Learning Boldness, Part 3.

A pastoral candidate was asked, “What do you have to offer our church?” His answer was only, “my weakness.” It’s an excellent answer. We only minister by God’s strength and His grace. Supernatural humility helps us overcome natural timidity. Someone once said, “Anxiety is the absence of humility, and humility is the absence of anxiety.”

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Virtue #9: Removing Stumbling Blocks to Ministry Progress

Understanding Timothy’s circumcision requires some background information. This event comes on the heels of Acts 15, when church leaders made an important decision. Religious Jews were adding good works to Jesus as necessary for salvation. A conference of pastors in Jerusalem came to the right conclusion that Jesus alone was enough. The purpose of Paul’s mission trip was to spread that message and put people’s hearts at rest.

Circumcision is not necessary for salvation, but Timothy’s condition would be a hindrance to Jews hearing the Gospel message. Normally, Timothy would have already been circumcised since he had a Jewish mother. Paul did not ask him to be circumcised because it was necessary for his right standing with God; he asked so that nothing would hinder the Gospel.

This should be our aim: that no hearer of the Gospel should stumble over anything except the message of Jesus. The Gospel is a stumbling block to some (1 Corinthians 1:23), but the messenger should never be the offense. If something gets in the way, it should not come from us.

Virtue #10: Willing to Adopt the Gospel Burden of Leadership

Sometimes the Lord closes doors and redirects our steps. How did Paul and his team respond? They trusted God and kept moving with the same intention – to share the Gospel. They handled changing plans with maturity, not growing emotional and bitter.

Why did God redirect the trip? The grammar may give us a clue. For the first time, the author uses “we,” showing that he joined the trip at this point. The author of Acts is Luke, a doctor by profession. In God’s mercy, perhaps He redirected the trip for their physical protection. God’s providence always acts for our good and the good of others.

Affliction opens the door to new opportunity. Paul refused to indulge himself with what-ifs. It would have been easy to pity himself, but instead he kept trusting and following Christ. With the right heart, no time is wasted. Paul continued to train and disciple Timothy, and their spiritual roots grew deeper as God prepared them for the next opportunity and coming affliction.

Application Points

  • Are you an anxious person? Do you need to grow in humility? Meditate on what God’s Word says about these things in the verses listed below.
  • What unnecessary things are you holding onto that could hinder Gospel progress? Even if it is not a sinful thing, we should remove anything that gets in the way of what matters.
  • How do you respond when your plans are redirected? Do you trust God’s sovereignty even with closed doors? How can you imitate a mature response and keep Gospel intentions?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 6:25-34, 1 Peter 5:6-7 – What God’s Word says about anxiety and humility.
  • 1 Peter 1:15-16, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Peter 2:2, 1 Peter 4:1-6 – Commands to the Christian to be holy.
  • Philippians 1:12, 2 Corinthians 4:8 – The Gospel advances in our affliction.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Grace Is Flowing”

Grace is flowing like a river
From the mount of Calvary.
Look to Jesus Christ the Giver;
He from sin can set you free.

Grace is flowing like a river;
Millions there have been supplied.
Still it flows as fresh as ever
From the Savior’s wounded side.

Heaven’s fountain ever floweth;
All our need has been supplied.
Taste His love; receive His mercy.
No one yet has been denied.

Through the blood of Christ forgiven,
Dry the tears from every face.
Through His cross an heir of Heaven,
Evermore a child of grace.

Come to Jesus, weary sinner;
Calvary’s river flows today.
All who plunge beneath that fountain
Wash their guilty stains away.