July 9, 2007 Ration

Acts 18:23b

“…[Paul] went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples” Acts 18:23b.

Does this not sound like an artist’s gig – going “from one place to the next”? It caught my eye as I was reading. But why do I go from one place to the next is the question I must ask if I am going to be truly fruitful in the traveling. Paul went out from a motive of giving. He went to give of himself such that the disciples would be strengthened. His motive in going out was to build others up which is not the same motive as going out to build himself up. Paul went out to strengthen them, and in that labor, and from that motive, there was a corresponding result, Paul himself was also strengthened and encouraged by their faith in God.

In the arts, do we really go from one place to the next with a desire to strengthen others? Are we motivated to go out because we have been strengthened by what we have found to be true and we desire that others share in that joy that we are experiencing? If we are, then praise God, because that is not a desire that comes from our natural man. That desire comes from God. That is a super-natural desire. The natural man only thinks about himself, and if the theme of God can be a means for the natural man to receive provision or pleasure, then the natural man will learn that trade and employ it with no real desire of strengthening anyone or anything other than his own purse and posterity.

This is quite a different motive than what Paul is working from. It cost Paul quite a bit to strengthen the brothers. Paul was not running from town to town for his own glory, but he was out for his own pleasure. His pleasure, however, was not of the selfish kind, his pleasure was of the biblical kind – “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paul knew that there was a pleasure in the giving of himself by which others would be strengthened that was far more satisfying than the pleasures of spending himself, hoping to purchase their praise. Paul was motivated to go out for their good and he worked such that they would actually be truly strengthened. Not just tickled for a moment, but effectually strengthened. He desired that they would be stronger because of his testifying. Stronger in the Word of God that they could grow in strength themselves and not bounce around from one tickle to the next. Engaging in tickling makes you weak and eventually numb, while wrestling makes you strong and alert. So Paul didn’t go out to tickle their ears, he went out to strengthen their souls. And they were strengthened.

God, forgive us where we work from the wrong motives. Be our strength and help us wrestle for the greater pleasures found in seeking first the kingdom of God where we instead choose to wallow in the tickling pleasures of the praises of men.

Jason Harms


© 2007 The Gaius Project