Cramped quarters. Isolation. Lack of natural light. Tiny sleeping areas, where beds are sometimes referred to as ‘coffins.’ Minimal restroom facilities. Showers – as small as possible. The food – good enough to sustain life, even after any perishable items are gone. Normal sense of time – as in day and night – is absent. “Sign me up!” – some people say.
Such is life on a submarine! I know a former sailor who had served in the US Navy on submarines. He told me he once served a continuous 6-month mission underwater without surfacing once!
For one who has not been exposed to such circumstances, I can only imagine what that’s like.
One may potentially lose track of both time and season, yet the sailor’s duties on board continue. For the sailor is called to obey orders both in season and out of season, whatever that season may be.
The Christian life is a bit like life on a submarine in this sense – regardless of season, we are called to fulfill our responsibilities. You see, just as a sailor is called to fulfill his duties assigned by the captain of the boat, so we are called to fulfill our duties assigned by the captain of our soul – Jesus.
The Apostle Paul knew well this commitment to follow Jesus was not a seasonal deployment, but rather a life-long endeavor. And no matter the season or circumstance, he remained resolute in fulfilling that commitment.
We see a terrific example of his determination to fulfill his service to the Lord while in a Roman prison in Acts 28. And it is here in this final chapter of Acts that we close our series entitled ‘Lessons from Acts.’
As the book of Acts reveals the birth, growth, and expansion of the early church, it’s interesting to note the final verses of Acts pertain to the individual believer, namely Paul. And therein lies an important lesson for you and for me.
As Paul enters house arrest here in Acts 28, during his first of two Roman imprisonments, he was given the freedom to receive visitors. And who do you think he requested to visit?
It was Paul’s usual ministry pattern to visit a synagogue upon entering a city or town. But since he was under house arrest, he invited the ‘leading men of the Jews’ (Acts 28:17) – the most important men of the Rome synagogue, to visit him.
In Acts 28:17-22 Paul initially denies any transgression against the Jewish people, noting that he was ‘wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.’
Some time later, upon witnessing to a large when number of Jewish people, Paul receives a mixed response from the audience:
“So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.” (Acts 28:23-24)
And it’s just not immediately after arriving in Rome where Paul preaches the gospel. He continues throughout his imprisonment:
“And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.” (Acts 28:30-31)
Amazing – Paul evangelizes Rome for two years while under arrest!
I’m inspired by the fact that Paul was ‘unhindered’ in his ministry effort.
Now you could say the Lord opened the door for Paul to preach and teach unhindered, and you would be right. Certainly the Roman government could have kept in solitary confinement or prohibited visitors.
Yet, we see a great example of Paul’s heart to be salt and light no matter the circumstance or season of life. Perhaps that’s why during his second Roman imprisonment he wrote to his apprentice in ministry, Timothy, these words, as he anticipated his own martyrdom:
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
While this was originally a specific admonition to Timothy regarding his pastoral duty to proclaim God’s Word, it has a general application for the believer’s witness today.
You see, earlier Paul provided context for this admonition, writing about perilous times and the need for Timothy to remain faithful to fulfill his pastoral responsibilities (2 Timothy 3:1-17). Perilous times and perilous men would certainly pose a great challenge to Timothy. In fact, they would be potential hinderances to Timothy.
Similarly, you and I are today also living in perilous times amidst a corrupt and perverse generation. And we face our own potential hinderances in being the witnesses God calls us to be. Some of our potential hinderances today include personal time demands, political correctness, along with cultural barriers like post-modernism, cynicism, and skepticism.
For the follower of Jesus, being His witness in season and out season means there is no offseason. Because in this season of life, we can regularly pray for the lost and for those witnessing to them (Matthew 9:37-38). We can also be intentional in developing friendships with people. We can serve people. And we can proclaim truth as God open doors of opportunity.
Paul ministered the gospel while in prison and when he was free. His commitment to serve the Lord and be a witness even amidst challenges, difficulties and trials is exemplary.
Today, may we be inspired by Paul’s exemplary witness as we follow Jesus in whatever season of life we find ourselves. For people need the Lord…in season and out of season.