Zion Baptist Church
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Baptist Missionary Association of America
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By Mrs. Connie Reifsteck - October 2009
We all have been given talents to use in this world, or not to use at all. We have been given free will to make choices about how we use our talents. We may choose to cultivate our talents, expand our capabilities, and put them to work for God. God’s Word provides examples of women who cultivated talents and made choices that aided and benefited the work of God. The Bible also provides examples of women who chose to use their lives and talents to try to hinder God’s work.
The Shunamite woman is an example of a lady who cultivated her talent for hospitality. One day she gave a meal to the prophet Elisha. That developed into providing a room for his use whenever he traveled her way. II Kings 4:8-37 relates the information about the Shunamite woman. Read this passage of scripture to see how God blessed her. Her choice to offer a simple meal might have began as a small thing, but it led to great blessings for her.
What the Shunamite woman did is easily done today. When we have a visiting speaker it is a simple thing to offer a meal. Sharing a meal is a short term act of hospitality, and may even include a private area to be used for a short time for meditation, study, or prayer. Should you have a home with ample space, preparing a room (or suite) for an overnight stay (or perhaps a week) for a visiting evangelist is a generous act of hospitality. When done in service to God, such acts are sure to be rewarded.
Jezebel is an example of a woman who cultivated bad choices. She is portrayed as a manipulative woman who had to have her own way. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married King Ahab of Israel and enticed him to sin. Jezebel was a tyrant who corrupted her husband, as well as the nation, with pagan idolatry. She was a zealous missionary for the Phoenician god Baal, supported around 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah, and sought to suppress the worship of the Lord. She was a formidable adversary of the prophet Elijah, even instilling fear in him. However, even though Jezebel was around for several years exerting her bad influence, Elijah prophesied the dogs would eat the body of Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. This prophesy was fulfilled. Just as the Shunamite woman was rewarded for her hospitality and generosity to one of God’s servants, Jezebel is remembered for her hatred and persecution of God’s servants, and her name is almost always remembered in a negative, derogatory way. For the complete story on Jezebel read I Kings 16:31-22:40 and II Kings 9:10-37.
“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” Acts 9:36 KJV When the names Dorcas or Tabitha are mentioned, I always think of the weeping widows showing Peter the coats and garments she made. One of my references stated the name “Dorcas” was actually a Greek translation of her Aramean name, “Tabitha”, which means “gazelle.” We are not given a physical description of Dorcas so we don’t know if her physical characteristics matched the characteristics of a gazelle (lean and speedy with great leaping abilities). However, the work done by Dorcas might indicate she “leaped” to do good works for others. She made a choice to help others less fortunate than she. It is recorded in Acts that Tabitha was sick, and died. The disciples in Joppa heard that Peter was in Lydda, a town close to Joppa, and they sent two men to him, “desiring. . . .that he would not delay to come to them.” In response to the sorrowing believers, Peter cleared the room, prayed, and spoke to the body saying “Tabitha, arise.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter and sat up, at which time he offered her his hand, lifted her up, and presented her alive to the sorrowing saints and widows. Now the miracle of bringing Tabitha back to life is certainly awesome, but the point of talking about her is the fact she cultivated her talent for making garments and had a generous spirit, and her friends and companions sorely grieved for her. Living, dying, and being resurrected, Dorcas glorified her Lord by the choices she made to help the poor, and the fact her fellow Christians wanted to have her back is a powerful testimony to her life. Any details I haven’t related here may be found in Acts 9:36-42.
Again, what Dorcas did for folks in need can be done today. Many ladies are talented in the area of sewing, and can make simple items of clothing. But even if unable to stitch a lick, giving items of clothing to those in need can be as simple as cleaning out a closet! Those who ride the merry-go-round of weight gain or loss probably can relieve themselves of many items of gently worn clothing to your church emergency closet, to a local shelter, or to one of the many charitable groups which collect for the needy (American Kidney Foundation, AMVETS, etc.).
