Something else we should notice about Paul’s ministry is his trust in the power of God. Look at verse 29: “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.” He counted on God to come through. That brings us to the last paragraph, where you have his touch on the power of his ministry (Verses 30-33):
Now, my brothers, I am going to ask you, for the sake of Christ himself and for the love we bear each other in the Spirit, to stand behind me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf—that I may not fall into the hands of the unbelievers in Judea, and that the Jerusalem Christians may receive the gift I am taking to them in the spirit in which it was made. Then I shall come to you, in the purpose of God, with a happy heart, and may even enjoy with you a little holiday. The God of peace be with you all, amen (Romans 15:30-33)
That is what was behind Paul’s ministry—and also why it has lasted for two thousand years. It is also what opened the doors and gave him access even into Caesar’s household, and before the throne of the emperor himself. That’s right, I am talking about the prayers of God’s people for him. I have told many of you’re the story behind, “Holding The Ropes.”
You see, I had read an article in “The Word of Faith” magazine awhile back. The article was about how having a base of support is invaluable to any endeavor. No one can be successful in this life as a Lone Ranger. We need each other and the support that comes from strong relationships.
William Carey of England knew the value of strong relationships. He knew the importance of having friends who would support him in his endeavors.
Carey was ordained in August 1786. During a ministers meeting that year, Carey suggested that Jesus’ command to His disciples “to teach all nations” was still in effect. Mr. Ryland, the meeting chairman, rebuked him and accused of being an enthusiast! (And that’s bad? Hmmm).
Carey was quite embarrassed. His fellow ministers treated his ideas as impractical. But that same year he met Thomas Potts, who had been to America and seen the need for missionary work. Potts supported Carey in his vision.
Carey realize that his dreams would never be fulfilled if he worked on his own. In time, God brought other people across his path who encouraged and helped him. As a direct consequence of Carey’s work, the first Evangelical missions agency was created in 1792.
One day in 1793, Carey and some friends were discussing the need for foreign missions. Andrew Fuller, a fellow minister who was at that gathering, recalled, “We saw there was a gold mine in India, but it was as deep as the center of the Earth.” Fuller asked who would venture to explore that mine. Carey spoke up and addressed his friends: “I will venture to go down, but remember that you must hold the ropes.”
By “holding the ropes,” Carey meant consistently praying for him, financially supporting him, and regularly communicating on his behalf with the churches in England. His friends agreed.
Carey did indeed go to India and through his work made possible the translation of the Bible into many languages. Many have called Carey the father of modern missions, but he saw his relationship with his supporters in England as a brotherhood. He traveled to India, but he knew he was only able to accomplish what he did because his partners back in England were “holding the ropes.”
My friends, as a side note, there are many ministries who are in need of your help in “holding the ropes;” to coming alongside of them and supporting them financially and prayerfully. There are many people in the ministry I could vouch for and suggest you support, but someone who truly on my heart is Jipu Barikdar. If you haven’t connected with him yet, I encourage you to search for him on Facebook. He ministers in Bangladesh and needs people to “hold the ropes” for him. So I ask you to prayerfully consider drawing alongside Jipu and support him any way you are able.
Now, as much as Jipu, and others, need your financial support, just like Paul, they are well aware of the ministry of prayer. Paul was urging them to pray for him. But did you notice the basis of these prayers?
“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit . . .”
Prayer is born of the Spirit of God within us, it awakens a desire to help, a sense of love and compassion. As you begin to pray for someone — not just these evangelists I am encouraging, you to support — but anyone you pray for, your heart will connect with that person. Your heart will be alerted to situations and needs that person may encounter. I can’t fully describe it, but when you begin to truly intercede for someone, you become united with that person.
Prayer and intercession is the closest situation where you can truly understand the heart of your Savior. He came—and is—our intercessor, so when you become an intercessor for someone else, you are exemplifying Christ’s work; you will experience what he experiences as he intercedes for you!
It is amazing! There is a small group of folks I often pray and intercede for. I immediately think of Jipu, as I mentioned, but there is also Katherine, Jeanine, Carl, Anthony, certainly my wife and children . . . and there are a few more, but these are people my heart has been knitted to through prayer. There have been times when I might be led (sometimes totally out of the blue, I might add) to call them just to do a “Buddy check.” I often get great responses: “Wow! What perfect timing!” “Thank you! I needed this call . . .!”
We pray to help someone else, but we also pray to honor our Lord Jesus. This is what will stir people to pray more than anything else—not beating them with a whip. I learned that long ago. It is when people begin to see that the honor of Christ is involved, and the love of the Spirit is fulfilled when you pray, that they will really begin to pray. That is what the Paul is appealing to here. “Join me in my struggle.” Life is a struggle and Paul sees prayer as a way of fighting in that battle. It is a great weapon that can batter down doors and open others. It can remove obstacles, withstand tremendous pressure and forces, and uphold people and sustain them. That is why Paul is asking for this kind of prayer.
Shoot! I would tell you that I need this kind of prayer. We have many struggles, which I will never burden you with, but yes, Patrice and I need your prayers. But I have had a basic belief that when I focus on the needs of whoever my Lord directs me to, he will take care of my needs. I just get my focus off of me, and begin to focus on the needs of His people.
Did you notice what Paul was requesting? “Pray for protection from the unbelievers, and for acceptance from the saints.” Satan loves to attack these two areas. If he can break a person with physical illness, or spiritual attack, that is what he will do. Prayer is particularly powerful during these periods. It can protect someone in danger. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem there he was attacked by a mob. They meant to kill him right on the spot. They had rocks in their hands, and were going to stone him to death. However, it just so happened that at that critical moment, the commander of the Roman legion on the other side of the wall looked over into the temple court and saw what was going on. He came down with a band of soldiers and rescued Paul just in time. So that prayer was answered, and Paul was protected from the unbelievers.
Earlier in Acts, when Paul came with his gift, there were many Christians of Jewish background, who did not want to accept Paul. They regarded him as a renegade, a traitor to the Jewish cause. They were turning their backs to him. However, James, in answer to prayer, interfered, and asked Paul to show that he was not an enemy of the Law, and to take on a certain commitment in order to demonstrate that he was not against the Law.
Well, as you can imagine, that turned the tide, and Paul was accepted. Then we see the results: “Then by God’s will I can come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed” (Romans 15:32) The book of Acts closes three years after this letter was written, with Paul finally in Rome, after being shipwrecked and all kinds of other adventures. He is now on his way toward the capital city where he meets a delegation of Christians from the church of Rome.
They meet in a place called the Three Taverns, where they ate and had a great time together. Can you imagine how encouraging that must have been? I mean, just the fact that these Christians were able to come out and meet him. He was coming as a prisoner chained to a Roman guard, on trial for his life and sentenced to appear before the emperor. But they encouraged him and refreshed his spirit. Which brings us to the final chapter in this letter to the Romans. Chapter 16 is, for the most part, a list of names of Paul’s friends, but there are some interesting things about it, which we will see the next time.
But if nothing else, I hope the wandering through the Paul’s ministry reminds you that we are in a battle and cannot take time out. We have to maintain the task, and we have to be faithful to what God has called us to do. Above everything else, we have to learn to completely rely on that mighty unction of the Holy Spirit on everything that happens in our life. Just remember that it is not be just a mechanical process, but the very power of God being released.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome