Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. This year, Thanksgiving falls on Thom’s birthday. I veered beyond the agreed amount of money that we spend on each other this year and also went against my better judgment and I bought Thom a hunting rifle. I gave it to him early because Ken Frederickon is taking him hunting tomorrow. I’m letting you all know so that you can be safely inside tomorrow, all morning long. Joshua wanted to know if we’d be decorating our family room with Dad’s deer head. In that moment I thought, “Where is the receipt for the gun?” “What have I gotten myself into?”
That reminds me of a story. Little Stevie was sitting in his grandmother’s kitchen, watching her prepare the Thanksgiving meal? “What are you doing?” Stevie asked. “Oh, I’m just stuffing the turkey,” his grandmother replied. “That’s cool!” Stevie said. “Are you going to hang it next to the deer?”
This morning, rather than talk about the fact that we need to be thankful or that God delights in our Thanksgiving or rather than talk about what we’re thankful for, I believe God put this thought in my spirit early in the week. It is simply the question, “Who is thankful for you?” In other words, in whose life are you making a difference? Who is giving thanks this Thanksgiving because of your life, friendship, and influence? As you consider that thought, I hope to develop this question, “How do we live our lives in such a way that others will benefit and be grateful for us?”
Squanto, a Native American, traveled to England with an explorer named John Weymouth. He experienced high adventure and learned some English. But on his return to America–the tide began to turn against Squanto. He was captured from Massachusetts and taken, along with other Indians, by an English ship captain and sold into slavery in Spain. There, Squanto was bought by a Spanish monk, who treated him well, freed him from slavery, and taught him the Christian faith. Squanto eventually made his way to England — where he improved his English –and worked in the stables of a man named John Slaney. Slaney sympathized with Squanto’s desire to return home, and he promised to put the Indian on the first vessel bound for America. It wasn’t until 1618 — ten years after Squanto was first kidnapped –that he was on a ship returning to America as a free man. There he learned of the second blow delivered by the English. His tribe had died from an epidemic, probably of smallpox brought by the earlier colonists. He and another Indian, Samoset, went to live with the neighboring tribe of the Wampanoag near present-day Plymouth, MA. There he was introduced to the new Pilgrim settlers. And there, Squanto became a picture of forgiveness. Even though he had been captured by the English, and deprived of family and friends because of their disease, he still chose to help the 47 of 102 Pilgrims who had barely survived their first, harsh winter. He helped them build warm houses. He taught them when to plant their corn crop and how it should be planted. Without his help, there would not have been 20 acres of corn produced that year. Squanto also advised the Pilgrims in their relations with the Indians. He helped them make friends, acted as interpreter, guided them on trading expeditions, and gave advice on bargaining with the natives. The Pilgrims wouldn’t have made it through the year without the wisdom and guidance of Squanto. They were thankful for his expertise, help, and friendship.
There are people, that had it not been for their help, influence, example, instruction, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m sure you can think of people who made a major difference in your life. Scripture is filled with people whose lives made a difference. I want to talk about two such people. It’s the husband-wife team of Priscilla and Aquila. Will you stand for the reading of God’s word from Romans 16:3-5?
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.
How would you have to live in order for someone to be grateful for you? What were Priscilla and Aquila doing that caused all of the churches of the Gentiles and Paul to be grateful for them? These are the questions I hope to answer this morning.
First of all, Priscilla and Aquila were excellent workers. Aquila and Priscilla met Paul at work. They had lived in Rome, but all of the Jews were expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius, so they sought refuge in Corinth, where Paul, on his second missionary journey, meets him because they have the same trade. We read in Acts 18 that they were all tent makers. They became close friends. Scripture doesn’t comment on the quality of Aquila and Priscilla’s work, but I know enough about Paul to know that he wouldn’t have been drawn into a partnership with people who weren’t industrious, diligent and good at what they did.
The Bible mentions work and toil over 480 times. Certainly our work and how we conduct it is important to God. Have you ever considered that where you work is an opportunity for others to see how excellent God is? That you are to be strategically on assignment wherever you are which includes where you are working? I believe that the way you do your work, the attitude and the diligence you do it with, and the integrity you show reveals volumes to the world about what God is like. II Peter 1:3 in the English Standard Version says, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence.”
