3 Years of Seclusion
How many ministers prepare- the way Paul did, for ministry?
Sometimes, we may wonder why we do not see the miracles that were in Paul’s ministry.
The usual practice has been to go to seminary for 2 years. Some spend longer in school.
But is this enough?
Others take a more casual approach, and go into ministry without formal education, and sometimes, with little experience in the Word.
Some points about Paul’s qualifications:
1. Paul had a rigorous religious education, and as a Jewish male, he had been educated since childhood in the Torah.
Act 22:3 I am verily a man [which am] a Jew, born in Tarsus, [a city] in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, [and] taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
Gamaliel the Elder, or Rabbi Gamaliel I, was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the mid first century. He was the grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder, and died twenty years before the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem.
Gamaliel was celebrated as a Pharisee doctor of Jewish Law, who was the teacher of Paul the Apostle. The Book of Acts portrays Gamaliel as a man of great respect.
So Paul was the equivalent of a PhD today, having studied under the most famous Rabbi of his time.
But this was not enough.
2. He was also zealous, but this was not enough either. He was persecuting the saints, thinking he was serving God.
Act 22:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
So, what was he missing?
1. the calling and grace of God. Being called of man is not enough.
2. seclusion from the world -to confer with God, not man.
Gal 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called [me] by his grace,
Gal 1:16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Gal 1:17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Gal 1:18 ¶ Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
Gal 1:19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
The first response Paul had was to get away from people and their ideas.
He went to Arabia, which is nothing but desert, and most likely went to the Mt Sinai site to be alone with God for 3 years.
Only AFTER 3 years of seclusion with God, did Paul even visit Peter for the first time.
Then Paul continued to be a “loner” of sorts.
What a radical change !!
from a well respected, prosperous, popular temple scholar, to a
withdrawn, secluded hermit who had nothing material, or social, to comfort him. His own rejected him.
3 years is a long time:
NOT to have friends,
NOT to be taught by teachers,
NOT to hear the thoughts, and ideas of others,
NOT to be comforted
NOT to have the approval of man.
NOT to have the comforts of life.
This is the opposite of the response to the call of God we see today.
People surround themselves with the very things Paul denied himself of.
What was the result of this change?
While his former colleagues were described as white sepulchers of dead man’s bones, with all their knowledge, and dead to the true life of of the Spirit
Paul, in his self degraded, humble condition, walked in the power of God.
Ministry preparation today
There are so many that want to jump from a life of sin into the pulpit, with no real preparation.
These are the worst ministers, and they do exist.
Many attend school first.
Most seminary students love the social atmosphere, and friendship of the school and church.
Most love to be fed weekly by their pastors.
So when they think they are “ready,” they go out into the world of ministry, with the words and thoughts of others about the Word, rather than hearing from God themselves.
And their sermons sound like their school notes.
While study and other experiences are helpful, that is not the end of the preparation.
Even Paul had an education and friends.
Questions and thoughts
1. What would the church, be like, if all serious students of ministry spent 3 years in seclusion, with God as their only companion and teacher, before going into the world to preach.?
I believe that they would turn the world upside down with the power of God.
I believe we would see no doctrines of man, or fake manifestations of “spirit.” No deception.
I believe we would see humble ministers, and not the pomp and circumstance of false ministers.
I believe that more students of ministry, and current ministers, should spend more time in seclusion with God.
The proof will be in the power of what comes out of their mouths, and the effectiveness of their ministry.
2. Have you been in a time of seclusion, where you seem cut off from friends and church family?
Maybe your situation does not look promising at all, yet you have so much inside that needs to be expressed and shared?
Maybe this was not your choosing, but by God’s design.
3. Or maybe you feel called, but do not know how to start?
Paul was educated first, then called, then went into seclusion.
Consider education first, then time alone.
Make sure God calls you, not man.
If you are really called of God, you will find this seclusion beautiful and inspiring. However, it might be painful and stressful, as your “flesh” dies.
If you are NOT really called of God, you will be in a hurry to get a job with a salary, and you will have a mediocre ministry with a congregation that does not expect much anyhow.
Seclusion is the key to the inspiration, and power of God.