How to Occupy One’s Time During Captivity: Part 2
And he stayed two full years in his own rented apartment, welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. Acts 28.30-31
The last word of the book of Acts is “unhindered.” This is no coincidence. The book begins with the ascension of Jesus, and the descent of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of sending forth the gospel. From the beginning Satan uses every weapon in his arsenal to try to slow the advance of the kingdom. He fails. The book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome. This two-year period is followed, perhaps immediately, by time in actual prison and then Paul’s execution. Yet, forcing the Kingdom’s most productive missionary off the field in no way slows his work. Removing his head will not silence him either – in the New Testament he still speaks unhindered.
COVID-19 has confined us all at home – to a great extent. Last week we listened as God told us what to do during a time of confinement. We looked at the letter He wrote to the exiles in Babylon concerning how they should spend their time. We listened as he told us to “increase,” not decrease, and to spend our time seeking Him (Jeremiah 29.4-14). We also said that in the New Testament God shows us what we should be doing in such circumstances. This He does through the Apostle Paul during his period of house-arrest in Rome. Paul spends that time unhindered.
Acts 28.23-31 describes what Paul does as he finds himself restricted at home, waiting for his case to be adjudicated before Caesar. The first thing he does is welcome the leaders of the Jewish community to his apartment and share the gospel with them. He continues to welcome others into his quarters, and to share the gospel with them. Also, he writes. The letters to the churches at Ephesus, Philippi and Colossae, the letter to Philemon, and the second letter to Timothy were written from jail. Paul tells us repeatedly in these letters that he spends much time in prayer. Paul was truly unhindered during his time of confinement.
I am frequently reminded of the description Paul gives in II Corinthians 11.21-33 of his life on the road – the beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, criminal violence, starvation, exposure to the elements, and, worst of all – the stress. I wonder what he looked like with his shirt off – how scarred he must have been. Then there is the wear and tear his body suffered from the road itself – he travelled between 18,000 and 25,000 miles on his missionary journeys. During those two years of house-arrest he enjoyed the same bed every night. Every morning he arose knowing that he had a whole day ahead of him free of extraneous and ancillary concerns, a day free for work.
In addition to the challenges facing us – and they are daunting and many – we have been given some blessings. We have been forced to live lives less hectic and harassed. We have been forced to focus on that which is truly important. We are facing our physical isolation at a time when we have so many ways to stay connected to each other. We are unhindered.
And so, let us go forward to live unhindered lives. Let us comply with every directive of those responsible for public safety and let us be obedient to the Golden Rule (Matthew 7.12) – which coincide at this point. Let us stay in touch with each other in every way available to us. Let us find someone we know less well than we should and reach out to them. Let us connect with those in our circle of acquaintance who are lost and encourage them with the Word of God. Let us contribute every way we are challenged to contribute for those in need. Let us stay involved in the life of the family by studying, worshipping, and fellowshipping together despite our confinement.
Let us, as God’s family, spend this time unhindered.