The apostle Paul didn’t start out to be scripture writer. Or a Roman prisoner. Or a shipwreck survivor. Or a fugitive.
He didn’t intend to be anything but good at his job, using his life-long religious training. And he was good at his job – very good. Certain he was following God’s will, Paul became good at stomping out this new Way, this rebellious faction threatening the stability of his way of life.
Even though Paul’s way of life was not ideal, having to live under captivity and rule by a foreign, godless Roman king, it was relatively peaceful. A “Pharisee of the Pharisees,” well educated and trained by the renowned Gamaliel, Paul was at or near the top of his chosen profession. Influential. Powerful.
But then… on the road to Damascus… things changed. Over the next few years Paul went from being a Pharisee to a follower of Jesus, then an evangelist sharing his personal testimony, a teacher expounding Christ in all the scriptures, a pastor shepherding his growing flock through perilous times, to an apostle traveling the civilized world establishing a chain of churches as he went.
How did he fulfill all those roles, moving from place to place, from his own culture, society, and nation throughout the rest of his life? He described that assignment as “being all things to all men” in order to win some of them to Christ. (I Cor. 9:22)
Paul could relate to the Jews as a Jew, because he was a Jew. And he could relate to the Romans as a Roman, because he was a Roman citizen. No matter the people, place or circumstances, Paul found a way to get the message of the Kingdom across. At various times and in various places, he served as the Holy Spirit’s
Conduit / Sponge / Radiator / Magnet / Thermostat / Fire-starter
And probably many other things.
I used to pray to be his conduit (visualizing a garden hose), a pipeline for him to transmit through. Or perhaps an electrical cord, plugged into Him as my power source.
Conveying his interest, his passion and compassion to people by way of words, prayers, lessons to a class, touches, simple conversations, emails, blog articles, meals if they’re sick, money if they need it, books to read, answers to questions, references to needed materials, smiles, encouragement, hugs – you name it – he finds a way to do it.
Whenever I meet someone on purpose or by accident, I pray, Lord, help me to help them. Then whatever comes to mind or just seems appropriate, that’s what I do.
Sometimes I change that prayer to Lord, make me your sponge, because sometimes I’m the one in need. My own sinuses are clogged, my ankle hurts or my back itches. Every cell in my body needs his healing touch.
Maybe my mood has taken a nosedive, something has gone wrong with my finances, or my family, or my car – and I need the Lord to fill me up before I can help somebody else.
So I ask him to fill my mind, my spirit, my soul, my body, my very self with his presence. And then ask him to “squeeze me out” like his kitchen sponge, when I come across someone else who needs his presence, wherever they may be.
Occasionally I need to be his radiator, radiating out from me his interest, grace, love, compassion and power when I’m not in a position to actually say or do anything in particular. Like when driving down the road and I see someone walking or riding a bicycle, or another driver who the Lord indicates is a bit needy today – I just let the Holy Spirit pray through me whatever it is he knows they need right this moment.
It may be while walking down a grocery store aisle. I’ll see somebody at a distance that I do not know, another shopper or a clerk. I can’t know what their life is like, whether they know the Lord as their savior or not. But I can let him radiate his love and kindness through me by way of a smile or a friendly “hello,” just a simple gesture. He will take it from there.
Lately I’ve discovered that the Lord can make us a magnet, too. Sometimes I’m in a meeting at church, sometimes in a mall store – and for some reason unknown to me, a person I don’t know begins to gravitate in my direction.
I’ll smile and say Hello, How are you, and generally they will say a few sentences. When we go our separate ways, I’ll say, Have a blessed day and they will thank me – having no idea that little interaction was God’s doing. I’ll continue praying for them for a little while, until the Lord seems to say, Okay, that did it.
Occasionally that happens with someone I know. One church friend made a bee-line to me before the service started recently. “I just had to come hug you. I always feel better when I hug you,” she said. It wasn’t a thank-you for anything, I think she just felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and wanted to be near it.
Years ago I realized that believers could be thermostats and not just thermometers. When the atmosphere at home or work seemed tense, agitated, frustrated, or just “off” in some way, I discovered my own attitude could make a difference.
Instead of entering into the disorder, I could add peace to the situation by my demeanor, a silent prayer, or quietness. It didn’t completely solve problems all by itself, but it did make positive changes in the way those problems were approached.
Along the way, from time to time the Lord also uses people to be fire-starters. He does something through them, their words, their prayers, their commands or their touch, something so supernatural that a fire is ignited in the souls and spirits of desperate or doubting people.
People need to know that God actually does exist, Jesus is for real, and he loves them. He will use the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to do that, perhaps a miraculous instantaneous answer to prayer, something so undeniably supernatural that it can only be explained by God’s intervention.
See What Paul Did While Weak https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2012/10/27/what-paul-did-while-weak/.
Just reading through the gospels and the book of Acts, it’s obvious that Father God has a multifaceted delivery system. Now as then, no two people are alike, no two cultures are alike, no two eras are alike. Whatever will convey his heart and his message, that’s what he uses.
Sometimes we’re his garden hose, sometimes his kitchen sponge.