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Down, But Not Out

Have you ever been “wounded in battle?” In war there are always casualties. The wounded need the help of fellow soldiers to make it out of the combat zone into safety where they can receive proper treatment. Military training includes teaching soldiers how to rescue fallen comrades, and the importance of doing so. The motto instilled in the hearts and minds of the troops is “no one is left behind.” At the risk of one’s own life, a good soldier rescues the fallen.

The Christian life is a life of spiritual battle. According to Scripture, believers face three enemies — Satan, self and the world culture — the world, the flesh and the devil. And as surely as there are casualties in physical warfare, there are casualties in spiritual warfare. There are times when we or our fellow “soldiers” are hit by enemy fire. And sadly, there are also times when believers suffer wounds from “friendly fire; “ intentional or unintentional shots from fellow forces.

What are we to do when our spiritual comrades are wounded in battle? We’re called to respond with help. We’re called to reach out, rescue and restore.

There’s a great story from the life of Paul the apostle that teaches us the importance of caring for our wounded. The setting of the story is a place called Lystra. Paul’s preaching about Jesus Christ was met with violent opposition there. Mercilessly, a riled up group of folks tried to kill Paul. Take a look at the Bible record of their attack and the result:

… They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. — Acts 14:19 (NIV)

Cruel, vicious, murderous people sought to silence Paul’s voice and stop the advance of the Gospel he taught. He was left by the roadside for dead. But this isn’t the end of the story. The Bible also tells us how Paul’s fellow believers responded:

But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city … — Acts 14:20 (NIV)

The key phrase describing the actions of these fellow spiritual “soldiers” is “gathered around.” It’s interesting that there’s not more detail regarding this situation. All it says is that they “gathered around him.” It leaves us wondering what they did when they “gathered around him?”

Some sanctified speculation, observation and imagination answers the question for us. Paul’s friends most certainly prayed for him. They likely cleaned and bandaged his wounds. It’s safe to assume that they responded with every possible emergency and first aid measure they were familiar with. They came to him, were there with and for him after he was wounded. They provided him the support and help he needed for restoration. Thank God for the “gatherers!”

This points us to an important ministry we’re all called to engage in — the ministry of restoration. We might call it the “gathering around” ministry.

What a blessing to have people — fellow believers — who gather around us when we’re hurting, wounded, dry and “dead.” And what a blessing it is to be a part of the gathering group that encircles and assists the spiritually wounded with love, prayer and care.

The great thing about this story in Paul’s life is the outcome. This “gathering around” resulted in a “rising up and going forward!” It resulted in an incredible miracle. It resulted in the saving of a man’s life and the advancing of the Kingdom of God through him. When the enemy thought he had shut Paul down for good, God, through the love, prayer and care of others, brought him back to life and sent him forth to more fruitful Kingdom service.

Here’s what happened next:

But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples … — Acts 14:20, 21 (NIV)

What was the result of Paul’s restoration? He got up and got going again. The end result was a “large” harvest of souls!

We never know what incredible Kingdom work can and will be done in the future by someone who is down at the moment. A down believer can come back to life and get back into service again! Just because someone is “down” at the moment, it doesn’t mean they are “out” for good!

Never write anyone off when they’re down. Gather around, pray, support and help them experience God’s resurrecting and restoring grace and power!

Pastor Dale