Thought for the Week - 2nd April

Mark Rodgers
1 Corinthians 16: 8-9

But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost,
because a great door for effective work has opened to me,
and there are many who oppose me…

I want to share with you about a man on fire and a man in fire.

In the verse above, Paul is writing to the Corinthian church from Ephesus. Paul preached in Ephesus for three years.  It was the longest campaigns he ever held in one place.  It was also the most fruitful and successful.  Why was it so successful?

Paul writes that a “great” door has opened.  Why did Paul have this great effective door for success opened to him?  God had opened an opportunity for Paul to preach the gospel to the Ephesians.  Paul calls it effective because God Himself had opened it.

Paul uses the language of opening doors many times.  For example, in 2 Corinthians 2:12 we read: “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me”.  In Colossians 4:3 we read: “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”  God opened the doors, not Paul!  Paul was always looking for those God given opportunities to present and preach the Gospel.

When God opens those doors, we must be quick to go through them!  We must be swift to take the opportunities.  God is in it.

Paul also tells us that there were many there to oppose him.  God was opening a door and there was opposition.  When God opens a door or opportunity for the effective preaching of His Gospel, there is always opposition.  Paul actually describes the opposition in Ephesus.  In 1 Corinthians 15:32 we read “I fought wild beasts in Ephesus”.  Paul is more than likely using this graphic language to describe the vicious struggle he was facing while preaching at Ephesus; something mad, irrational and furious!  Paul faced all of that in the preaching of the Gospel.  These images of wild beasts speak not only of the natural opposition he faced from other people, but they also speak specifically of the spiritual opposition he faced from spiritual powers.

Whenever we tread in the devil’s back garden, we will always face opposition.  But when God opens a door in the devil’s back garden, no much how much he opposes or stands against you or how much mud he flings against your life, there is fruitfulness, the moving of God’s power and Christ is glorified.

In Ephesians 6:12 Paul describes the spiritual opposition they’re facing when writing to the Church in Ephesus:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The word struggle is close hand-to-hand combat, not a fight from a distance!  We are engaged in close combat; a wrestling.  Paul speaks of the different struggles we face:

  • The fight within ourselves – the struggle between our old and new natures.
  • Struggles within the Church – Paul realised that among believers there could come division (Ephesians 4:3).
  • Spiritual forces of wickedness and evil.

The problem with the devil is that either too much attention is paid to him or not enough.  Some people think all of their problems are to do with themselves and nothing to do with the devil.  Others think their problems are nothing to do with themselves and everything to do with the devil.  The bible describes him as a lion (known for their strength), a dragon (known for their ferocity) and a serpent (known for being subtle and seductive).  The devil is a strong, ferocious and seductive enemy.

John the apostle tells us something about the world and the devil in 1 John 5: 19-20:

We know that we are of God, and that
the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
And we know that the Son of God has come,
and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true;
and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God and eternal life.

The world isn’t under siege and struggling to get free from Satan, but instead is literally resting in his arms.  The world is quietly sleeping in the arms of the devil.  The reason Jesus came was to destroy the works of the devil!  Jesus Himself describes the devil as a thief (John 10:10).  In ancient days, a thief would be someone who not only stole, but someone who killed and destroyed.  Does that ring a bell about what’s happening in your own life at the moment?  Have you allowed him in?  Is he stealing what God has done?

In John 10:10 we read that Jesus has come that we might have life!  Whatever is gripping you – Jesus has come to set you free!  Whatever is gripping you, whatever you have let in, and whatever chains are wrapped around you, He has come to set you free.  We read in John 8:36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Freedom is a beautiful thing!  If you are in chains and the devil has got in through a door, Jesus can close that door and set you free… completely!  If any man or women are in Christ they are a new creation!  The old has gone and the new has come!  There is freedom for you.

God is all powerful and there’s nothing He cannot do.  The Bible describes sins in the Old Testament a mighty citadel.  That fortress to God is like a little fig tree.  All He needs to do is give the tree a little shake and the figs fall off.  That’s how easy it is for God to break through fortresses!

Paul is in this city where he is facing intense opposition.  We find time and time in scripture that the cross divides people.  There are those who believe that Christ is saviour and follow Him, and there are those who don’t.  Those who don’t believe in Jesus, where do they rest?  The Epistle of John tells us they lie in the embrace of the evil one.  That is our world system and our world economy.  The world is lying in the grasp of the evil one.

The bible describes satan as “the God of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  He has power and authority over this world.  But Jesus truly is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  There is a lake of fire that is prepared for the devil – that’s his destination.  In all of his schemes and destructive power, above Him there is The Most High.  God is sovereign.  There is no higher authority than God!

Despite this terrible opposition faced by Paul in Ephesus, God moves with tremendous power.  Paul describes the effectiveness of His work: “a great door for effective work has opened to me”.  Paul is that man who is on fire with a passion for Jesus Christ!  Paul is also a man who’s in the fire of suffering, the heat of trial and furnace of affliction and opposition.  The only way he is able to stand in that furnace is because he is a man who is on fire!  None of us can stand when storms rage against our life, unless our life is not just built on Jesus but is being built on Jesus. He’s the foundation.  He’s the solid rock!  Where are you building your life?  What is laying under your feet?  Is it sand or is it on the rock, the foundation of Jesus Christ?

Paul is a man in the fire, but on fire as well.

In the heat of the opposition, God is pouring out His Holy Spirit and power.  He was performing extraordinary miracles.  Handkerchiefs and aprons carried from his body to people, and they were healed from disease and evil spirits left them (Acts 19:12).  Many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together, which we are told cost 50,000 drachmas, and burnt them on a bonfire (Acts 19:19).  They were actually following Jesus!

God was moving in phenomenal power!  Paul knew that God moves in power, the devil is there to oppose him.  This is why we need courage.  We need courage to follow Christ.  We need courage to obey his calling.  We need courage to go through those doors when He opens them.

God will speak to you and challenge you about things.  We need courage to obey Him, and courage to serve Him.  He is looking for those who’ll serve Him.  God has opened an effective door for you.

He has placed you in the fire and He has given you fire to live in.  In the fire and on fire.  Take courage!


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