March 16 I Monday
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” —1 Timothy 6:12
During the fall, mature salmon make a “salmon run,” where the salmon return to the natal river that they were born in for spawning. These salmon swim against the flow of the water, labouring up the river, so that they can give birth to new life. As Christians, we may find ourselves, like the salmon, swimming against the flow. Whether our uphill climb is the dominant secular culture that surrounds us or spiritual battles that exist in our world, the Christian life is not easy. It consists of navigating difficult choices, where sometimes we are stuck in messy situations, and this is no exception in the church.
When Paul arrived at Ephesus in his second missionary journey, it was a city far from God. Ephesus was one of the largest cities in Rome and the capital city of Asia. It was the center of commerce, culture, philosophy and education, where there were massive theatre and sporting events. Like a salmon swimming upstream, Paul was led by the Spirit to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ at a philosophy hall. By the grace and work of God, a church was planted there. Through Paul, God did extraordinary miracles and many people believed.
Sometimes, we find that cities are strategic places for the gospel to be proclaimed and incarnated by His people because they influence whole regions. This was true of Ephesus; its influence spread beyond the Roman Empire and over the whole province of Asia. This was noticed by those who opposed Christianity as they complained, “…you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia” (Acts 19:26).
After Paul left Ephesus, he sent Timothy to Ephesus and wrote in a letter saying, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus…” (1 Timothy 1:3). The Greek word that Paul uses for “urge” carries more weight than what it suggests; like an apostolic command, Timothy was instructed to remain in Ephesus. Like a salmon fighting to get up the river, Timothy was tasked with swimming against the flow. He was about to step into a cultural and church environment that was messy and difficult. Timothy’s challenge was to swim upstream against the dominant culture that was flowing downstream.
Like Paul and Timothy, where has God placed us to share the gospel message? Even though swimming against the flow is difficult, when we find that it brings new life, we know the journey is worth it.
Prayer: Lord God, thank You for where You have placed me to share Your gospel message. I ask for boldness and courage from You as I share Your message of life to those around me.