Behind the Scenes
Fall is my favorite season of the year and also one of our ministry’s busiest. Like any successful busy season, the preparations began months ago.
We are just a few short weeks away from our first Sponsorship weekend of the year, and that means everyone is working full speed ahead to make the event a blessing to those who attend. We started planning this year’s Sponsorship weekends last fall, and we’ve been marking the calendar ever since.
Our theme this year is Believe - Midnight Approaches. Every part of our Sponsorship weekend is focused on our earnest belief that time is running short and God has a plan for each of us who believe in these last days. Would you like a “sneak peek” of what many say is their favorite part of the entire weekend—our multimedia musical Saturday night presentation? I can’t hear or read your answer so I’ll assume it is a yes, and share!
This year’s Sponsorship Saturday night program features the stories of those who have believed and focuses on how their experiences shape ours today and paints a hope-filled picture for the future. One of those believers is Paul. Here is his story:
Ah, hello, I didn’t see you there, I was just finishing up this letter to my friend Philemon. They need a little encouragement. I’ve had a lot of time to write letters the last two years, but I’m not complaining. I’m in a comfortable home here in the city of Rome. I have many visitors. Some days I nearly forget that I’m a prisoner here.
I’m a prisoner because of my preaching the good News about Jesus Christ. What a journey from that dusty road to Damascus to today. My imprisonment was meant to slow down my preaching and to silence the truth of Jesus, but the opposite has happened—these efforts have extended my efforts. I’ve stood before the Sanhedrin, governors, kings and now I’m waiting for my appearance before Nero, yes Nero, the Caesar. And it all started with a false accusation in Jerusalem.
My friends begged me, saying, “Paul, please don’t go to Jerusalem! Agabus, a prophet, held my belt in his hands and foretold that the man who owned this belt would be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. They pleaded and begged, but I assured them I was willing to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. I approached the city, though, with a heavy heart. I remembered my former prejudice against the followers of Jesus, and I felt the deepest pity.
In Jerusalem, I went to the temple. Some men recognized me from my travels and cried out. They accused me—falsely—of preaching against the law and of defiling the temple. They seized me and beat me. The commander of the roman troops in Jerusalem, Lysias, seized me. Yes, I was saved from my fellow Jews by a Gentile Roman. Lysias’ men carried me above the reach of angered crowed and into the barracks. That day began my imprisonment.
When I told the centurion guarding me that I was a Roman citizen, he treated me very well. Lysias didn’t know quite what to do with me when I revealed that and sent me to the Sanhedrin. Speaking before that crowded counsel I wondered if I’d made the right decision. Should I have come to Jerusalem? I thought of the little churches I’d visited scattered and at the peril of men like this. Satan was working through his agents to dishearten and destroy me. The next night, the Lord assured me that He was with me. He encouraged me and said that as I’d just testified for Him in Jerusalem, he also needed me to bear witness in Rome.
My journey to Rome was a winding one. First, Lysias sent me to the governor, Felix. For two years I was with Felix and Drusilla. I appealed to them and to all who visited me. Felix, sadly, never did find that convenient season to be converted. Well, when Felix was recalled, the new governor, Festus, arranged for me to speak to King Agrippa. I’ll never forget that day. The king and his wife, Bernice, were dressed in rich robes, the centurions armor glittered and I stood before them looking haggard and tired, shackled to my guard. The Lord was with me, and Agrippa was “almost persuaded.” Almost is not enough when choosing between life and death. I asked Agrippa if I could have an audience with the Caesar. After more delays and a shipwreck along the way, I ended up here at last.
Two years have passed since I arrived in Rome and I still wait for my chance to state my case before Nero. My enemies stall in an attempt to silence the gospel. But God has used this delay for His work. Right now I am able to write and preach with no man standing in the way. I have constant visitors and speak freely to all. There are believers in the Way even in Caesar’s household.
Satan is constantly working through his agents to dishearten and destroy those whom God has chosen to accomplish a great and good work. In the great crisis that will come one day, the faithful servants of God will encounter the same hardness of heart and hatred that I’ve experienced from leaders and rulers. I have made it through with courage, firmness and a knowledge of God and His Word—you will need the same. Although I was misunderstood, misinterpreted and surrounded by people watching for evil, God watched over me for good. He will watch over you, too.
I hope this whet your appetite and that you’ll join us to see Paul’s story and to hear the rest of Believe - Midnight Approaches!
P.S. To learn how you can qualify to become a Sponsor and attend one of these weekends visit us here www.vopsponsors.com