The Unretiring Christian (Romans 15.23-24)

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There’s no retirement from Christian service. When you sign up with Christ you sign up for life. The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of the unretiring Christian.

In Romans 15.17-22, Paul speaks freely about the scope of his Christian service. “So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum,” he writes in verse 19, “I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Geographically speaking, the area between Jerusalem and Illyricum includes the modern nations of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, and several Balkan nations (Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia).

I tire just thinking of the thousands of miles Paul covered on foot. But Paul didn’t tire of his labors as he ambitiously pursued Christ’s purpose. Instead, he kept his eye on the horizon for new areas in which to serve Christ. Having completed his mission from Jerusalem to Illyricum, he turned his attention to Italy and Spain.

Here’s what Paul writes in Romans 15.23-24:

But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Notice several things:

First, Christian service is work. It is purpose-driven behavior. And there are metrics to determine whether you have accomplished your purpose. One of the metrics of my job as a pastor is The Daily Word. If I send it out each Monday through Friday, then I have done my job. The metric of Paul’s service was planting geographically strategic churches. As he surveyed his work from Jerusalem to Illyricum, he concluded that he had done his job—there was “no more place”—and could move on to the next one. 

Second, Christian service is desirable work. Paul speaks of “longing for many years to see you.” The other day in my small group, a member joked about hoping God would not call her to be a missionary in Africa. Some people labor under the fear that Christ calls Christians to serve him by doing what they detest. Based on Paul’s example, I think the truth lies in the opposite assertion. Christ calls us to serve him by what we do best and most passionately. He gives us “longing” and “hope” for what he calls us to do. 

Finally, Christian service is diverse work. Paul was a missionary. I am a pastor. But those are not the only forms of Christian service. Each Christian is uniquely spiritually gifted. Interestingly, Paul did not ask the Romans to go with him to Spain. He simply asked them to send him along with financial support. “Assist me,” he wrote. All Christians have the same purpose, to enter the kingdom of God along with as many others as possible. But we accomplish that purpose in different ways. Some go, some send, all serve.

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