Did you know that forest fires generally move faster uphill than downhill? Upon first glance, the uphill versus downhill dynamic is perhaps something we think about initially in relation to walking, jogging, driving, or snow skiing. It’s a bit counterintuitive to think of anything moving uphill faster than downhill.
Yet, upon review, the scientific fact bears out that wild fires usually move faster uphill than downhill. Why? In simple terms, flames lick upward, so they’ll ignite things above them sooner than things below. The heat also rises, making a wind that fans the flames up the slope. In short, this idea that forest fires generally move faster uphill than downhill is, in the physical, counterintuitive.
In the spiritual, counterintuitive principles abound. For example, Jesus said, ‘the first shall be last’ (Matthew 20:16) and the Apostle Paul wrote ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:10).
When the Apostle Paul met with Ephesian elders in Miletus prior to his departure to Jerusalem in Acts 20, his final words are an exhortation to remember this overarching counterintuitive principle uttered from the Lord Jesus Himself:
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
As one bible commentator states: “The Lord Jesus speaks with an economy of words that is staggering.” This principle is so simple, yet so profound and transformative.
The Apostle Paul’s life and witness as a follower of Jesus certainly exemplified this principle. And as we’ll see, there is much we can glean from Paul’s exhortation that, if applied in our lives, can also have a profound and transformative effect upon our testimony for Christ.
In Acts 20:17-37, while Paul shares with the Ephesian elders the various ways he gave of Himself for the cause of the gospel, he also exhorts them to also give in the same way. And how did Paul give?
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews. (Acts 20:17-19)
Paul gave humbly and sacrificially: Paul served the Lord with humility, even when it meant being misunderstood & rejected. He served amidst tears and trials because of people rejecting the Lord (Romans 9:2-3), struggling immature believers (2 Corinthians 11:24, 26) and the threat of false teachers (Acts 20:29-30).
Paul understood that the salvation of the lost was more important than his personal safety and comfort. He was also thoroughly committed to raising up to maturity those in the family of God.
The Apostle’s commitment to the Great Commission is a tremendous example to us. For we are also called to humbly serve and give of ourselves to the cause of sharing the light of Christ with those among us who are walking in darkness.
And as sowers of gospel seed, we don’t necessarily know the condition of the soil – namely people’s hearts (Matthew 13:1 -23; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-18). Yet we’re called to sow in prayer, good deeds, and in the proclamation of the gospel, even though we may face misunderstanding, trials and rejection. Did Paul give until it hurt? Yes…and then some. This is to give humbly and sacrificially. We shouldn’t be surprised by the struggle – we should expect it. And yet, people are of inestimable value to the Lord…so we ought to press on, serving the Lord humbly and sacrificially.
Paul continues to remind them of his giving:
…how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20-21).
Paul gave publicly and personally: While he gave testimony in synagogues and in the marketplace, Paul’s ministry was also personal. He would reinforce his teaching with further instruction in households and with individuals.
In our PC world of today, believers are often discouraged from having a public faith. But being a witness for Jesus is not exclusively either a public or private matter, it’s a both/and endeavor.
I had an hour-long spiritual conversation with a self-proclaimed agnostic as we watched our daughters participate in a gymnastics class. It was a blessing for a variety of reasons – one being was there was a family from my church seeing me witness to this man in public.
Another neat dynamic about sharing truth in a faith-based conversation in public is you realize you have an audience that may be eavesdropping – how dare they! 🙂
I’ve since seen him again at another class and we’re continuing to converse. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Lord will do here. I’ve begun to pray for this man and look forward to further opportunities to be salt and light.
In your walk look for opportunities to be a witness in the marketplace, yet also strive to give testimony among those closest to you.
Perhaps you have an existing friendship with someone who doesn’t know the Lord – someone with whom you’ve never intentionally shared your faith. Pray God would show you what it looks like to be more intentional in your witness to that one, asking Him to open up doors of opportunity to share truth.
In our witness, to give humbly and sacrificially in public and personal ways is challenging. Yet, in giving of myself in this way along my journey of faith, I have found that yes – ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” How about you?
As we ponder our witness, may we seek the Lord as to how He may have us give evangelistically in 2016.
Lord Jesus, here I am. I desire to be a faithful witness for you. Show me what it looks like to give evangelistically as I seek to know You and make You known. And as I give for Your glory, help me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of your words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Amen.