Seeking Jesus First - July 9, 2023

Seeking Jesus First - July 9, 2023
Photo by Katrien Van crombrugghe / Unsplash

What did the Saul/Paul do after his blinding encounter with Jesus? After obeying Jesus’s initial command to go into the city and have someone pray for him to see again and to be filled with The Holy Ghost, he disappeared for at least fourteen years.

We learn in The Book of the Acts of The Apostles that he spent that time getting to know Jesus. Paul grew in the grace of God. He did not immediately go into the ministry of apostle. He studied out the Old Testament Scriptures to find out what had happened to him. He was believing in Jesus as Messiah after persecuting and killing Jews for believing just that. He was baptized in The Holy Ghost and speaking another tongues. He was having visions and being caught up in the heavenly spirit realm. He was encountering Jesus and being led by Holy Spirit as he began to learn and grow in understanding of the kingdom of God. He was growing in the complete work of grace.

But one day, something happened. Holy Spirit led him into ministry. He was concerned that people would fear him, but Holy Spirit helped him overcome his concern and the people their fears.

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.” (Acts 14:21–28, NKJV)

This passage speaks of how Paul and Barnabas were commended to the work of grace. Commended means given over to.

Paul and Barnabas had been given over to the grace of God for a purpose and a work. When the disciples recognized their calling and ministry, they committed them to the grace of God for the work of the ministry. Paul and Barnabas were sent by the disciples and apostles with the grace of God to go and do the work.

The grace of God gave them an assignment. The grace of God did the assignment with them.

The grace of God sent them on a mission trip. The grace of God went on the mission trip with them.

The grace of God gave them a work to do. The grace of God did the work with them.

When they completed the particular task given to them by the other apostles, they returned to give a praise report.

Here is that specific portion in the Amplified version:

And from there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had [first] been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had [now] completed. Arriving there, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had accomplished with them and how He had opened to the Gentiles a door of faith [in Jesus as the Messiah, through Whom we obtain salvation in the kingdom of God]. And there they stayed no little time with the disciples.” (Acts 14:26–28, AMP)

After that work, they stayed and were encouraged, refreshed and strengthened by the other disciples.

Let’s see the process in the life of Jesus.

And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40, NKJV)

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52, NKJV) The word favor is grace.

Jesus grew in grace until He was ready to fulfill grace’s assignment for him.

Grace is the completed work of God’s pleasing will toward us through Christ Jesus.

When we accept grace by faith, we start growing in grace and faith. We grow in the completed work. There comes a time in our growth in grace when we might be given over to grace for a work of ministry. When this happens, grace does the work with us. This means that we do the work by faith trusting the grace of God to accomplish it with us and through us.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10, NKJV)

But by the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not [found to be] for nothing (fruitless and without effect). In fact, I worked harder than all of them [the apostles], though it was not really I, but the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10, AMP)

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9, NKJV)

For we are fellow workmen (joint promoters, laborers together) with and for God; you are God’s garden and vineyard and field under cultivation, [you are] God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9, AMP)

Those who are ministering to others are co-laboring with the grace of God. This is why ministry is spelled W O R K. It requires effort. Grace makes our effort fruitful. If we labor without grace, we are laboring in vain. If we preach the good news, it is grace that is working in the heart of those who believe. It is the responsibility of Holy Spirit to convict sinners - not mine. However, he needs us to preach it.

Someone has to write the words in a book or speak the words on a recording device. Or someone has to go in person and share the message or the testimony.

God is God. Can’t God do it some other way?

This devotion is not about the ways that God can work. It is about how God wants to work with us. God desires to be in relationship with us. He desires to grow us up in His grace. He desires to see us partnering with His grace to love and teach others. But His priority is you. He wants to know you and be known by you. God, desires to walk and talk with you every day. That’s why He named Himself, “God with us”.

If our ministry is not born out of our very close relationship with God - not Bible knowledge - not talent - not other people, then we need to stop for a while and spend time with the one who made us and saved us and loves us best.

If you are really tired in ministry, do what Paul did. Hang around with other disciples and rest for a while. But keep your intimate loving spiritual relationship with God through Holy Spirit your highest priority.

God's presence is a greenhouse for growing in grace.