To stay warm for the long winter months, we need to gather a lot of firewood. As I was splitting and stacking wood just a few hours before the first snow fell, I had a lot of time to think.
These menial chores don’t have to be a bore and do not only provide an opportunity for fresh air and vigorous exercise, they are also wonderful opportunities to meditate and mull things over in my mind. And since I was working with firewood, I started thinking about firewood and went on from there.
The first story that came to mind was the one from Acts 28, where Paul collected firewood and was then bitten by a poisonous snake, but never suffered any ill effects.
What really stood out to me was the phrase in v.3, which Eugene Peterson translates this way in the Message: “Paul pitched in and helped”. We tend to read over these little phrases and don’t think much about them, but they can be quite significant.
Let me get into some of the background: Paul had been in prison for over two years waiting to get to trial in Rome (Acts 24:27). Finally he got on a prisoner transport across the Mediterranean. Paul warned the crew of impending disaster, but they did not listen (Acts 27:10). Soon after leaving the safety of the harbour a severe storm arose and everyone on board feared for their lives. At the height of the crisis, Paul, the prisoner, steps up and takes leadership, preventing widespread panic. He encourages people to strengthen themselves by eating and assures them of safety for their lives, on the basis of an angel of God appearance to Paul in the midst of this stormy night (Acts 27:13-34). While the ship ran on ground and broke up, all 276 people made it safely to shore.
Soaking wet and cold, it was obvious that that a big fire was needed to warm up these shivering survivors. The locals started the fire, but Paul, the aging scholar, with the thorn in the flesh, (that many theologians think was some sort of visual impairment and would explain why Paul didn’t see the viper or even mixed it up with a stick), this great apostle, missionary and church planter, the leader in the crisis, the prophet of hope, was doing the most menial task of bending down and picking up sticks for the fire. This was normally a task for slaves. In fact, Israel had in the past enslaved the left over native population to be woodcutters and water carriers (Josh.9), but now Paul took on the form of a bond-servant, although there were another 276 people who could have done this menial task.
And it’s not just Paul who acts like and calls himself a bond-servant of Jesus Christ (as in Rom.1:1): it’s also Timothy (Phil.1:1), Epaphras (Col.1:7), Tychicus (Col.4:7), James (Jam.1:1), Peter (2.Pet.1:1), Jude (Jude 1:1), and John (Rev.1:1). All of them did not just have the title of servant, but acted like servants.
That’s so much like Jesus, the Servant of God, (predicted by Isaiah in his great servant songs) “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself” (Phil.2:6-8). Just as Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve” (Matt.20:28) so Paul imitated his Lord by doing the most humble chores and also advised others in spiritual leadership to not lord it over those in their charge and to serve by example (1.Pet.5:3).
As ministers (from Latin ministrare "to serve, attend, wait upon"), we are by definition servants. And so it’s only right for us to gather firewood, to not be too good to perform menial chores, and to do whatever is necessary to serve others and express the love and character of Jesus to them. Rick Warren summarized Jesus’ mission quite well:
So let’s imitate Jesus and Paul and pitch in and help.
We are a pastoral couple named Stefan & Heidi König. We have many years of experience in various ministries, and are thankful that God has given us this property to use as a way to bless others who need a place to relax and reconnect with Him.
Kingfisher Spiritual Direction
Direct your heart to Jesus and restore your soul. If you need to hear from God, to grow deeper with Him, consider spiritual direction. An ancient discipline of soul care, Heidi is trained to prayerfully lead you in this practice.