Dave preached from Acts 19:8-20 last night, looking at how the church in Ephesus engaged in prayer, one of the chief weapons in our armoury. Ephesus was a city in the grip of superstition, sexual immorality and witchcraft. People lived in fear and darkness, but Paul lived out spiritual warfare long before he wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 10 and Ephesians 6! He knew that the stronghold of darkness could be overcome by truth, love and righteousness and that the power of God was stronger than any other power he would ever encounter.
He began his ministry in the synagogue, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God, but there was opposition from some Jews. They became obstinate, hardened their hearts, refused to obey and publicly maligned the Way. Paul moved on to rented accommodation, lecturing each day (probably from about 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.) for two years and building the people up in truth. Teaching is an essential part of church life.
Extraordinary miracles followed the preaching and teaching of the Word, with many healings and deliverances being seen. Paul continued with his ministry even when others tried to jump on the ‘Jesus bandwagon’, exercising the same kind of deliverance ministry without the authority of Christ – only to find themselves overcome by the demonic powers who knew Jesus and knew about Paul but who failed to respond to those dabbling in things too powerful for them. Paul’s preaching and teaching resulted in many people confessing their sins and getting rid of their old ways of living. Evil deeds and the practice of astrology and the occult were renounced.
The church in our day needs to live as the church in Ephesus did, in the power of the Spirit and in the authority of God’s Word. We need to learn from Paul’s example and be available for God to use; we need to teach truth (believing God’s Word will not return to us empty) and we need, above all, to love people. Love is the key to earning the right to be heard.
It is easy for us to look down on ourselves, believing ourselves ‘just’ to be a small church. We may be a small church, but we have a big God. Great things can be accomplished wherever people look to the power and greatness of God rather than focussing on their own weaknesses and size!