Just before I changed churches, I was serving to the point of burnout.
I had taken up all kinds of roles: PA Team, Backup Singing, Video and Post-Production, Social Media, Youth Leader …
I was exhausted. Where there once was joy in service, now I simply felt overworked and under-appreciated. And I had lost my purpose. Why was I running around doing all these things in the first place?
But I had a breakthrough during a missions rally at my new church a year later.
Pastor Manning was sharing from Acts 9:20-25, speaking about the events following Saul’s conversion. Shortly after his conversion on the road to the Damascus, Saul – once a great persecutor of Christians – began to preach the Gospel.
The Jews were stunned by Saul’s turnaround, and they plotted to kill him. So they watched the city gates and prevented his escape. But some of Saul’s followers brought him down the city walls by basket, helping him to escape.
Here Pastor Manning paused and threw a question that caught me off guard: Who were the ones who held the rope for Saul to escape? The Bible doesn’t tell us their names, but what did they is of eternal significance.
Their service holds valuable lessons for us today.
LOOK PAST TODAY’S APPLAUSE, LOOK TO ETERNAL GLORY
There are millions serving in the Kingdom of God, doing what God has called them to do. But the greatest of these are the ones who don’t worry about who gets the glory at the end of the day – it’s all for Jesus.
That struck me. I realised that I was craving the thanks and applause at the end of my deeds. I wasn’t a “rope-holder”, I simply wanted the glory for myself. I lost sight of eternity and the riches of the Father – holding on instead to the temporal scraps of human applause..
LOOK PAST TODAY’S SACRIFICE, LOOK TO ETERNAL PURPOSE
They did it even though no one could see them because they knew their purpose. They did it so that Saul could escape – so that the message could go forth to the glory of God. To the rope-holder, encouragement and credit become secondary beside God’s purposes.
When God’s purposes demand sacrifice, the rope-holder gives and obeys the call without delay. In ministry, we often forget the reason why we serve. This might be because of discouragement or burnout. But when we look to God, we look past what little we gave to what we are gaining from obedience.
LOOK PAST TODAY’S SUFFERING, LOOK TO ETERNAL IMPACT
Think of the people who held onto the rope until Saul’s basket reached the ground – through sore hands and the danger of the moment. No matter how tough the situation was, they held on until the task was finished. And their efforts had eternal impact – the very next verse begins with “When he came to Jerusalem,” (Acts 9:26).
I was very moved by that. In my season of burnout, I had let go of a number of ministry commitments. But Pastor Manning spoke a game-changer into my life: “When you feel you can’t hold on to the rope any longer, that’s when God comes and wraps his hands around yours and helps you to hold onto that rope.”
I had felt lonely in ministry for so long. But there and then I knew that God who called me to hold the rope was not abandoning me to it – He’s holding my hand even as I hang on.
The truth is we often have no idea when our basket will reach the ground, but we can expect to please God when it does.
I am reminded of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy as he approached his death.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
When I look to God – to the reward set before the race’s finishers – I look past giving up.
When the basket hit the bottom, the rope-holders probably didn’t realise they had changed the world. They did not know Saul would eventually become Paul, founder of more than 14 churches in the Asia Minor and European regions – writer of one-third of the New Testament!
They were simply holding the rope as God had called them to. Without expectations or grievances, they simply obeyed.
So hold on.