Are You A Roman Citizen?
James 1 v 2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Acts 16 v 15 – 40.
Genesis 12 v 2- 3 & Genesis Ch 16
Human beings will always get into sticky situations. Whether by design or circumstances this is an inescapable fact of life. Another inescapable fact is that we will do almost anything in our power to get out of these situations. Our ability to use anything and everything to accomplish this is the stuff of legend. Be our tools practical, physical, mental or emotional we will utilise everything in order to escape the problems we find ourselves in. Taking that into account I think it’s true to say that human beings are, without doubt, the most resourceful species on this planet. With that thought in mind let me introduce you to Mr Hiromitsu Shinkawa from Minamisoma in Japan.
Washed nine miles offshore by a tsunami
He was at home on March 11, 2011, when a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck 231 miles northeast of Tokyo. A devastating tsunami followed, its 30-foot waves ravaging cities and towns and damaging several nuclear reactors. By the time it had run the course, nearly 16,000 people were dead.It’s a miracle Shinkawa wasn’t one of them.
Shortly after the quake, he and his wife had gone to collect some belongings when the tsunami slammed their hometown of Minamisoma. His home was one of the tens of thousands destroyed by the huge, powerful tsunami wave.
“I was saved by holding onto the roof,” the 60-year-old said, according to Kyodo News Agency. “But my wife was swept away.’
More than two days later, video showed Shinkawa barely visible amid heaps of splintered wood, shattered homes and other debris floating more than nine miles (15 kilometers) out to sea. He was waving a self-made red flag.
After being spotted by crew aboard a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer and picked up in a smaller rescue boat, he took a drink offered to him and burst into tears, Kyodo reported.
Shinkawa told his rescuers, “I thought today was the last day of my life.”
Mr Hiromitsu Shinkawa is a true example of human resourcefulness. His ordeal is almost to impossible to believe. He lost his wife, his home and everything he possessed. Yet his resourcefulness in making a red flag from the rubble that surrounded him is undoubtedly what saved his life. Resourcefulness is an amazing thing.
In Matthew 14 v 13-21 we find the greatest biblical account of resourcefulness. Here Christ uses just five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 men (estimated 20000 hungry people). The lesson to us as believers is simple. Use what you have, no matter how small and insignificant it seems. God the Father will bless all who are resourceful.
It is here I have to draw a note of caution for all believers. As surely as there is a time for resourcefulness there are also times when we must not act. There are times when God allows specific circumstances into our lives which do not demand we be resourceful. They just demand submission and simple trusting faith. There are times when resourcefulness is dangerous and damaging. It’s dangerous because it hinders and undermines what God has planned for us. It’s damaging because our actions can rob us of blessings he has for us and others. We are not in the situations we face without divine reason or purpose. If we are to receive the blessings God has for us we must allow God alone to take action.
Genesis 12 v 2- 3 & Genesis Ch 16
In Genesis 12 God promises the childless Abraham That he will be the Father of a great nation (Genesis 12 v 2- 3). In Genesis 16, Abraham and Sarai, now advanced in years, are still childless. Despite Gods Promise to him (Genesis 12 v 2- 3) , Abraham uses his Resourcefulness to resolve the problem he faces. He sleeps with Sarai’s servant Hagar and she bears them a son Ishmael. On the face of it this solves Abraham and Sarai’s problem. But the real truth is the problems are just beginning. Hagar now despises Sarai and the result is jealousy, bitterness, anger and the near destruction of Abraham’s household. Abraham’s mistake is a simple one. He took action when it was not required. All God required was simple trusting faith in the promise he had given him.
Acts 16 v 15 – 40.
In acts Chapter 16 in a remarkable twist we find Paul & Silas in prison. It’s remarkable because Paul & Silas were Roman citizens in a Jewish prison. As Roman citizens, Paul & Silas simply had to identify themselves as such and they would have been immediately released. The jailer & Magistrates however would face harsh punishment for allowing this to happen. It was a serious crime to imprison a Roman citizen (see Acts 22 v 22 – 29). Paul & Silas have ample opportunity to use their Roman citizenship to resolve this situation for their benefit. They have a choice to be resourceful and free themselves from prison. Paul however chooses not to Act. Instead, with Silas, he clearly accepts the situation as Gods will by simply placing his trust in God Almighty.
The result of Paul & Silas decision is clear to us all (Acts 16 v 29 – 34). A prison changed forever. Broken lives healed. Broken hearts mended. A place of darkness and brutality turned into a place of hope and healing. The light of God destroying the darkness of hopelessness. Salvation, peace, Joy and hope in the place you would never expect to find it. Gods love reaching into the unreachable and touching the untouchable.
We will never know the full impact of those glorious events that night. They are most probably incalculable. One thing we do know for a fact is that none of this would have been possible without the faithful, trusting actions of Paul & Silas.
To close this week ask yourself these questions. “Am I a Roman citizen in my situation?” Do I want an easy way out? Am I prepared to risk the loss of great blessings for an easy escape? Will I choose to be responsible for robbing others of the blessing God has for them?
God needs us to mirror the actions of Paul and Silas. He needs people who will submit and Trust him. His ways and plans are far beyond our knowledge and understanding (Isaiah 59 v 9). Don’t try to understand why you are facing your situation. Accept that no matter how difficult, there is divine plan and purpose. Like Paul & Silas put your complete faith and trust in God. Today may be the day when God shakes your personal prison with his power. Today may be the day when Gods blessings are poured out on you and all those around you.
Romans 8 v 28 sums up things so beautifully with the words; “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8 v 28 reminds us that there is great profit to be had in the most unexpected of places. There is great blessing to be received in the most difficult of circumstances. The wealth of salvation can enter the darkest of places. Not just for us. But for those ,who are , as yet ,untouched by Gods love and power. Only when we fully accept Romans 8 v 28 in its entirety we will be able, like Paul and Silas, to “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of various kinds”. James 1 v 2 & Acts 16 v 25).