God has literally called us to perform as He does, with excellence. And He gives us His divine power to enable us to accomplish excellent work! How we perform for our boss, how we perform when we think no one is looking, what we say and do in front of our co-workers, it matters to God and it impacts how others view His glory and His excellence.
A new boss was determined to rid the company of all slackers. On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning on a wall. The room was full of workers and he wanted to let them know he meant business! So, the CEO walked up to the guy and asked, “And how much money do you make a week?” Undaunted, the young fellow looked at him and replied, “I make $300.00 a week. Why?” The CEO then handed the guy $300 in cash and screamed, “Here’s a week’s pay, now GET OUT and don’t come back!” Feeling pretty good about his first firing, the CEO looked around the room and asked “Does anyone want to tell me what that goof-off did here?” With a sheepish grin one of the other workers muttered…”Pizza delivery guy from Domino’s”.
The employer was a tad overzealous and needed a few more facts before dismissing what he thought was a lazy employee, but the truth is, employers want to know that they are getting an honest day’s work for their pay check. Christians are supposed to be the people of excellence.
I have to believe that Paul was drawn to Aquila and Priscilla in part because of their excellence at work. We’re to work heartily, not lazily. Proverbs 6:6-11 tells us that most ants are more productive than most people! Every time a Christian is lazy in his work, every time he is not pursuing excellence, he becomes a thief. Does God really mean, “Thou shalt not steal?” Yes. Stealing in laziness is just as offensive as a pickpocket. Laziness in your vocation is stealing from those who are paying you for your labor. If God commands us to pursue excellence, if he commands us to work heartily, if he commands us to serve Christ, less than this would be sin.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
“Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Ephesians 6:6
You may have heard the words of a boss who said, “You’re hired,” but you’d better believe that the job you have is a gift from God. You are ultimately serving Him.
A Christian on Sunday also needs to be a Christian on Monday. A Christian in worship
also needs to be a Christian at work. Ask yourself these questions: “Do I conduct myself at work to bring glory to God?” “Am I committed to excellence?” “Am I kind and considerate to others?” “Am I honest, loyal, and respectful to my superiors?” “Would Jesus say, ‘Well done’ to what I offer through my work?” If you can answer those questions with an honest “yes,” you are probably someone that your boss and co-workers are grateful for.
Not only were Aquila and Priscilla excellent workers, but they joined Paul in ministry.
- They traveled with Paul to Ephesus. (Acts 18) They went on mission with him. In Romans 16:3, Paul says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” In this verse they are described as Paul’s “fellow workers.” As Priscilla and Aquila came to Paul’s mind, he was able to say, “These dear believers are my helpers, my fellow workers.” Who can say that about you? Who are you working alongside in ministry? Paul certainly considered this husband and wife team to be a great PLUS to his ministry and service for Christ.
It is so exciting to me when someone gets involved in ministry here at the church. I know our Ministry Directors can tell you that when someone approaches them and volunteers to help, it is both a physical and tangible blessing. It’s a huge lift to your spirits to have someone join you in your work. Whether it’s folding bulletins, sanitizing the nursery, greeting kids at the door of their classroom, fixing a leaky faucet, hanging up flyers or transporting someone to and from the hospital, it is such a blessing.
We’ve been averaging now between 240 and 250 people on Sunday mornings. This is a growing congregation, and I can’t tell you how much I depend upon every one of our volunteers and what their efforts mean to me. Montena Perry took one of our members to the hospital this past week. Harold Parsons fixed the nursery restroom. Ed Stamper helped me make a visit to someone who needed a lift. Mandy helped Pastor Wendy declutter and sanitize the nursery. Lori Fizer came to clean the nursery restroom. Nancy Joplin came in to do some office hours on a day that we had no one in the office. Joann Tolarchyk came to fold the bulletins on Friday. Geneva Thacker took a woman I’ve been trying to help to a food pantry on Saturday because I was here at the Craft Bazaar yesterday. Cathy Rogers and her mom and RoseAnn Burgraff and maybe others, have decorated our sanctuary for the Christmas Season this week. Lesley Hunt has volunteered to take someone to Cabbell Huntington tomorrow because I’m unable to do so. That’s just a small sample of the extra ways people volunteered to help out this week. Bill Ellis does a good job of making me look like I can be in two places at once with all of the newspaper articles, but the truth is, I’m not a superhero. I need people to come alongside me in ministry as do all of our ministry leaders. I go to bed many nights each week, thanking God for the people who have gone above and beyond to help with everything that needs to be done.
