Summary: Learning to utilize and assert your rights in a godly manner
How To Wisely Use Your Rights as Paul Did
Illustration:Early in my career as a doctor I went to see a patient who was coming out of anesthesia. Far off church chimes sounded. "I must be in heaven," the woman murmured. Then she saw me. "No, I can’t be," she said. "There’s Dr. Campbell." Disappointments sometimes teach us that we need to utilize our God given rights and abilities to see what is in front of us.
Lenore Campbell, M.D., in Medical Economics
1. Why do so many people remain naïve about their rights?
Failure to properly utilize one’s right may hinder us from accomplishing all of God’s will. When the chief magistrates in this passage learned that they had beaten a Roman citizen they became deathly afraid. To scourge a Roman citizen like Paul was punishable by death.
Even though Paul knew his civil, human and legal rights, he chose not to engage in a legal battle that might have tied him up for years in a courtroom battle that was not a real priority. Learn to pick the battles you want to fight when you decide to assert your rights.
Ask the Lord to give you the wisdom, timing and wherewithal to properly utilize your rights.
2. Paul chose not to extract his pound of flesh from the magistrates. Seeking revenge is a poor motivation. Real vengeance belongs to the Lord.
The apostle Paul knew that a demonstration of love, forgiveness and grace would create a greater influence for His Lord.
Ask God to help you to evaluate when to assert your rights by following the example of Paul.
3. Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen to help reduce the persecution of other believers. Consider how standing up for your rights will have a positive influence on others.
The apostle decided to call the magistrates out for their secret and illegal practices for the benefit of other persecuted Christians.
Ask God to give you ways of calling on governments to exercise all human, legal and spiritual rights for people in persecuted situations.
4. Paul hesitated to assert his rights so that the works of God could be displayed through Him. The great apostle allowed the Spirit of God to use him in bringing the jailer and his whole household to a saving faith in Christ.
No doubt the entire Philippian region would have gotten wind of the great things God did through Paul and Silas.
Contrast that with what would have happened if they had spent their time crying for a lawyer. Instead, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” (Acts 16:25,26)
Ask the Lord to help you follow the example of Paul and Silas in making the most of your injustices rather than complaining and becoming bitter.
5. People may need reminding of their legal, moral, political, and Biblical rights. Paul had an equivalent of a Ph.D. so he was schooled in all matters of law and moral codes. When it was timely, Paul informed everyone of how he could bring to bear what was at his disposal for the advancement of God’s purposes.
Do not be shy, ignorant or forgetful of all the tools that are at your disposal in the good fight of faith.
Ask the Lord to help you connect with people who are experts in helping you assert the rights that are yours.
6. Do not become haughty, arrogant or condescending to people while asserting your rights. Paul refused to flaunt his Roman citizenship to the magistrates.
Paul could have made the magistrates grovel before him for a long time out of spite, but did not. When God works through Godly people even the proudest, meanest and most despicable men will one day have to admit their errors.
Ask the Lord to help you trust Him to work as He did for Paul, Daniel and Joseph while they were unjustly treated. “For this is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (I Pet. 3:15)
7. Expect that God will use every right that you possess for His glory. Gain all the education about your rights so you can be used in an even greater way for His purposes.
Ask the Lord to help you to research your rights and boldly assert them according to His will, way and timing.
Conclusion:The year was 1920. The scene was the examining board for selecting missionaries. Standing before the board was a young man named Oswald Smith. One dream dominated his heart. He wanted to be a missionary. Over and over again, he prayed, "Lord, I want to go as a missionary for you. Open a door of service for me." Now, at last, his prayer would be answered. When the examination was over, the board turned Oswald Smith down. He did not meet their qualifications. He failed the test. Oswald Smith had set his direction, but now life gave him a detour. What would he do? As Oswald Smith prayed, God planted another idea in his heart. If he could not go as a missionary, he would build a church which could send out missionaries. And that is what he did. Oswald Smith pastored The People’s Church in Toronto, Canada, which sent out more missionaries than any other church at that time. Oswald Smith brought God into the situation, and God transformed his detour into a main thoroughfare of service.
Brian L. Harbour, Rising Above the Crowd.