Understanding The Bible
Grab A Rope
By Dr. Glen Clifton 1.
“Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul, and they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket."
"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands."
2 Corinthians 22-33
It is said that William Carey was the father of modern missions. Raised in an humble home, his parents also were poor. He had no formal education, and learned to read and write at home. He became a cobbler by trade. When he was converted, he soon felt the call to preach. He said, “my work is to preach the gospel ... I cobble shoes for a living.”
Later, while attending a pastors conference having friendly conversations, Dr. Ryland opened up a general discussion for the young preachers.
Young Carey rose and ask if the command of Jesus given to the apostles to go and teach all nations was an obligatory command on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world. The question hit the group like a thunderbolt ... Dr. Ryland told Carey, “Sit down, young man. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine.”
But the call of God was on his heart ... and Carey persisted, and several years later, October 2, 1792, the first missionary society was formed. Now, the question was: who will go? Carey said, “I will!” The first mission field was India ... described as a great gold mine ... it was as deep as the center of the earth. Carey responded, “I will go down into the deep shaft, but you, my brethren, must hold the ropes!” His friends replied, “We will, as long as God gives us strength.”
In acts 9, we notice the apostle Paul being lowered down over the walls of the city of Damascus, in order to escape those who wanted to kill him.
Remember: Saul (now named Paul) had been the chief persecutor and prosecutor of the church. Now saved, he was completely turned around. His preaching made the countrymen upset, and they threatened to kill him ... and they were looking for him. That night, his friends put him in a basket and lowered him over the walls, through a window to safety.
Ray Steadman once said, “Before Paul could be used of God, he had to become a basket case.”
Those who held the ropes and saved his life became partners in all that he did. I want you to understand, that every time we give our lives ... our tithes and offerings ... our service ... we share in the gospel. Each of us must grab a rope! None of us should stand around as only a casual observer.
I. Many “hold the ropes” inconspicuously
Those who held the ropes for Paul were little known, unnamed nobodies. We know nothing about them ... their occupations, their achievements, their fate or their names.
The lesson for us is: the great work of the kingdom of God often goes forward on the shoulders of ordinary people ... just like you and me.
The marines idea of looking for “a few good men” is not original. It was God who first said, “I sought for a man ...”
Ezekiel 22:30 throughout the bible we find God seeking men and women that he can trust, and calling them to his service.
The bible spotlights its heroes: Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Paul, Peter, and many more. But, behind the scenes there is a multitude of little known, unnamed nobodies who make up the supporting cast, holding the ropes.
Just like our churches! Most know the pastors, the chairman of the deacons and other committees, and those in places of leadership. But few really know the little widow or widower who is so faithful in attendance and always with their tithe. In our church, most of you don’t know over a handful or two of people. Who are the backbone of our work? Behind the scenes there is a multitude of little known, unnamed bodies who make up the supporting cast. How many of you could name the "prayer warriors" of this church?
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the greatest of English preachers who ever lived. He preached to thousands every week. His books have been read by more preachers than any other person. He shook that continent for Christ leading many thousands to the lord.
Spurgeon was converted at age 15 during a snowstorm. He was forced to enter a chapel to get out of the storm. The regular minister was not there. A shoemaker, or tailor, stood to preach. His text was: “look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” When he was finished preaching, he looked at Spurgeon and said, “You look miserable ... you’ll never be happy without Jesus.” And then he led him to the lord.
Dwight l. Moody was led to Christ by his Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball. He went to the shoe store where moody was a stock boy and led him to Christ.
Although I made a profession of faith in a Baptist church while an evangelist was preaching, my mother and my boy scout leader, who was also my Sunday school teacher had the biggest influence on my life.
Most of us will never
blaze a continent for Christ, never write a missionary journal, never stand to
preach a sermon in a church, never witness on foreign soil, but we can stay at
home and “hold the ropes” that make it possible for others to do those things.
II. Many “hold the ropes” gallantly
Those who “held” for Paul, did so during the darkest of night. They probably needed sleep. There was peril on their own lives. There was danger in the hour. Paul was a wanted man ... and they helped him escape.
You don’t have to be talented or popular to serve the lord, and be in his will, but you do have to be faithful! The story is told of little Joey. Little Joey was “mentally impaired,” or as they said in those days ... he was “not quite bright.” He never missed a service. He would not leave the church until he stood beside Billy Sunday, and shake his hand. After every service, he would stand by Billy Sunday until everyone had said good-by. Sometimes it became embarrassing. One evening a man came to Sunday and said, “I want to thank you for being so kind to Joey. As you know, he isn’t “quite bright.” He enjoys singing in the choir and listening to your preaching. You need to know that it was through Joey that my wife and I, and our children came to the lord. His grandfather, an infidel all his life, and his grandmother came to the lord tonight. Now our whole family are converted.”
In our world of moral
and spiritual darkness, someone must go down into the pit with the light to
rescue the perishing and care for the dying. But just as surely as some must go,
others of us must “hold the ropes” that enable them to do so. Are you willing?
