As I was reading in Acts 18 one morning this week, my eyes rested on this verse: When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus (Acts 18:5 ESV). After reading this I had to stop and search my heart. When was the last time I was occupied with God’s word? In the Greek, this word “occupied” (syneicheto) doesn’t simply mean to be busy with in the moment or dealing with a task at hand. It means, in this context, to be completely devoted to or absorbed in something, giving the sense of being given over to or in the grip of something. In this case, Paul’s being absorbed with Word was compelling him to preach the Gospel to the Jews in Corinth.
One might conclude that this was just another day at the office for Paul, because this was his job and he didn’t have much else going on. The context says something different. Paul left Athens and arrived in Corinth (v. 1) in the midst of his second missionary journey and at this point he was likely lonely and low on funds. He arrived in Corinth alone, leaving Silas and Timothy in Macedonia to train the leaders of the newly planted churches (v. 5a) and he needed to find work as a tentmaker (v. 2-3).
Further, he found himself being rejected and abused at the synagogues (v. 6). In the midst of the stress of arriving in Corinth alone, unemployed, abused and rejected Paul’s preoccupation was with the Word. I found this to be very convicting. At the risk of being too transparent, I must confess that even as a seminary student, when my schedule gets full and stress levels are high, one of the first things that might suffer is my time in God’s Word. I may still accomplish the task, but am I absorbed in it? Do I allow God’s Word to hem me in and constrain me? Do I allow it to utterly captivate me? Or do I check the box? Sadly, I sometimes let the day’s activities and demands occupy my mind and heart more than I should.
Earlier this week, I attended chapel service at my seminary and had the pleasure to hear a wonderful message by Dr. Stanley Toussaint. This man, who has been faithfully teaching and preaching God’s word for more than 50 years, began his exposition of Psalm 19 with this gentle exhortation,
“If God has spoken, then there is nothing more important than what He has said.”
I think he is right as rain. In a day where some in ministry are attempting to untether themselves from God’s word in order to be more relevant in a hostile culture, I think it’s clear that this is not the example set forth for us charged with moving the gospel forward. If God has truly spoken to us through His inspired and inerrant word, then there is nothing more important than being occupied by His Word. It is then that we will be compelled to share it so that God may glory in Himself through the building of His Kingdom.