Paul was in chains when he wrote Ephesians. A missionary who couldn’t go anywhere. An encourager who couldn’t give courage. A teacher who couldn’t go to his students.
Each day this week, I feel more this way. And, you probably do, too.
The virus has closed doors and put up walls. It has taken away hugs and handshakes and looking at students in the eyes. Like Paul, we are trapped, increasingly bound by a virus. Kept from doing the work we are called to do.
What did Paul do about being chained? His heart was to be with people, to teach and love and show them Christ. But, he couldn’t. So he wrote one of the best loved and most influential epistles: Ephesians.
And, at the end, Paul said to do these two things.
Pray. “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” 6:18
My mother was in a nursing home, in bed for years. One time I asked her what she did all day. She said she prayed for my sister and me and our families. She was trapped, but powerful. I am convinced her prayers changed our lives.
Paul was convinced, too. Nothing can stop prayer. It gets through any barrier, any wall, and goes where no plane or train can. When we are trapped, we really aren’t. Pray. God is at work.
Boldness. “And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” 6:19-20
What a strange thing to ask when trapped, with the same people who have heard the same things. Perhaps we are inclined to shrivel up and give up when we are trapped. But, Paul asks to be bold. Twice.
Our open and bold proclamation of the Good News has even more power when everyone would expect us to draw back, to give up. Boldness in captivity, about the right things, spreads from person to person, just like a virus. It touches lives who see something different. People are in awe of a great God who would make us bold when things seem impossible.
Now is the time to be bold. To let the mystery of the Gospel reach deeply in our lives and overflow into our talk and our lives. When things are hard, God gives his people courage to go on, to do what they can with what they have.
That is always what He uses. What we have. And, through miracles he changes water to wine, makes one loaf into hundreds. Use what you have now, in your place at this time, with boldness for Him.
He will take it from there.