To Judge the World (4)
But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.” Acts 27.21
The need of the hour
The great need of the hour in our world is for men and women who will judge with righteous judgment as instruments of the judgment of God.
There must be no shying away from this calling on the part of those who believe in Jesus. Every day we are presented with situations and opportunities to make a choice, render a decision, offer an opinion, or take some righteous initiative, with the view of bringing God’s shalom into the uncertainty and anxiousness of our world.
Your goal in life must be nothing less than to work diligently to ensure that, increasingly, your Personal Mission Field is flooded with and characterized by the Lord’s shalom. You must pray for the part of the field to which the Lord has sent you (Jer. 29.7) and prepare well for each day’s opportunities and challenges (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17). When the opportunity presents itself to judge with righteous judgment, seek the courage only God can give you, and grace for this moment of need (Heb. 4.12); then step forward by word and deed to bear witness to Jesus by offering your act of judging or judgment according to the need of the moment.
You may be repudiated, ignored, or overruled. But you will have acted. And, if you act consistently over time, judging with righteous judgment at every opportunity, you can expect God to honor your diligence and faithfulness, and to bring forth the fruit of His goodness and shalom in and through your efforts.
As a primary exhibit of the truth of this, consider the apostle Paul.
Rejected, but undeterred
Paul, a Roman citizen, was on his way to Rome for a hearing before the emperor. He was accompanied by a Roman centurion and other armed guards as they took to the sea for the longest part of their journey.
How had Paul come to be in this situation? By judging with righteous judgment. During his trial in Caesarea, it seemed he was about to be sent back to Jerusalem, where almost certainly he would have been falsely convicted and put to death, if he survived those hungry assassins who were probably still waiting for him.
To avert this action, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to have his case heard in Rome, before the emperor. It took courage to countermand a decision toward which the king was leading, but Paul knew he had to act. Hearing his determination, the Roman court before which he stood could do no other than to ship him off to Rome in line with his request.
Paul might have overlooked this right or decided not to invoke it. In which case, he would likely have languished and died in Jerusalem. It took courage to insist on his right, just as it takes courage for Christians to insist on theirs – the right to have opinions, to talk freely about their faith, to intervene in the face of injustice or wrongdoing, not to go along with or blink at unseemly behavior, to encourage others for decency and goodness, and so forth. Do we know our rights? The rights we have in the workplace? In church? In our roles as citizens of an independent republic? Are we bold to insist on those rights and to act on them as often as necessary?
As Paul’s ship lingered in Fair Havens, the season changed, making sailing rather more precarious. When the ship’s helmsman and owner, together with the centurion, decided to set sail, Paul spoke up, warning them this was not a good idea. They chose to ignore his advice, and promptly found themselves in a situation they could not manage.
And though Paul had been rejected at Fair Havens, he knew he had to speak up, for the wellbeing of an entire community – the ship, its crew, and its passengers – was at stake.
Not to be denied
In verse 21, as the storm raged and all hope seemed lost, Paul stepped forward. The decisions being made – the judgments of the unbelievers who were conveying him to Rome – were unwise and even foolish. He would not simply sit by and allow those unrighteous judgments to destroy everyone and everything.
Prompted by a word from the Lord (v. 23), Paul thrust himself forward to offer his opinion and plan. First, he reminded them that he had urged them not to sail, thus showing that had his wisdom been followed then, they wouldn’t be in the fix they were in now.
Next, Paul spoke encouragingly to everyone (v. 22). His purpose was not to chide, but to dispel their fears and get them busy on a better course of action that would ensure the safety of them all. The shalom of God could be realized, but they would have to work together. At the same time, he made it clear that his judgment and recommended action were in line with the Word and will of God (v. 25). He even gave thanks to God in the midst of their situation for all to hear (v. 35). From that point forward, Paul made the decisions about what should be done. The result is that all followed his lead, and everyone reached the island of Malta safely.
What if Paul had held back? He and everyone would have drowned. He had to act. He knew what was right to do, and he asserted himself graciously but firmly in leading his community to shalom.
Those who judge with righteous judgment wield the power of God’s Word to bring His righteousness, peace, and joy into their Personal Mission Fields. We are instruments of God’s judgments, and God’s judgments are always right and good and blessed. We must understand the times that are unfolding before us, and make the best use of our time in judging with righteous judgment. If we do, God will bring His shalom to the world.
1. How should you prepare for making righteous judgments throughout the day?
2. Righteous judgments are like nudges. Explain.
3. If you don’t work to bring God’s shalomto the people and places of your Personal Mission Field, who will?
Next steps – Preparation: Continue praying about the day ahead, trying to anticipate in prayer the opportunities for judging with righteous judgment you might have. Ask the Lord to give you a Word to guide you in each situation or for each opportunity.
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 4 of a 4-part series, To Judge the World. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 4, To Judge the World.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.