III. Many “hold the ropes” optimistically
Some of those who “held the ropes” for Paul did so without knowing who was in the basket. Oh, yes, they knew his name and reputation ... but, they had no way of knowing what he would one day become. This man, used of God, would honey-comb the roman empire with churches. He would, under the inspiration of the holy spirit, write two-thirds of the new testament. He would go to Rome, and perhaps to Spain, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
As they had no idea who was in the basket, we too must “hold the ropes” for each other. We must “hold the ropes” for our pastor. We must “hold the ropes” for all of our missionaries ... because we just don’t know who will be saved and become the next vessel for God.
Let me illustrate: in 1846, Richard fuller held a revival in south Carolina. Talking about it later, a Baptist deacon and a Methodist steward spoke of the meeting. “Only two small boys were saved,” one said. No big sinners.
One boy: Henry Tupper, who, later became the second executive secretary of the foreign mission board of the southern Baptist convention. The other boy: James P. Boyce became the founder and first president of southern Baptist theological seminary. Both, ministers of the gospel.
No one is
insignificant! Everyone counts! We never know how many they will lead to Christ,
how many churches they will establish, how many trails they will blaze for
Christ, or how many missionary journals they will write.
IV. Many “hold the ropes” patiently
The men with Paul, stayed with their task until the basket reached the ground. They didn’t drop the basket, because they “held the ropes.”
There is no substitute for staying power. Persistence and stickability are virtues. Some people start off big, but, when the going gets rough, they lose interest and quit. They lack the quality of perseverance which is necessary to complete any worthwhile achievement. They refuse to stick with the job or service until it is completed.
Vance Havner used to say, “They go up like a rocket and come down like a rock.” “They start out with a fever and end up with a chill.” Our churches are full of quitters!
God is looking for total commitment! Joshua put it this way: “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15). Elijah asked: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him” (First Kings 18:21). And Jesus confronted one church: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot ... and because you are neither cold or hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)
God abhors (hates) all attempts to straddle the fence or to be a middle-of-the-roader. One seven year old boy said, “If you sit in the middle of the road, you’re going to get run over.!” And, remember: this lifetime commitment to the lordship of Christ does not guarantee instant spiritual perfection. Our once-and-for-all surrender to God must be activated and appropriated daily. Lifetime surrender to Jesus allows his full, abundant, supernatural life to be released in us and sets us free from the power of temptation, sin, and self.
I’ve been in the ministry long enough to see many people come and go in God’s work.
They started in the choir, but then they quit.
They started teaching, but then they quit.
They held major offices, but then they quit.
They started ushering, but then they quit.
They started tithing, but then they quit.
They “dropped the rope” that had been given to them. They accepted a responsibility, then they dropped it and backed off. Instead of being a worker, they became a shirker.
Marine lt. Clebe Mcleary lost an arm, an eye, an ear and half his face in Vietnam. Twenty-four surgeries later his face was rebuilt. While he was in the hospital, undergoing one of his many surgeries, twenty-four men in his command visited him in the hospital. They handed him a plaque that read, “In this world of give and take, there are so few who are willing to give what it takes.”
What about you? Will you give what it takes?
Upon his graduation from high school, his dad gave young William a cruise around the world. He was brokenhearted by the physical and spiritual needs of the people he met ... and right there he committed his life to serve Jesus as a missionary.
His college years were dedicated to the word of God and reaching those around him with the gospel of Jesus. All his friends knew how much he loved the lord and witnessed for him. He never wavered from his goal to serve the lord, even though he was the multi-million dollar heir of the Borden milk company. He could have settled for a life of convenience and ease.
Finally, it came time for young William Borden to leave for the mission field. He headed to china, he sailed first to Egypt, where he contracted Spinal Meningitis and died less than a month later. Some said, “What a waste.”
But the seed of that solitary life, which went into the ground and died, has produced an abundant harvest of righteousness. Countless young men and women, inspired by his wholehearted devotion to Christ, have risen to take his place on the mission fields of the world.
Oh, yes ... when William's will was probated, it was discovered that he left his entire fortune of millions to be invested in the cause of Christ, in addition to the thousands of dollars he had given away during his short lifetime. Someone summed up William Borden's life with:
May I ask you: what are you living for? Is it worth dying for? One day, when you face the lord who gave everything for you, can you say, “No regrets!”
Will you get in the basket? Will you grab a rope and support those in the basket? Remember: though both are essential to success ... you must do one or the other!
Copyright 2006, Dr. Glen
Used by permission
by Dr. Glen E. Clifton
1. Dr. Clifton preached this discipleship message at King's Baptist church in Vero Beach, Florida in Preached at King's Baptist Church in Vero Beach, FL, September 17, 2006 where he as been serving as Interim Preacher for about 6 months. Dr. Clifton and his wife Dee, have been retired to Florida for 4 years. He has been kept busy preaching up and down the Treasure coast since he moved here. He can be contacted for speaking engagements at (772) 336-3992.
Clifton, Dr. Glen E., Brief Biography