When we become eternity-conscious and purpose-driven, most of the things we disdain and take for granted today will come into their rightful place as opportunity for ministry. We will see eternal value for what is in our hands, far beyond any form of personal aggrandizement.
Apostle Paul had just vexed the Jewish people by his testimony about Christ Jesus just as the Lord had told him in his trance that the people would not accept his testimony (Acts 22:17-21). They got so angry by what he said that they were ready to kill him. They yelled, cursed, caused commotion, and tossed handfuls of dust into the air to show their displeasure and disapproval of him. They were ready to injure and waste him away.
The Roman commander’s attention was drawn to the civil unrest that was going on, and he quickly ordered his officers to arrest Paul and tie him down for some severe strokes as punishment for disrupting public peace. The officers overpowered the people and saved Paul from them. They tied him and was about to lash him when he raised his voice to ask them an eye-opening question, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
The Bible says when the Roman officer assigned to whip Paul heard what he said, he went to the commander and asked, “what are you doing? The man is a Roman citizen!” The commander became uneasy and disturbed. He ran to Paul to confirm again directly from his mouth if what he was told was actually the truth. He found out that, unlike him who had paid heavily to acquire the Roman citizenship status, Paul was in fact a Roman citizen by birth. A man who was tied down to be whipped and then subjected to brutal interrogation simply got his freedom because of his citizenship status. He was not only a Jewish, he also shared a dual citizenship status as a Roman. What a God-given privilege for such a time as that!
Four things came up as I look at this scripture in Acts 22:22-30: First, God can use the mundane things of this world for his own glory. In fact every opportunity God gives us becomes a tool for ministry and expanding his kingdom when we become well-acquainted with God’s purpose for our lives. Some of you speak multiple languages that you probably did not go to any school to learn, some of you share cross-racial birth, some of you like Paul are privileged to have more than one citizenship, I see God saying whatever I have given you is an asset for expanding his Kingdom. We need to begin to see the things in our hands differently because God has a purpose for them.
Second, never take anything God has given you for granted – be it an opportunity that has legal, economic, academic, intellectual or diplomatic advantage or benefits. As long as we are rightly focused on the things God has called us to, those privileges we have will turn out to be an instrument of ministry. It will soon be clear to us that what we have in our hands is a God-given instrument of ministry, blessing and His kingdom expansion.
Third, from the interaction between the commander and Paul, I saw that some things we possess in life will come to us either by birth or by acquisition. If we don’t have it by birth, we may be able to acquire them through purchase, training or learning, spiritual bestowal or as a result of our work of merit. Irrespective of how God gives us those things, we must see them from God’s perspective as instrument of God’s kingdom expansion. What are the abilities or things you have now that came with you from birth that you are despising? Could it talent? A skill? A gift? Whatever it is, take them up and begin to see them differently. They have their place in God’s agenda for your life. If you have not thought about that before, start now!
Fourth, I also see a word for us here in Acts 22:22-30 as a nation and society. We must understand and come to take it more seriously that any nation that will move forward and advance must not resort to jungle justice; every allegation against anyone must be subject to fair trial and interrogation before people are unfairly treated and tried. Apostle Paul’s question, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?” also speaks to justice and fairness in our personal interactions, legal and judiciary systems. Any nation that will move forward must consider this call. It is both the right and godly thing to do to give justice a cause in our society. No one should neither be above the law nor subject to unfair treatment. We must strike that scriptural balance in our polity today.
As I round off, let me call out to you again, yes you!, that whatever God has given you or will be giving you is for His own purpose. As you commit to advancing God’s kingdom with what is in your hands, it ends up benefiting you. Selah!