Friday, December 11, 2009

REACH THE REACHABLE, WIN THE WINNABLE -- Devotional for December 11, from "Good Seeds"

Paul solemnly testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when they resisted and blasphemed he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. From now I shall go to the Gentiles.” Then the Lord spoke to Paul in a night vision saying, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no man will stop you – for I have many people in this city. (Acts 18:5-6, 9-10)

WD-40, the miracle lubricant with a thousand uses, is so named because it wasn’t until the fortieth try at Water Displacement that the inventor came upon the winning formula. He believed he was onto something, but it took tremendous stick-to-it-ive-ness to achieve success. On the other hand, it is said to be a sign of insanity to repeat the same mindless, useless behavior over and over thinking, “next time it will be different.” It takes great wisdom to discern between perseverance and insanity. When sharing Christ, this distinction is crucial. Paul’s heart was for his own people. Whenever he entered a city, he always went “to the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16), reasoning with them in their synagogues concerning the claims of Christ. But invariably he met strong resistance. Did he give up and go back to tent-making? No. Verse 5 says, “He devoted himself all the more to the Word of God.” But surely he asked himself, “What will be the best use of my time and energy?” Just as Jesus had instructed His disciples: “Leave any city that does not listen to you, shaking the dust off the soles of your feet as a testimony against them" (Mark 6:11), so Paul “shook out his garments” as a gesture of non-responsibility, as if to say, “Don’t blame me on Judgment Day when you find out what I told you about Jesus is true after all!” He had to discern just how long to labor among the Jews before turning toward greener Gentile pastures. But we know he did finally make the decision to look for an open door for the gospel rather than to continually beat his head against a perpetually closed door. And when he did this, two things happened, which confirmed his decision: 1) the Gentiles in Corinth were so hungry for the truth that when Paul preached, “they heard, believed, and were baptized” (verse 8); 2) God spoke to Paul in a dream, assuring him of safety and success. And then God said a curious thing: “I have many people in this city” (verse 10). Wow! What missionary wouldn’t love to hear such a statement about his chosen field! But not hearing it, we go back to the wisdom exercised by Paul: Win the winnable; reach the reachable; teach the teachable. Don’t waste time on resisters; rather, pack up and move on. Jesus has many people “in this city” – or that one. There will never be a shortage of souls who need the Lord!

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