It’s hard to imagine the hardships that the Apostle Paul must have faced at times. Having travelled so far away from family and that which was familiar would be enough to cause most people to struggle. Add to that the immense physical strain in travelling by foot, having poor accommodations and little to eat at times. We could understand if Paul and his teammates grew weary. The beatings and imprisonments compounded and heightened the suffering he endured for the sake of Christ.
As Paul wandered about in Athens (Acts 17), he was all alone. His travelling companions would catch up with him later, but for now he walked the streets and engaged people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As he moved about the city, his heart was provoked by the widespread idolatry, and as he left Athens his ministry did not show as much fruit as he hoped. How did Paul continue for so long without being burned out and frustrated?
A Lifeway Research Survey completed in 2015 states conservatively that the number of men leaving the ministry are about 250 per month. Some statistics are as high as 1,700 a month. The reasons given in the Lifeway survey would have been understood by the Apostle Paul and experienced by him in some form:
- 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day.
- 80 percent expect conflict in their church.
- 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
- 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security.
- 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
- 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them. 
So, it is fair to ask ourselves once again, how could Paul continue so faithfully in the ministry under such difficult circumstances? This isn’t just important for those in ministry to know, but everyone in the Body of Christ as well. We are all called as ministers of the New Covenant. You may not preach a sermon every Sunday, but you might teach Sunday school, or AWANA or lead a weekly Bible study. All of Christ’s disciples are called, even if not vocationally, to minister to one another and to carry the gospel to the world. In this series of posts I’d like to examine six ways which the Lord provides for His servants. The first way he provides is…
He Gives Us Ministry Co-workers
“After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them,” (Acts 18:1–2, NASB95)
“But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 18:5, NASB95)
Leaving Athens, Paul was still all alone. Back in Acts 17:13-15 the missionary team was broken up in order to get Paul out of the area because of the physical danger he was in from the angry Jewish leaders who were stirring up riots in Berea. Paul went to Athens alone and then travelled to Corinth, a little over 50 miles away. If Athens was noted for its philosophical and religious nature, Corinth was known for its sensual attractions. The city was one of the largest and most prominent ports in the ancient world and it was a melting pot of money, religions and fleshly sin, much like Los Angeles and New York City.
The need was great in Corinth for the gospel. As Paul came to this great ministry opportunity, the Lord provided for him ministry partners named Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple. Aquila, whose name was Latin for “eagle,” was originally from the Roman province of Pontus, near the Black Sea in what is now called Turkey. Aquila and Priscilla had been living in Rome but had been commanded to leave along with all other Jews. This was because of a command in 49 A.D. from Emperor Claudius.
Along with this couple, the Lord brought back Silas and Timothy from Macedonia (v. 5). When they found Paul, he was busy faithfully proclaiming the gospel in the synagogue. Paul now had a full team that joined him in preaching and discipling those that came to Christ. Even as gifted as the Apostle Paul was, he needed the help of co-workers to be able to faithfully carry out the mission he had received from Christ.
This reminds me that when the Lord Jesus sent out his disciples, he sent them out in groups of at least two, sometimes more. I don’t think this is a command, but it is good wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NASB95)
Think about those in your church. These are your ministry partners and co-workers for the gospel ministry. We should be working together, encouraging one another, stirring one another up to love and good deeds. We should be making incursions into enemy territory in teams.
If you’re not doing anything, that means that you aren’t just disobeying the Lord in not serving, but you are not being a co-worker for someone else. Others are needing to carry on without you! Get in the game! The team needs you!
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