BY REV. TIM NAPPE OF MILFORD - REACHING THE UNREACHED — WEST AFRICA
Two thousand years ago, in the early church, the first century disciples had to put up with a number of obstacles and impediments to ministry. There were many who were receptive to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but there were also many who opposed it. And those who opposed it could be pretty persuasive!
The Apostle Paul was not afraid to test the limits of religious freedom during his time. And he often found that he had gone over the line of what the authorities considered acceptable. He spent considerable time behind bars because of his preaching. He was also beaten, scourged, stoned, threatened, and banished, sometimes repeatedly for proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord.
In 2 Timothy 2, he again finds himself in chains because of his proclamation of the Word of God. He tries to make good use of his time by writing a letter of advice and encouragement to Timothy, the young pastor that he is mentoring.
Starting in verse 8, Paul writes, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained." (Underlined and italics added)
I hope that the first century Timothy found as much encouragement in these words as I do, a 21st century Timothy!
Paul recognizes that he is physically limited by his present circumstances. He is imprisoned. The authorities are trying to shut down his ministry and silence his preaching. He is unable to reach as many people as he would like. He is not able to travel, he is not able to worship publicly, he is not able to communicate freely. He is in chains.
"But God's word is not chained!" God's Spirit is still able to blow through this world unhindered! God is still at work, unimpeded by all the limitations that we face, whether we live in the 1st or the 21st Century!
In West Africa, the faithful are facing many of the same frustrating limitations that we are facing here in the U.S.A. Churches and other public gatherings were shut down, groups over 10 were prohibited, travel was banned, borders have been closed, and people were told to isolate.
"But God's word is not chained!" We trust that God is still at work in ways that we do not understand. A year ago, in Northern Togo, we funded a new radio station that was licensed and began broadcasting in several local languages a few months ago. That radio station has become even more important as one of the primary ways to broadcast the gospel message. Many have responded! We are hearing testimonies from many who are hearing the gospel for the first time!
"But God's word is not chained!" The pastors and missionaries in Ghana, Togo, and Cote d'Ivoire that work with Reaching the Unreached began to adapt their methods. They began to meet in small groups of 10 or less for Bible studies outside, including worship and prayer. They began following a "house church" model rather than a large gathering in a central church. They have been finding receptive neighbors who join in the small group who would never venture to the church site.
God is faithful! He is not limited like we are by the hindrances of this world. The Spirit of God and the Word of God continue, in spite of the pandemic; in spite of the lockdown; in spite of the quarantine!
"But God's word is not chained!" It is a good reminder for us. Continue to trust. Continue to pray. Continue to rely of God to nourish His people. He will not abandon us! His Word, His Will, and His Kingdom will continue, unhindered!