Priscilla and Aquila: Co-Plodders 9/12/99

Acts 18:1-3

Jesus Christ spoke of the reward awaiting those who “endure” (Matthew 24: 13). Endurance is a trait of a plodder who consistently obeys Christ.

Giving one’s life to Christ introduces that person to a race. It is a life long marathon not a brief sprint. The Christian experience should not consist of fits of starts and stops. It is typified by the African runner who prayed, “Dear God, if you will pick my feet up I will put them down.”

With Christ as our companion we become co- plodders. That is, with Him we don’t quit, cop-out, or compromise. Plodders are people who pursue and produce.

From the world of business comes a peerless example of an entrepreneur who succeeded by plodding ahead against obstacles. John left his lovely home and executive position with a Fortune 500 company and moved from beautiful Hilton Head, South Carolina to pursue his dream in Orlando, Florida. He was nutty enough to think his road to financial independence would be paved with sugar-and-cinnamon coated nuts.

With a single mobile cart and the clever name of “The Nutty Bavarian” he let folks smell and watch as he roasted and glazed almonds and pecans. Competitors and established concessionaires kept him out of the more productive locations and the big companies wouldn’t let him in. Universal Studios wanted $100,000 and for him to supply all products.

John appealed to the vice president of Universal Studios for an interview. He never heard back. Finally, he wrote the VP saying he would call every day until given an appointment. The appointment was granted.

John brought his roaster into the boardroom and started preparing a batch of savory cinnamon-glazed pecans. The aroma wafted through the office suites and attracted uninvited executives.

Everyone was treated to a taste of the hot roasted glazed-nuts. The executives demurred saying they needed more time. John countered that if they would give him a thirty day trial he would personally operate his pushcart every day for twelve hours and give Universal 25% of the sales. All he wanted was a chance to prove himself. Agreed. Thirty days later his single cart had grossed $40,000. After the thirty days John added a second cart and signed a two year deal. At the end of the first year sales reached $1 million.

The Nutty Bavarian now licenses carts in 150 domestic locations and three foreign countries. Annual sales exceed $10 million. John Mautnere was a plodder.

From the battle field and playing field comes a sterling example of a plodder. The war in Vietnam was at its worst. In close quarter fighting the platoon was cut off. Rocky had speed but it was no match for the bullet that tore thorough his left thigh. Before he even felt the pain he was down. A grenade exploded nearby and ripped into both legs, shattering bones in his right foot. He passed out trying to crawl to safety.

When he awoke Rocky lay severely wounded on a stretcher having been miraculously rescued from the battle field. “What did you do before the war, son?” asked the doctor. “I played football for the Pittsburgh Steelers.” The doctor winced and said, “I’m afraid your football playing days are over.”

The war was over and soon he was discharged, an ex-football player with a 40% disability. Rocky was a dreamer and extended himself in a recovery attempt. Futility stared him in the face. Always slow his sprints were even slower now. He tried a comeback with the Steelers but was cut almost immediately. He was five- feet-nine, too small, and too slow. Everyone said it’s time to give it up. His heart said no. Coach Noll advised him to stick with the insurance business.

Mostly out of sympathy for a veteran he was allowed to travel with the Steelers to Green Bay. He thought it would be a good opportunity to visit home in Appleton, Wisconsin and have a talk with his pastor. His compassionate pastor had the capacity of asking the right questions. He said, “I guess it’s time to decide whether you’ve tried long enough, Rocky. How do you feel about it?”

Rocky was silent for the longest then he replied, “I made a promise back in Vietnam. When I was lying there wounded, I prayed that if I survived I’d do the best I could with my life… I promised I’d keep trying.”

His pastor smiled and replied, “I guess you‘re learning something about life now. Rocky a lot of things require two wills —- yours and God’s. We used to talk about how the Lord must have His hand on your shoulder, because of how well you played in high school and at Notre Dame, remember? Well, the hand’s still there, Rocky, but do you feel it? Or are you just trying to make it on your own?”

Rocky returned with renewed determination. Each day that passed and he went injury free he thanked God. He was used sparingly as a blocker. He lived with restraints and setbacks, but he plodded on.

In 1975 Rocky Bleier made the starting lineup as the primary blocker for Franco Harris. That was the year of their first Super Bowl. The Steelers were playing the Vikings in New Orleans.

Rocky tells how he arrived early. He walked to the mouth of the tunnel leading to the field and paused. “Lord,” he said, “I can hardly believe you put me here. The Super Bowl. I couldn’t do it on my own. A lot of the players are out here today because they’re fast or strong or naturally great athletes. I am not any of those things. And now I realize —- that’s the gift You gave me. In your will, my will worked.”

A key play occurred in the fourth quarter as Terry Bradshaw handed off to Bleier the blocking broke down and he fought his way to a first down keeping the winning drive alive.

As he walked back to the huddle a big lineman slapped his hand on his helmet and said, “Attaboy, Rocky. Never give up. If we can’t do it for you, do it on your own.”

Rocky smiled behind his face mask knowing he could never have done it on his own.

Never quit, never give up. Frame that in the words of his pastor, “It takes two wills —- yours and God’s. Find God’s will and find your joy in conforming your will to it.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit and paleontologist, has written: “Our duty as men is to proceed as if limits to our ability don’t exist. We are collaborators in creation.”

