“And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.” Acts 28:15 (KJV)
As Paul drew near to Rome, where his appeal was to be heard, they came to Puteoli, where they found the brethren (Acts 28:14). The way this report was presented showed to me that Paul and his team had not been there before and they were not in the know of the fact that the gospel had reached Puteoli. They only discovered them when they got to this place.
Finding them was a great thing to the hearts of Paul and the brethren with him. In fact, they desired that they would be with these brethren for seven days. I wonder how can a prisoner reasoned that way? Though in chains, yet his love for the fellowship of the brethren was not in chains. Though in chains, yet his love was free!
Why should a discouraged brother avoid the brethren? Why should I avoid contact with the brethren when I am going through distress? Why should my ‘chains’ prevent me from enjoying the benefits of the fellowship of the brethren? Could it be that the brethren then are not the brethren now? Paul did not know these ones but once he met them, his heart was knitted with theirs.
HE THANKED GOD
The other brethren, in other locations, also heard that Paul was at Puteoli and they came there, even as far as from Appilforum and The Three Tarvens. The Bible says when Paul saw them, he thanked God. I wonder what could have been going through his mind, as he was drawing closer to the place of his trial. I perceive that Paul’s heart would have been heavy, not knowing what would befall him when at Rome. I see a man who seemed to be losing grip on life gradually, counting his days on earth. Even though there were some of the brethren with him, but he could not draw so much strength from them because all of them were in the same sorrow and the heaviness of heart together.
There was, obviously, a need for Paul to have fresh courage to face the trial that awaited him in Rome. When the brethren heard of him and his team and came around him, the first thing that he did was to thank God. I think he thanked God for sending them to him at this point in time.
It shows that there is a need to minister to the minister who ministers to me. It is not correct for me to always go to the servant of God only when I have problems to share with him. I should know that he is a man of like passion; he also needs to be ministered to.
It is interesting to note that the brethren today do not see it this way. They feel offended when they do not hear from me. They feel offended if I do not get in touch with them. Majority of them are not thinking that I could need their help as well. Many do not see the need for them to visit me to encourage me, but they always desire my visits and encouragement, which is their right. It is good to visit them but it won’t be a balanced life if I only visit them and they would not visit me. Most of the brethren call to make request or inquiry, only a few would call to encourage my heart and the few may be once in a 12-calendar month or none at all. Some of them do not care to know why I have not been in touch with them; they just feel that I am irresponsible by not getting in touch with them.
These people heard that Paul was at Puteoli. To some of the brethren, Puteoli was close enough but for those that came from Appilforum, Puteoli was a distance. But it is interesting to note that the distance did not discourage them; they came! Paul did not invite them yet they came! It was not Paul that heard of them; they heard of Paul and they came to him to encourage his heart.
The action of these brethren challenged my heart further because they had never received the ministry of Paul before that time. There was no direct benefit that they had received from Paul before that time and yet they were willing to minister to his need.
AND TOOK COURAGE
The second thing that happened to Paul, after thanking God for the brethren who came to him, was that he took courage. To take courage means to receive courage. It means at that point, Paul’s courage was almost gone; the coming of the brethren to him brought him courage.
I am not sure they prayed for him (though they may), but mere milling around him brought warmth and life back into him. Oh, how much others, in this labour, and I need this comfort, which only the fellowship of the brethren can bring!
Many are already discouraged on the field, not because of lack of money but because of lack of the comfort of the fellowship of the brethren. I am not sure Paul shared his ordeals with these brethren, yet they were able to bring comfort and courage to his heart, just by fellowshipping with him. This comfort cannot be provided by money or by any other thing; it is the fellowship of the brethren that can produce it.
How I need to pray that the eyes of the understanding of the brethren would be opened, so that they may see the need for them to come around me, to cheer me up and to put fresh courage in me, especially when I face the trials of this race.
Yes, I enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, which is incomparable, yet there is a need for the fellowship of the saints also! The two are not the same.
(Segun Ariyo, Ibadan. 20th August, 2015)