About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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The Challenge Of Change     


I'm seventy one years old and have just shovelled large frozen chunks of heavy ice and snow that the city's road snowplough pushed into the entrance of our driveway.  Someday, I'll be too old for this.  As reluctant as I'll be, I'll have to face this new season of my life and hand the snow shovelling over to another.  With the inevitability of change in a life in mind, read Romans 15:23. 


"But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain."


Around 57 AD, while in Corinth, Paul realized that there was no more place available for him to work in and around Corinth.  He would then visit the Roman Christians, as was his desire.  Might this change in Paul's ministry have any significance for us?      


The Greek word "topos" is translated into English as "place" in Romans 15:23.   We derive our English word "topographical" from this Greek word.  Topos suggests a space, like a room or a geographical region, and can be used in either literal or metamorphic terms.  Topos is translated as "opportunity" in Acts 25:16 where Paul said that he had no legal opportunity to defend himself. 


Paul was an apostle.  He would have naturally felt compelled to move on to further fields when a door of ministry had closed.  I get that, but I think there might be more than a natural inclination going on here.  Paul realized that a ministerial change was underway.  What door of ministry would open for him next?        


Whether it's an individual or a local expression of church, seasonal ministry changes, for various reasons, are par for the ministerial course.  We saw this with Paul when Jesus redirected his travel plans by sending him to Macedonia (Acts 16:7 - 9).  Paul's apostleship didn't change, but how it was implemented did change.     


It's a natural law of the universe that all aspects of life, including Christian ministry, undergoe seasonal changes that require a seasonal reboot.  I'm not talking about our unbiblical practice of floating around from one church community to another at a whim just to gratify our ever-changing personal preferences.  I'm also not talking about changing ministry directions to follow the latest church growth fad.  I'm talking about adapting to change imposed on us from without that demands an appropriate Biblical response.          


Paul's ministerial door around Corinth had closed.  A new door of ministry was opening, but it wasn't that God stepped in and redirected his plans, as seen in Acts 16.  This new door opened the way for Paul to follow his long-standing heart's desire to visit the Roman Christians. 


Here is what I learn from Romans 15:23.  Seasonal changes in all aspects of God's creation are a universal fact, and Christian ministry is not exempt from such changes.  Doors of ministry both open and close.  One thing is certain.  Ministry becomes ineffective when we barricade ourselves behind a closed door.  An ever-present awareness of seasonal changes in our cultural surroundings is vital to effective ministry.  As challenging as change is, seeking Jesus in the midst of change is necessary.  He may redirect our path into a new door of ministry.  He may have us sit and wait on Him for further instruction, or, He may actually say, "Go, follow the long-standing desire of your heart.      


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