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Positions of Authority

Near the end of Luke’s account of the first century church, the apostle Paul finds himself in the middle of a long drawn out trial.  After overseeing this case for two years, Governor Felix was succeeded in office by Porcius Festus.  Prior to leaving his position, Felix caved to public pressure, leaving Paul as a prisoner in chains to curry favor with powerful Jewish leaders.  Held captive by a political justice system, Paul recognized that his fate was in the hands of positions of authority.

So, said he, let those who are in a position of authority and are influential among you go down with me, and if there is anything amiss or criminal about the man, let them so charge him, Acts 25:5.

While the United States Judicial System is not perfect, it’s based upon the concept that individuals are innocent until proven guilty.  This idea is foreign to many countries where some are held against their will in encampments, jails or re-programing sites for weeks, months or years.  Unfortunately, positions of authority are often influenced by political figures who seek absolute power, control and expanding their jurisdiction.  Despite their innocence, some people are still waiting in jail for an influential leader to come to their rescue.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God, Romans 13:1.

In the passage above, perhaps the apostle Paul is referring to his own situation, waiting for justice.  Whatever the inspiration for this statement, Paul recognizes that God places leaders into the positions that they now hold.  Although some may not deserve it, God has a purpose or reason for the outcomes that have already taken place.  Unfortunately, the answers many hope, pray for and seek often don’t arrive until the afterlife.  Thus, for now the only reasonable action obedient citizens can take is to be subject to governing authorities, praying for wisdom to guide your state or country.

by Jay Mankus

Setting the Stage for Healing

Whenever you study history, there are certain elements that tend to get overlooked.  If don’t have the full context of an event, you might miss an important detail.  Context refers to the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.  As I read the book of Acts today, one miniscule verse in the Bible sets the stage for healing.

As he traveled he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him [displaying the glory and majesty of Christ]; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice [from heaven] saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting and oppressing Me?” And Saul said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him [were terrified and] stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, but though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was unable to see for three days, and he neither ate nor drank, Acts 9:3-9.

Previous sermons that I have heard about the healing of Saul who becomes Paul ignored Acts 9:9.  After being blinded from some sort of bright light from heaven, Saul loses his appetite.  From a Hebrew mode of computation, Saul went about 48 hours without food or drink.  As an author and doctor, Luke does not describe Saul’s decision as a fast.  According to one Bible commentary, such a period of entire abstinence from food, in that state of mental absorption and revolution into which he had been so suddenly thrown, is in perfect harmony with known laws and numerous facts.  By falling back upon his Jewish upbringing, Saul’s decision to fast and pray sets the stage for healing.

So Ananias left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came [to Damascus], has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles].” 18 Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took some food and was strengthened, Acts 9:17-19.

Based upon his response to being able to see again, Saul gives God the full credit.  Moved by this miracle, Saul asks Ananias to baptize him immediately.  Although Luke doesn’t specify how Saul broke his fast, regaining his vision revigorated this man who previously persecuted the first century church.  Whenever you endure a life altering event, fasting is the most prudent spiritual response to any trial.  Saul’s healing provides hope to readers of the Bible of God’s potential power.  While permanent healing may not be part of God’s will for you, those who wrestle with God in prayer are often surprised by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, if you want to set the stage of healing, don’t forget to fast and pray to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

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