Are you engaged in ministry? Is someone thankful for the help you have given as they worked for the Lord this past week?
- Aquila and Priscilla didn’t just travel with Paul, but they also opened up their home to him. He actually lived with them. (Acts 18:3) They also hosted a church that met in their home as well. What hospitality! 1 Cor. 16:19 and Rom. 16:5 both talk about the church that met in their home.
You know what it’s like to prepare for people to come into your home, don’t you? You don’t just open the door and welcome guests as they come. There is a lot of preparation involved. The early church services always included eating as well, so Aquila and Priscilla were cleaning, getting and preparing food, AND getting their church service together. Even when Paul couldn’t preach because he was in prison in Rome, they still held services in their home. I have to believe that while Paul was sitting in a Roman prison, his heart overflowed with gratefulness for this couple who continued to carry on the work of the ministry even in his absence. We might have people into our home once a month on an average, but think about what a weekly commitment might involve!
I am always thankful for people with the gift of hospitality. The times we’ve been in people’s homes have always been so special to me. It’s an honor to be invited knowing how busy life is and how much it takes to prepare for company. I always leave feeling special because I know what kind of work goes into that kind of effort.
Hospitality in general involves going out of your way for people or showing others that you’ve been thinking about them. Who in your life would say about you, “I’m thankful for the way he or she went out of their way for me.” Who were you inconvenienced for this past week? How did you show love in action or thoughtfulness this past week in a way that made someone feel special?
Aquilla and Priscilla were pretty amazing people. They were excellent workers, they traveled with Paul, they opened their home, and they also personally discipled a man named Apollos.
Listen to Acts 18 beginning with verse 24: 24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. (That is the Old Testament. This guy could play Bible Challenge and win every Old Testament question.) 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. (He hadn’t gotten the good news of Jesus part down yet.) 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. Here we see their hospitality at work again. Not only do they invite Apollos to their home, but while he is there, they begin to disciple him and explain God’s word to him, more adequately, says the Scripture.
Aquila and Priscilla must have seen Apollos’s fervor and passion as was described in verse 25 and they experienced his boldness in the synagogue in verse 26, and maybe they thought, “He’ll be a powerhouse for the Gospel if he just gets a few things straight.”
We have a responsibility when we see someone who doesn’t quite have the scriptures in line in their mind, to share what we know to be true. I have never resented anyone correcting me when I felt like they genuinely loved me, saw potential in me, and wanted the best possible outcome for my life. Priscilla and Aquila saw something in Apollos that God wanted to use, so they took time to take him under their wing and he became a dynamite communicator of the Gospel.
Listen to verse 27 of Acts 18: “27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
Apollos went on to encourage the other believers in Achaia and through his persuasive words and excellent knowledge of the Bible, he proved that Jesus was the Christ. No wonder Paul and all of the churches were grateful for this dynamic couple. They were educating and nurturing the preachers of that generation.
I received a thank you from a parent of a student this week, thanking me for taking an interest in their child. It’s a joy to encourage young people and take an interest in them. I believe our youth group is the finest anywhere, and I believe that sitting in that corner is the potential to change the world. Why not give yourself to mentoring and training and helping? Randy and Christine, you’d accept a few more counselors, wouldn’t you?
