3 Days of Prayer and Fasting (2021/10)

Acts 20:1-16 (ESV)
1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.
7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.
13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

Day 1: Loving God
Verse 12 says, “they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.” “Comforted,” that’s the same word that was translated in verses 1 and 2 as encouraged.” You can imagine what kind of damper Eutychus’s death would have been for the believers in Troas, had God not raised him from the dead. By raising him from the dead, God comforted and encouraged His people. So when we encourage one another, we are doing what God does. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Again, that’s the same word, “to encourage.” It is only as we are encouraged by God that we can encourage one another. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:5-7, “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.” There is a cascade of comfort here. God comforts the downcast, and he often does this through His people’s ministry of encouragement.
Comforting/ encouraging is so squarely up in God’s alley that John 14 calls the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, the Comforter, or the Encourager. His title, the Paraclete, is the noun form of the verb, “to encourage or comfort.” This reveals God’s character. When we feel attacked, abandoned, and alone, the Holy Spirit encourages us, reminding us that we are not alone, telling us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. When we feel weighed down, even crushed, by our guilt and shame, the Holy Spirit encourages us, reminding us that Jesus bore your guilt and shame on the cross. He was crucified, and He has risen, so that you might be free, so that you might be clothed with His righteousness, so that you might be reconciled to God, so that you might have abundant life and joy forevermore in Him!
  • Confess the ways in which you have viewed God as “the scolder” or “the oppressor,” more than “the Comforter” he is.
  • Pray for deeper humility and a more intimate personal walk with God, so that you might daily walk in God’s consolation and encouragement.
  • Pray that God would fill you more with the Holy Spirit and make you a minister of encouragement to others.

Day 2: Loving One Another
You might be surprised to find that the Greek word for “encourage” (παρακαλέω) occurs more often in the Book of Acts than any other book in the New Testament (Acts 2:40; 8:31; 9:38; 11:23; 13:42; 14:22; 15:32; 16:9, 15, 39, 40; 19:31; 20:1, 2, 12; 21:12; 24:4; 25:2; 27:33, 34; 28:14, 20). You might think of the Apostle Paul as the fearless, fiery preacher, an uncompromising and unyielding pastor maybe, but do you know that Paul is frequently found encouraging other believers both in the Book of Acts and in his own letters to the churches? It’s no wonder that New Testament Scholar Murray Harris says, “Encouragement is one of the most important ministries in the church of the New Testament.” That means, an authentically Biblical church should be characterized by the ministry of encouragement.
Paul is so keen to encourage the believers before taking leave of them. After narrowly escaping mob violence in Ephesus, Paul decides to leave the city, but not before encouraging [the disciples]” (Acts 20:1). And before leaving Macedonia, he travels through the region and gives them much encouragement.” This is a pattern in the Book of Acts. Look at Acts 16:40, Paul has just been beaten in public and imprisoned without fair trial in Philippi. His situation in that city is precarious so he decides that he needs to leave, but what does he do immediately upon release from prison? It says that Paul and Silas “went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.” I don’t know about what you, but I think, if I were in Paul’s shoes, I’d feel justified in indulging in some self-pity, maybe holing myself up somewhere, saying, “I don’t have the time and energy to encourage them, I’m the one who needs the encouragement right now,” but no, Paul thinks about the church, he sees that the church might be discouraged by his imprisonment, he understands that the church might be afraid, and perhaps fail to make a stand for Christ at their outpost in Philippi, so he goes to the church that meets in Lydia’s home and encourage[s] them before departing. This is not the exception, but the norm. Because the Christian life entails the persecution of this sinful world that is in rebellion against God, because it involves warfare against spiritual authorities of evil and darkness, because it includes the fight for holiness against our sinful flesh, being a disciple of Christ does not happen by default. It is difficult. It entails suffering. It requires resolve, strength, endurance, and, to that end, we need encouragement.
  • Pray for God’s encouragement and comfort for specific people in our church that you think might be discouraged, maybe because they are feeling disconnected from church or dealing with shame and guilt, or perhaps due to difficult work or family circumstances.
  • Pray for a culture of encouragement in our church, that we would be quick to listen and slow to speak, quick to encourage and slow to criticize.
  • Pray that the newly-inducted members, as well as older members who have recently been returning to the in-person gathering, would get (re)integrated to the church well, be encouraged, and use their Spirit-given gifts to build up the church.

Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
Paul could not have completed his missionary journeys without the partnership and encouragement of other Christians. Verses 4-5 give us the most complete list of Paul’s ministry companions up to this point in the Book of Acts. It says, “Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas.” The pronoun “us” suggests that Luke the author is inserting himself into the narrative here, because he was accompanying Paul at this time. Paul had left Luke to minister in Philippi, and it seems that they were reunited during Paul’s return journey. Sopater may be the Sosipater, mentioned in Romans 16:12, that Paul describes as his “kins[man].” We know that Aristarchus (cf. Acts 27:2) and Gaius were Paul’s companions who were arrested and dragged into the Ephesian theater by the mob of Artemis worshipers in Acts 19:29. Aristarchus is also described as Paul’s “coworker” in Philemon 24 and as Paul’s “fellow prisoner” in Colossians 4:10. Gaius, we know from 1 Corinthians 1:14, was one of the new believers that Paul baptized in Corinth, and we know from Romans 16:23 that Gaius hosted the Corinthian church gatherings at his house, and that he was also personally hosting Paul while he was writing his seminal letter to the Romans.  Paul twice calls Tychicus a “beloved brother and faithful minister” in Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7Trophimus was someone that accompanied Paul until he fell “ill, at Miletus,” according to 2 Timothy 4:20. And, of course, Timothy, we know well. At the end of his life, while awaiting his execution, after having been abandoned by most of his friends due to the fierce persecution against Christians, we find that some of these dear brothers were still standing by Paul. Paul wrote this to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:9-12, “Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” Are we encouraging one another in bearing witness to Jesus as these companions of Paul did?
  • Pray for the Fall Fest on October 31st, that many of our unbelieving neighbors and friends would come, and that we would have opportunities to love and serve them and share the gospel with them.
  • Pray that God would send out more laborers into the harvest, both here and abroad, especially, this month, for Bangladesh, a nation we have been praying for throughout October.
  • Pray by name for your unbelieving family members, friends, and neighbors. Pray that you might be filled with the Holy Spirit to bear bold witness to Jesus.
  • Pray for the Spirit’s leading for Bailey, Mariah, and Mattea, as they take steps toward full-time, foreign missions work. Pray for God’s encouragement for them.

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