Youthful Days

People of the Bible

King Agrippa

There have been many people in the history of this world who have occupied high-ranking positions of authority.  Some may well be remembered for their achievements; others may sadly be remembered for their failures or for their selfish abuse of power.  But King Agrippa in the Bible is remembered by most Bible students not by what he did, but rather by what he said to the apostle Paul - “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

Paul was at this time in Caesarea, where he had for the previous two years been held a prisoner after opponents to his preaching started a riot in the city.  King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice, were visiting Caesarea, and Agrippa’s curiosity was aroused when Festus, the ruler of the city, told him about Paul, and he wanted to hear what he had to say.  The next day Agrippa and Bernice entered the hall with great ceremony, together with a number of dignitaries from the city, and Paul was brought in.

Paul preached to the assembled audience, witnessing of his own conversion to Christianity, and reminding King Agrippa of prophecies about the sufferings of Christ, His death and resurrection, and the spread of the gospel.  His two years of imprisonment had not dampened his faith in God, and he spoke boldly of the need of repentance.  But despite Paul’s words, and a powerful appeal directly addressed to the King, he would admit to being no more than “almost persuaded” to be a Christian.

We hear nothing further in the Bible about King Agrippa, but his words provide a solemn warning to us all – almost persuaded to be a Christian is not enough.  Repentance and faith in Jesus, believing in Him, are the essentials of true salvation.  Only then can we be fully assured that our sins are forgiven and that we have peace with God.

Lessons:

  • No matter what our status in life, each one of us needs a Saviour.
  • You may know about Jesus, as Agrippa did, but do you know Him as your Saviour?
  • The gospel needs an answer.  What will your answer be?
  • He who is almost persuaded is almost saved; but to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.

A Message for you

How easy it is to be lulled into a sense of false security!  Perhaps you have known about Jesus because, from a young age, you have attended Christian gatherings where the gospel message has been preached.  You quite possibly know parts of your Bible too, and may even be able to repeat certain verses of it that you’ve learned.  You could even admit to enjoying the company of Christian friends who have been kind to you, and always give you a very warm welcome.  But are you saved? – have you trusted in Jesus to be your personal Saviour?

That question must be answered.  Unlike King Agrippa who was almost persuaded to be a Christian, the way to salvation and the forgiveness of sins lies in repentance, faith in Jesus, and believing in Him.  Your parents or friends cannot do it for you –you must do it yourself.

Your decision today will make the difference between eternity in heaven with Jesus, or eternal judgment and banishment from God’s presence for ever.  Are you almost persuaded, or fully persuaded, to be a Christian?  Make sure.  Don’t delay.

extracted from the Nov 2020 issue of Youthful Days


Eutychus

It must have been warm in that room where Paul was preaching.  It was apparently evening, for we’re told there were many lights in the upper room, and no doubt the combination of the heat of the day and the fumes from the lamps had made the atmosphere quite oppressive.  And Paul had quite a lot to say to the assembled company, for he was leaving them the following day for the next phase of his third missionary journey, and it would have been the last opportunity many of them would have had to hear his words.

As the evening wore on, a lad named Eutychus was sitting at the open window, which was probably the coolest part of the room.  As he sat there, listening to Paul’s discourse, his concentration lapsed, and he fell into a deep sleep.  The upper room was on the third storey of the house, and, before anyone had noticed, he slipped through the window opening and plunged to the ground far below.  When his friends in the assembled company reached him, he was dead.

No doubt in great consternation, Paul and the assembled company descended to him, and Paul enfolded him in his arms, declaring “his life is in him”.  Returning to the upper room, no doubt with the boy who had been miraculously restored, they ate, and Paul continued his discourse until break of day.  Scripture records for us that “they brought away the boy alive, and were no little comforted” (Acts 20:12)

Lessons:

  • Stay alert, listening out for what God may say to you at any time.
  • Be wholly committed to the Lord Jesus and keep close to Him.
  • Enjoy that living link with Him, and don’t let your senses [conscience?] become dulled.
  • Pray daily that the Lord Jesus will preserve and keep you in the joy of His salvation.

A Message for you:

This true story is a reminder to us of God’s wonderful grace.  Paul descended three storeys to rescue a boy who was overcome by sleep and had fallen to his death.  Jesus, God’s Son, descended to this earth “becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8), to rescue sinners like you and me who were worthy of death, and bring us into God’s blessing.

It is one thing to read this story and think badly of Eutychus.  It is another to realise how easily we can all take our eyes off the Lord Jesus, not hear His words, and even do things that are not pleasing to Him.  Perhaps our attendance in Christian company continues because we want to be seen to be there, but that living inner spring of love for Jesus has started to wane.

I leave with you Paul’s exhortation to Timothy – another young man.  “Let no one despise thy youth,” he tells him, “but be a model of the believers, in word, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity … Occupy thyself with these things; be wholly in them, [my underline] that thy progress may be manifest to all”  (1 Timothy 4:12&15).