Cautious friends offer this council. “Don’t overreach yourself. Don’t shoot too high; establish goals well within your capacities to reach.”

Most people fall short of their ultimate goal, but in doing so they reach farther than life would have otherwise have permitted them.

Should you reach beyond your capacity?

You will never know your capacity until you reach.

Plodders always go further and achieve more than those who quit, copout, drop out, compromise, or capitulate.

Now consider a husband and wife duo who were plodders.

Aquila and Priscilla, Aquila the husband, Priscilla the wife.

Aquila meant “eagle.”

Priscilla came from the prominent elegant royal Roman name Prisca meaning “simplicity.”

By the fortuitous grace of God Paul and Aquila and Priscilla were brought together. God is at work even in what we call coincidences. Observe the circuitous circumstances that brought them together. A company of thieves in Judea had robbed Stephanus, a servant of the emperor, and killed the soldiers who were his companions.

Hearing of this back in Rome Emperor Claudius issued an edict ordering all Jews out of Rome. Aquila was a Jew from Pontus living with his wife in Rome. They were forced to leave and in their new home met Paul in Corinth. Wasn’t that odd! No that was God. He is no less at work in our lives.

Paul used the common denominator to identify with them. They, like Paul, were tent makers. Joining them in this labor gave plenty of time to share faith in Christ and disciple them. Being fellow-workers in tent making they became fellow- workers in Christ Jesus.

These plodders set for all worthy examples. They were —-

They were workers not shirkers. Paul had no more loyal supporters at any time than they. He complimented them with the title, “my fellow-workers in Christ” (Romans 16:3).

They were known for spreading the good news every where they went.

Their love for Christ was known because it was shown. It was not known because they had a warm fuzzy feeling about Jesus, nor because they could repeat all the popular Christian slogans. It was known by their faithful service.

The term “fellow-workers” means co-workers, or workers together. It is this team effort among believers that commends itself to the world.

After a long list of persons to be greeted a caution flag is raised in the text. Not all things are always peaceful and beautiful within churches. The Scripture notes this: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses…and avoid them” (Romans 16: 17).

Two forces restrict the effectiveness of a church. The hurricane forces of evil from without that assail it and the rumbling volcanic force of division within. Often the hurricane force brings people together in the church for shelter. Such opposition can be a blessing. It is the volcanic disruptions within that cause the most difficulty. To be an earth shaking church the body must be together. I have seen the destructive force of division and the developing faith of cohesiveness. Lost persons are attracted to harmonious churches as musicians are by beautiful music. It arrests attention.

A modern translation by Moule renders Romans 16: 3,4: “For my life’s sake submitted their own throat to the knife.”

This likely happened when they were in Ephesus when a violent riot broke out involving Paul (Acts 19: 28-31).

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Here is an example of this principle. They were defenders of Paul. Today, Christians need the defense of one another in our hostile society. Do you dare speak up for Christ and risk your reputation for His reputation?

If a minister is set for the defense of the faith he is deserving of faithful defense and support. I want to publicly acknowledge I have been the beneficiary of such loving support. There are those who have come to my defense even without my knowledge. Their love for their Lord and devotion to His church has motivated such defense. I have plodded with some of the best.

That is friendship at its best.

In a time when Christians were persecuted the young emerging church had many challenges. The collective body of Christ had not yet begun to build church buildings as they were soon to do. Therefore, home-churches were the norm. More than one reference is made to “the church that is in their house.” They opened their residence to the Christian community and made it a place of worship.

Our society doesn’t need home-churches. The church has outgrown that stage. It does need homes wherein the family lives for and serves the Lord. I know a number of families who have made their home open for use by the church. Thus, these gracious members are expanding the circumference of influence to include their community.

They encountered the brilliant Alexandrian Apollos, a gifted orator. As a prophet Apollos had a large and devoted following. He had one major liability. He knew only the “baptism of John” (Acts 18:25, 26). He knew nothing of salvation through the cross.

Aquila and Priscilla followed his crowds and listened to his message. He preached no negative error and did not deny essential faith. What he preached was good as far as it went, but he was not yet aware of the grace of God as expressed by Christ on the cross. Quietly and lovingly they invited him to their home and privately with consummate tact shared with him the further revelation of Jesus Christ.

“They expounded unto him the way of God more carefully” (Acts 18: 26).

Apollos receptively responded positively. The result was dramatic. He became one of the most dynamic evangelist of the era. Some in Corinth considered him an equal to Paul and Peter. By breaking with tradition a new and effective herald of the good news emerged.

The last biblical reference to these two is II Timothy 4:19.

This was about the year 66 A.D. Extra biblical tradition says that on July 8, of that year, Aquila and Priscilla were martyred for their faith and faithfulness. If, as history indicates, this was their fate they faced their future with faith. They were ready for their voyage to their heavenly home and the fellowship that awaited with Peter, Paul, Apollos, and a legion of others they had helped introduce to Jesus Christ. They kept plodding until they started trodding the streets of gold.

These tent makers not had a mansion in glory.

The Scripture refers to the human body as a “tabernacle.” The Greek word so translated would today more accurately be translated “pup-tent.” A pup-tent is not intended to be a permanent residence. It is temporary housing.

Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1 – 3).

Death is thus profiled as moving from the pup- tent into the palace.