Summary: How do you view serving God? As a chore? As an inconvenience? Paul, who was in jail because he served God, viewed serving God as a gift, a privilege that God had given him!
How was your week? Did you have a good week? Or a bad one be honest. Whos had a bad week? Whos had bad things happen this week? This month? Year? Ever? Life can be tough it is not always not easy. We can struggle with all sorts of things. We can have money troubles. We can have career troubles, car troubles. We can have problems with relationships at work and at home. We can have marriage troubles. There are all sorts of troubles.
Today we are going to talk about a fellow who had a really tough life. Really tough. Probably tougher than most of us here. Maybe all of us. Certainly tougher than Ive had it. Let me tell you about this fellow. This fellow had been through everything. Hed been in shipwrecks. Yep a ship that was in a violent storm and got wrecked and he survived. Hed been stoned, that is, people tried to kill him by throwing stones at him. Big stones. But he survived. Hed been involved in a riot, not as a spectator, but as the one the crowd was out to get. He managed to escape but had to flee that city. Hed been arrested on trumped up charges and when hed been in prison, people had wanted to kill him. But only because of a tip-off was the plot averted. This bloke had been through it all. If anyone had reason to complain, it was him. And now, this guy is sitting in jail and he writes a letter.
I guess you know who we are talking about now. We are talking about Paul, the bloke who wrote Ephesians. And while he was sitting in jail, he writes a letter. His letter to the Ephesians.
EPH 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--
It doesnt say in Ephesians where he was in prison, but most commentators think he was in Rome. How did he get there? Well, he had been in Jerusalem. Many Jews there were angry with him because he preached that the Gospel was for Gentiles too, not just for Jews. So on trumped up charges they got got him arrested. Paul appealed to Ceasar, therefore, he was sent to Rome where Ceasar was. It was a long journey with shipwreck and snakebite. And now he is in Rome, possibly under house arreset, but not free. He was a prisoner, because he proclaimed the Gospel to the Gentiles. Thus verse 1 says that he is Paul, a prisoner for the sake of the Gentiles.
So he writes to the Ephesians. What does he write about? What would you write about if you were Paul? I know what Id be tempted to write about. Prison life its terrible. Ive suffered so much for the Gospel, and I want out. Its time I got a break. God why did you send me to the Gentiles? Why did you send me on this mission that many didnt like? That I had to suffer so much for? That got me into trouble? That got me arrested, shipwrecked. People want to kill me. I wish Id never been called for such a task. What a great job this is! I want out. Is that what Paul wrote to the Ephesians? Lets see.
EPH 3:7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power.
Paul acknowledges that he became a servant of this Gospel, of this message. The word servant is the same as the word minister
(some translations use minister.) So he is talking about his ministry his service for God. And as Christians, we all ought to be serving God in some way. So Paul is talking about his ministry. Now remember what weve just said. What did his ministry, his service for the Lord bring him? Privation. Hardship. Shipwreck. People hating the message and him. They were trying to kill him, stone him. They were calling him a traitor to his people, They arranged for him to be arrested on trumped up charges, so that he spent years languising in jail. And as he writes this he is still going through it. It is not a thing of the past, but a present reality. This is what this service of his, his ministry has brought for him.
What does he call this ministry? Look in verse 7. A gift of Gods grace. Can you believe it? A gift! How can he call something that has brought him so much trouble, a gift? And it is not just any old gift, but a gift of Gods grace. Weve spoken about grace before, that it is getting a gift we didnt earn, didnt deserve. A really really big favour, it literally means, favour.