We would all do well to follow this exhortation too!

extracted from the Jul 2020 issue of Youthful Days


The Ethiopian Ruler

If you are a regular reader of Youthful Days, you will probably have noticed that the study of your Bible is something that I often try to encourage you to do.  I know that most of you have busy lives, so I realise how easy it is for those precious minutes to slip away.  So, here is a story about a man who took the opportunity to read the scriptures whilst he was being driven in his chariot along a dusty desert road!

In Bible times, travelling was rather more hazardous than it is today.  Roads were sometimes little more than tracks, and transport bore no comparison to the cars of today.  It was on such a road where a high-ranking government official who worked for Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, was travelling back to Gaza after a visit to Jerusalem where he had gone to worship.  Sitting in his chariot, he was reading a section from Isaiah’s prophecy, “he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and was as a sheep dumb before her shearers, and he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).  The problem was, he couldn’t understand what it meant.

But God had His eye upon this traveller, and had already arranged for an interpreter to be at hand.  Philip, the evangelist, had been directed by an angel of the Lord to travel on the same road, and when the chariot came into view, told him to join it.  As he ran up, the Ethiopian invited him to come up and sit with him, and before long Philip was announcing the glad tidings of Jesus to him.

The Ethiopian was starting to understand, when suddenly they arrived at an oasis in the desert, and he asked to be baptised.  Commanding the chariot to stop, both he and Philip went down into the water, and Philip baptised him.  God’s word had so affected the Ethiopian ruler that Philip’s service was no longer needed, and the Spirit of the Lord caught him away, whilst the Ethiopian continued his journey, rejoicing that he now had the knowledge of Jesus as his Saviour and Lord.

Lessons:

  • Take every opportunity to read a few verses from your Bible whenever you can.
  • Ask others to help you understand what you read, especially those you know and trust.
  • Remember too, God has given us His Holy Spirit to open up the scriptures to us.
  • When God’s word touches your heart, don’t stay “sitting in your chariot”.  Act on it!

A Message for you:

My first message is – please don’t neglect the reading of your Bible.  Whilst you are young, you will be able to remember what you read, even though you may not understand it all.  As you get older, you will be glad you did it.

Next, God sees whenever you read your Bible and, in His time, He will give you the understanding you need.  The service of the Holy Spirit is very precious to those who enjoy it, and without His service none of us would understand as we should.  “He shall guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).

Finally, as God’s word finds its place in your heart, obey it.  As you do, like the Ethiopian, you’ll be able to go on your way rejoicing.  Many have proved it is true, and so can you.

extracted from the May 2020 issue of Youthful Days


The Widow Woman who gave

This story is told in Mark’s gospel (Mark 12:41-44), and in Luke’s gospel account too (Luke 21:1-4).  It’s not a long story – both Mark and Luke each devote just four verses to it – and Gospel writers Matthew and John don’t mention it at all.  But the story is about a widow woman – we don’t know her name, but we do know she was very poor.  She came into the temple precincts to cast what she had into the treasury, and many rich people were there too, filling the treasury boxes and casting in much.

But the Bible tells us that Jesus was there too, sitting and watching.  He wasn’t interested in how much the rich people threw into the box.  But the Bible tells us that “he beheld how the people cast money into the treasury” (Mark 12:41).  This is a New Testament illustration of what God said to Samuel in the Old Testament, “for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

In fact, the widow woman cast into the treasury just two mites – two coins that were the smallest and least valuable in circulation in Judea at the time that Jesus was there.  Such an insignificant contribution would have bought nothing for the temple buildings, and would have been considered as of no account by any who saw her throwing it in.  “Just two mites – what was the point of that?” we can hear them say!

But Jesus saw, and He saw how she gave.  He looked upon her heart.  Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “this poor widow has cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 12:43-44).

Lessons:

  • The Lord Jesus not only sees what you do, but He knows your true motive for doing it.
  • Don’t be influenced by outward appearances.  Don’t try to impress!
  • God loves a cheerful giver. He sees how you give, not how much or how little. 
  • God’s assessment of a situation may be very different to yours.  Ask Him to guide you.

A Message for you:

What can you do for the Lord Jesus?  Perhaps you feel that the little things that you could do are so small compared to what others can do, and that it’s not really worth trying at all.
The Lord Jesus is not looking for great things to be done.  He sees your heart, He sees if you really love Him and want to do things for Him.  Is it too small a thing to speak a word of encouragement to someone in need?  - or just to mention the name of Jesus and confess Him as your Saviour?  Is it not worthwhile to show the love and kindness of your Saviour God?  Of course, it is!
And remember - His valuation of what you do is what matters, and He knows your heart.  Let your love for Jesus be seen in the little things you do. Seize opportunities to show your Saviour’s love.  There will be untold blessing for you and for others as you do.

extracted from the May 2019 issue of Youthful Days


Titus

There is always a need for younger believers to fill the ranks.  Older ones pass on, often leaving a heritage in the hearts of those whom they have served.  But who will continue the work?  The apostle Paul had served the churches zealously, but in due course he would pass on, so younger men would be needed to carry forward the gospel.  Paul encouraged younger ones to take responsibility and to train other faithful believers to carry on the work (2 Timothy 2:2).