Investing yourself in raising up even one disciple can produce amazing results. In 1858 a Sunday School teacher, Mr. Kimball, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Jesus Christ. The clerk was Dwight L. Moody who became an evangelist. In 1879 while preaching in England the heart of a pastor named F.B. Meyer was set on fire, who later came to an American college campus to preach. Under his preaching a student by the name of Wilbur Chapman was saved. He engaged in YMCA work and employed a former baseball player named Billy Sunday, to do evangelistic work. Billy Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because the revival stirred the hearts of many, some 30 business men wanted to devote a day of prayer for Charlotte. In May of 1934 a farmer lent the men some land to use for their prayer meeting. The leader of the business men, Vernon Patterson prayed, “Out of Charlotte the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
The business men then called for another evangelistic meeting asking Mordecai Ham,
a fiery Southern evangelist who shattered the complacency of church-going Charlotte.
The farmer who lent his land for the prayer meeting was Franklin Graham and his son Billy became a Christian during the meeting. You know that Billy Graham went on to become the greatest preacher of our generation. And it all started with a Sunday School teacher, Mr. Kimball.
Aquila and Priscilla took people into their home and hearts and made a difference one person at a time. Over a lifetime, that’s a whole lot of people that became grateful for them.
Not only did this couple do excellent work and travel with Paul and open their home and conduct church and disciple people like Apollos, but in our main text, Paul also says they risked their lives for the Gospel. We don’t know how, but apparently Paul owed his life to this brave husband-wife team. What courage. Somehow they stuck out their own necks in order to save Paul’s life, and as a result Paul and all the churches of the Gentiles owed them a debt of thanks.
While walking home from school, Mark noticed the boy ahead of him had stumbled to the ground and dropped everything he was carrying. Mark hurried to the boy’s side and helped him collect his belongings. Surprisingly, the boy was carrying an especially hefty load. There was a baseball glove and bat, a couple of sweaters, a small tape recorder, and an armful of books. Mark helped him carry the things home and his new friend, Bill, was most appreciative of his compassion. During the walk home, Mark discovered Bill was struggling in school and had just broken up with his girlfriend. When they arrived at Bill’s house, he invited Mark in for a Coke and they spent the rest of the afternoon talking, laughing, and watching TV. Although the two boys never became real close friends, they kept up with each other throughout the rest of junior high and high school. Several weeks before graduation, Bill approached Mark and asked him if he remembered that day they met when Mark helped him with all of his stuff. Mark nodded as he remembered. Bill then asked, “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things that day?” Without pausing for an answer, Bill explained he had cleaned out his locker and was going home to take his life. He had been storing away sleeping pills and was headed home to end it all when Mark happened along to help him out. Bill told Mark how that simple act of compassion inspired him to go on living. He said, “Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you saved my life!”
Paul expressed gratefulness to Aquila and Priscilla for somehow saving his life. Paul was God’s special apostle to the Gentiles, and if Priscilla and Aquila had not intervened, Paul might have died and his ministry to the Gentiles might have come to an abrupt end. Priscilla and Aquila manifested a genuine love for Paul in the spirit of 1 John 3:16. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
Aquila and Priscilla show up in Paul’s very last letter, II Timothy. It was written fourteen years after he had first met them. They had stood by Paul ‘til the end. They were faithful. Nothing negative is said about these two believers in any of the writings of Paul or Luke. As far as the record shows, between Paul and Aquila/Priscilla there was always harmony. Proverbs 17:17 says, “17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” How do you show your friends that you are there for them when there is trouble or it would be risky?
I wonder how many times Paul got discouraged, but the help and support of people like Aquila and Priscilla gave him courage to go on.
I see the formula for causing others to give thanks for your life in the lives of Aquilla and Priscilla. Be excellent at what you do. Work hard at it. It will be a blessing to your boss and co-workers. Get into ministry and serve alongside others on behalf of others. You’ll be blessed as you serve the Lord. Be hospitable, whether it’s inviting people into your home or showing them that you care through a card, call, or small gesture. People are looking for a reminder that someone cares. Simply inject being willing to be inconvenienced for others into your DNA. Find someone to mentor, disciple or train in some way. Your influence is more powerful than you know. Be willing to risk something for someone in need and stay with them, even when the going gets tough. Commit yourself this Thanksgiving to being someone that others can give thanks for.