorded in Acts 27-28, is some of the most interesting passages in all the New Testament. With depth of detail, Luke

"And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage." Acts 28:15

brings to life the voyage, the storms, the sailing conditions, being lost at sea and the shipwreck on Malta that nearly cost the lives of 276 people. Finally, after several months of traveling, Paul and his companions landed in Italy and made their way to Rome. Along the way, brethren from Rome came to meet Paul as he made his way to the capital. The text says that when Paul saw them, that is the brethren from Rome, “he thanked God and took courage” (Act 28:15). There are two lessons that I would like for us to take away from this short verse:

The first is, give God thanks, for His ways are right. Paul had longed to see the brethren in Rome (Rom 1:8-15) and he had planned to see them as he traveled to Spain (Rom 15:24). To aid him in coming to them quickly he asked them to pray that he would be delivered from the unbelieving Jews in Judea, that his service of bringing the gift of relief to the church in Jerusalem would be acceptable, and that he would come to them with joy (Rom 15:30-32). Paul was finally able to see the brethren but as a prisoner instead of a freeman. Nevertheless, Paul gave thanks for God’s way of bringing him to Rome because it was the right way.

It’s so easy for us to think that God should answer our prayers in the manner in which we deem best. But when God answers us, whether it is with a yes, no, or not right now, let’s give thanks, for His ways are right. Paul’s trip to Rome was long (nearly three years after he wrote Romans); it was fraught with danger (he nearly lost his life three times) and on the surface it seemed like there could have been a better way to answer Paul’s prayer. Yet, Paul gave thanks when he arrived in Rome. Can’t we do the same? When we don’t get the job we wanted, or a family member doesn’t recover from a sickness like we wanted can’t we give thanks for God’s answer? Sure we can, because we know that His ways are right. We may not always know God’s plan for us but no matter where he leads, His ways are always right.

The second is, be a source of encouragement to someone else. What a sight it must have been to witness Paul seeing all the brethren come out to meet him along the Roman road. There must have been tears, prayers, hugs, and words of encouragement from the scriptures. Some of those who came out to see Paul would have been old friends (Rom 16:1-15), while others would have been meeting him for the first time. But the sight of these brethren and their demonstration of love caused him to be encouraged as he faced an unknown fate in Rome.

Let’s not underestimate the value of encouragement. Because the saints in Rome came out to see Paul he filled with courage to fight on for another day. We can do the same for someone else. We can do the same for a person who has been tossed to and fro by the storms of life. We can do the same for a person who has made shipwreck of their life. We can do the same for the person who is waiting on the Lord. We can do the same for the person who faces an uncertain future after life has thrown them a curveball. We can be a source of encouragement that helps them fight on for another day and it’s so simple… just be there for them. Cry with them. Pray with them. Hug them. Read your Bible with them. Walk with them. You never know; you might just be the person who gives them the courage to fight on another day.

We have learned two very powerful lessons from this short verse; (1) give God thanks, for His ways are right, (2) be a source of encouragement to someone else. I hope that you will take these jewels of wisdom to heart. If you need help in finding your way, you know I’m always here to lend a hand. God bless.

You can reach me at clay@claygentry.com