During Paul’s first missionary journey, a young man named Titus heard Paul preaching the gospel. Titus was Greek, so he had not been brought up with Jewish customs, neither was he a worshipper.  But as he listened to Paul, Titus responded to the message and believed in the Lord Jesus, and became one of Paul’s most trusted and dependable co-workers.  Paul brought him to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-3), and he stood before the leaders of the church in Jerusalem as a living example of what God was doing amongst the Gentiles.

Titus continued to travel with Paul on missionary journeys, sharing in the work of spreading the gospel.  Then Paul sent him to Corinth to help the church with its troubles there, and it would seem that the visit bore fruit, for Paul tells of being encouraged – “And we the rather rejoiced in our encouragement more abundantly by reason of the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all” (2 Corinthians 7:13).  Later Paul sent him again, although he makes it clear that, “being full of zeal, [Titus] went of his own accord” (2 Corinthians 8:17).  Paul thought of Titus not only as a very faithful friend but also as his spiritual son because he had led him to trust Christ.

But Titus’ main commission seems to be in the island of Crete, to which he and Paul travelled, and where Paul eventually left him “to set right what remained unordered, and establish elders in each city” (Titus 1:5).  He was there when Paul wrote the Epistle to Titus that we have in our Bibles, clearly setting out the principles that should govern the church, listing the pastoral qualifications of those who take a lead, and warning him of false teachers.  Paul gave Titus detailed instruction for good Christian behaviour, urging him to be a good example to others himself, and to teach with courage and conviction the word of God.

Lessons:
•   Listen carefully to the counsel of older ones.  You may need to take their place one day.
•   Resolve to support those who love the truth and seek to be faithful to the Lord.
•   Let God’s word have its place in your heart, then you’ll be zealous in spreading God’s word.
•   Christianity is practical.  Be prepared for responsibility.  Be a good example to all.

A Message for you:
Titus worked alongside Paul, and was a great encouragement to him in furthering God’s work.  Not only did he learn from Paul’s teaching, but he loved it and was zealous to spread the word.  His commitment resulted in him earning Paul’s confidence, such that he could commit to him responsibilities both in Corinth and in Crete.  A trustworthy and reliable servant, he was “serviceable to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).  Will you take on responsibility, and serve the Lord and those who love Him, as Titus did?

extracted from the November 2017 issue of Youthful Days


Paul

“For for me to live is Christ, and to die gain” (Philippians 1:21).  These words sum up the life of the Apostle Paul, a man used outstandingly by God in the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and for the establishment of the early church in Asia and Europe.  Paul’s Christian pathway commenced with his conversion when the light and voice from heaven stopped him in his tracks on the Damascus road – read about it in Acts 9:1-21.

Prior to his conversion, Paul was very religious.  Educated by an eminent Pharisee called Gamaliel in the exactness of Jewish law, he genuinely believed that the Christian faith was a threat to Judaism, and his persecution of believers was relentless.  He consented to the stoning of the Lord’s servant, Stephen.  Then he obtained letters of authority from the high priest to travel to the synagogues of Damascus and to bind any believers that he found and bring them back to Jerusalem.  

But Paul’s conversion changed his life completely.  From this time on, Paul was totally committed to God’s service, and from being a persecutor of Christians he became a preacher of Christ, and became himself the object of persecution for his faith.  He undertook three missionary journeys:
1.   From Antioch in Syria to Turkey via Cyprus in 46-48 AD (Acts 13-14).
2.   From Antioch, revisiting the churches established in Asia during his first journey, then on to Philippi (where he was imprisoned) and Corinth in Greece in 49-52 AD (Acts 15:36-18:22).
3.   From Antioch, following much of the route of the second journey, but including a stay of three years in Ephesus. This journey ended in Jerusalem in 57 AD (Acts 18:23-21:15).

Paul’s last journey was as a prisoner by ship to Rome – “the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good courage; for as thou hast testified the things concerning me at Jerusalem, so thou must bear witness at Rome also” (Acts 23:11).  En route to Rome, Paul was shipwrecked on Malta, but eventually reached Rome, where he was imprisoned and from where he wrote a number of his Bible epistles.  The circumstances of his death in Rome are not recorded for us in the Bible.


Lessons:

  • Paul went to extraordinary lengths to spread the Christian message.
  • God will not exempt you from adversity.  Paul suffered shipwreck!
  • How much do you study and value what Paul has left for us in his writings?
  • God’s word has come to you at great cost.  Don’t treat it lightly.


A Message for you:

Paul’s entire post-conversion life was Christ, and was entirely devoted to the Lord’s service.  His three missionary journeys alone total nearly 8,000 miles, plus more than 2,000 to Rome.  He was frequently imprisoned for his faith, shipwrecked, mobbed and persecuted.  Some of his epistles were written from prison in terrible conditions, sometimes he was chained. 

We have Paul’s letters in our Bibles.  What do we do with them?  Have we read and studied them?  Once he wrote, “… lest indeed I have laboured in vain as to you” (Galatians 4:11).  Have we applied their teachings to our lives?    They are written for us, and let us not forget they have been brought to us through much self-sacrifice and at very great cost.

extracted from the March 2017 issue of Youthful Days