On the other hand, we read in Matthew 14:1-12 of a young woman who made one really bad choice. This young lady was the daughter of Herodias, wife of Herod. She had a talent for dancing. On her stepfather Herod’s birthday, she performed what was probably her best, most exotic, erotic dance at his birthday feast. Under the influence of the lust of the flesh, the result of this was a foolish promise Herod made to give her whatever she asked. When her request (suggested by her mother) was the head of the man known as John the Baptist, Herod could not back down without losing face due to his important position in the community (he was the tetrarch). He had also made this foolish promise in front of “them which sat with him at meat.” The historian Josephus, not scripture, records her name as Salome. Who knows what she might have asked for on her own. Perhaps the request would not have been so horrendous. But she made the choice to follow her mother’s suggestion. This request may have pleased her mother, but it couldn’t have been of much use to Salome herself. And I wonder what the dinner guests thought of the gruesome “present” brought to Salome! If not for this evil thing, Salome would probably not be known in Biblical history. From Salome we learn to be careful to choose to use our talents for good, and ask wisely for the things we want. What we want may have great impact on someone else’s life, and we should choose to use our talents and capabilities to aid others, not do them evil.
A woman named Abigail cultivated her faith in spite of her husband’s unbelief. When her husband’s churlish behavior would have endangered her household, Abigail chose to rely on her dependence on God to lead her to make peace with David, and she was rewarded when God gave her a better life. For Abigail’s story read I Samuel 25:2-42. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we have a powerful God. Satan encourages worrying about taking care of our family, keeping our job, paying bills, and on and on, so we lose focus of God and his care. We forget that we have the choice to keep worrying, or let God take over.
The apostle Paul had a lot of men friends and companions, among them Timothy, Silas, and Barnabas, but he included several women in the book of Romans, and we’ll look at some in chapter 16. Phoebe is the first woman mentioned in this chapter, and she is called “a servant of the church.” Paul instructs that she be received in the Lord “as becometh saints” and that she be assisted “in whatsoever business she hath need of you.” Priscilla is mentioned here, and in several other instances in the New Testament along with her husband Aquila. I don’t remember any time when Priscilla (or Prisca) is mentioned singly. She was a part of a marital team, and they chose to work tirelessly in and for the church. Paul includes women named Mary and Junia, and in verse twelve, three ladies: “Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which labored much in the Lord.” The similarity in the names of Tryphaena and Tryphosa may indicate they were sisters, if not twins. Who knows exactly what work they did in the church, but Paul recognized his work was more effective because of their ministry. Notice Persis is beloved by Paul, which would indicate a close friendship. We don’t know exactly what Persis did. Maybe she was effective in witnessing at the communal well. Maybe she tirelessly told friends of the Savior. Maybe she taught children. We do know she was given words of commendation from Paul. These ladies probably did not do the work they accomplished for any kind of special recognition or praise, they simply chose to be willing to work hard. They chose to use whatever talents and capabilities they had to help the church, and Paul was aware of their works. Eternity may give us the particulars about their work and skills, but for now it is enough to know they have been mentioned in the Bible. Any work we are called to do may go unnoticed by people, but God is all-knowing and blesses work done on His direction.
There are so many examples of making good and bad choices. Cozbi shows us that sin doesn’t pay (Numbers 25). The daughter of Pharoah shows how her kind spirit impacted her life (Exodus 2:1-10). While heading toward refuge in the city of Zoar, Lot’s wife may have been remembering her life of ease and her beautifully appointed home, and chose to look back for one last glimpse, contrary to the instructions delivered by God (Genesis 19:1-26). Lydia gives us an example of immediate, purposeful faith when after her conversion she opened her home to Paul and Silas (Acts 16:14-15).
We may never know the impact of the choices we make in our lives and actions on other people. We must make choices that will reflect our love for God and the work He has given us. By keeping our sights on doing God’s will, we can keep sin from confusing us about the paths we should take.