Some think (wrongly!) that fruitfulness and usefulness for God are somehow directly linked to how “super-spiritual” a person is. This often leads to a sense of defeatism and discouragement, as some believers may feel that God would never use them as they are certainly not spiritual giants and they feel completely inadequate to be used by Him.
It is actually fascinating, and very informative, to look carefully in our Bibles at what and whom God actually uses to further His purposes. Interestingly enough, if you study some of the ‘spiritual giant” characters of the Bible who accomplished great things for God, you will be shocked to find that they were ordinary people, plagued with sin within them, and handicapped by the same weaknesses and inadequacies that we experience. Moses was a murderer, David was an adulterer, Elijah got depressed, the list goes on and on. While it is amazing that God uses imperfect servants, it is absolutely fascinating that at times he even uses his enemies to accomplish his purposes. One fascinating example of this is seen in Acts 19, in one of the more humorous incidents recorded in the New Testament.
The city is Ephesus – a first century city that was filled with idolatry. Entire industries were devoted to the production of idols. Ephesus was saturated with people who made a practice of magic arts. After the gospel took hold in this city there were some serious changes. Those who used to practice magic came together and burned thousands of dollars worth of their sinister books. This sparked a riot in the city as those who made idols started to realize that with so many worshipping the true God they were going to run out of business.
The intriguing question is: “how did the gospel really get started in Ephesus? What event triggered the revival?” If we look at Acts 19:11-20 we can discover how the gospel really got started in Ephesus. If you’ve got time it would be worth your while to have a quick read through the passage.
Thing were going well in Ephesus. Paul was there and the Lord was using him powerfully. Paul likely knew things were going pretty well when even his dirty laundry had healing characteristics. Yet despite this the real event that sparked the revival was not the miracles done through Paul. As you read the story we get introduced to some itinerant Jewish exorcists. They see all the miracles going on and decide they would like a little piece of the action. They tried to cast out demons by saying “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims”. The response from the demons was “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Then the demon possessed man proceeded to leap on these unsavory characters and beat them up. The bible records that they “fled out of that house naked and wounded”. I’ve always read this story and found it to be hilarious yet what I didn’t realize is the effect this incident had on the city.
It is after this event that we read these words “And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus…and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled”. It was shortly after this that the magicians come to burn their books. Then shortly after that idol makers start their riot.
The revival in Ephesus was triggered by the actions of some itinerant exorcists and a demon possessed man. I just want us to think about this. Did the demons want the name of the Lord Jesus to be extolled? Were the itinerant exorcists attempting to share the gospel? The obvious answer is no, and yet God in his sovereign power and goodness used their foolish actions to send them away naked and wounded and to magnify the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.
What can we learn from this? God is far bigger than our intentions and our abilities. God has never needed extraordinary people to accomplish his purposes but rather he is able to use whomever he pleases. It should bring us great joy and confidence to know that God delights in using us, and that he can even use those who are opposed to the gospel to see it spread.
Furthermore, I personally have been inspired to look at the city of Ephesus. If we think that we are living in bad times and that society is in a worse state than it has ever been, we are in need of a reality check. Sin is no more prevalent today than it was in Ephesus. The moral depravity of our day is no worse than the depravity seen then. The awesome reality is that God is no less powerful today than he was then. Is revival possible in our day? Absolutely!
As you go through this week look around you and see how so often those opposed to the gospel provide evidence to its reality. The celebrities who have it all and yet cry out “it’s all empty”, the millionaires who desperately seek for more money, the young people who constantly seek out drugs and alcohol in the pursuit of pleasure that they can never find. All of these people end up as it were “naked and wounded” as they realize that their idols possess no true power. Be thankful that you know the Lord Jesus and his power. Worship him for his goodness and grace and share him with others. This week, be encouraged to know that God is over all, and that he is working today, and he can use you. Not only can he use you, he wants to use you!
Finally, as a point of worship, think of how God used evil men’s actions to accomplish your salvation, extend that storyline from Calvary to the day you were saved. Think too of how your actions could play a part in the redemptive story of those around you!