Carry-On by Abidan Shah, PhD

CARRY-ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: As many of you know, Nicole and I were in Turkey, couple of weeks ago, following the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul. Many of you have seen the pictures that Nicole has been posting online. What makes these trips lots of fun and rewarding is the months of planning that goes into it. In fact, the most important thing about travelling is knowing how to pack. As summer is upon us, many of ya’ll are looking forward to getting away to the beach or the mountains or the lake. All that is wonderful, but sometimes we tend to put our spiritual life on hold, hoping to pick it back up when we return. Unfortunately, many times, we don’t pick it back up. The key is to know what to take with us, spiritually speaking, when we go away. Some of us fail to pack these vital spiritual essentials. Today’s message is to help you pack some key spiritual essentials and keep them in your carry-on baggage. Those who travel know what I mean. There are checked baggage and then carry on. Checked baggage has to brought to the airline counter and you may not see it again but carry on is always with you. Even if you’re not going anywhere, summer tends to get us out of our routine. Today’s message is to help you stay on your spiritual routine. This message is also for our graduates. Some of you are going away to college, away from your home, church, and the familiar. How are you packing, spiritually speaking? In fact, the question is to all of us, how are you packing for the journey of life? In today’s message, we will learn from the Apostle Paul how to pack spiritual essentials in our carry-on baggage.

Philemon 21 “Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.”

Context: Paul wrote those words to his friend Philemon who lived in Colossae. Most scholars believe that Paul was in Ephesus at the time. The distance between Ephesus and Colossae is approximately 120 miles. Because of the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome, Paul would have been able to walk on the 53,000 miles of Roman Road network. Main reason for the good roads was the movement of the Roman troops. Paul was able to take advantage of that. Even travelling by sea was relatively safer due to the emperor’s patrol squadrons. Albeit Paul remarked in 2 Corinthians 11     26 “in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” In other words, even though there was some safety under Roman rule when it came to travelling, bad things still happened to Paul. Maybe he walked or maybe he rode on horseback. We know that in Acts 23 he was taken on horseback from Jerusalem to Caesarea. Nonetheless, according to some estimates, Paul walked close to 12,000 miles in those missionary journeys. Also, Paul was telling Philemon to prepare a guest room for him because he would be coming to visit him soon. The inns along the way in those days were not the best. They were not very clean, had gamblers, thieves, and prostitutes. Many were infested with bugs. There’s nothing new under the sun! Many Romans would either stay with friends or sleep in tents. 

I often wonder how Paul must have packed his luggage. Although the Bible doesn’t give us much information, 2 Timothy 4:13 gives us some clue – “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments…21 Do your utmost to come before winter.” In other words, Paul must have travelled in the summer and didn’t want to lug his heavy coat around. So, he left it Troas, also known as Troad, which was ancient Troy (if you remember the Trojan Horse). The parchments are the Old Testament scriptures. Because of their cumbersome size, he may have taken some of the parchments with him but not all of them. Now, he needed the rest of them. We’re so blessed to have the entire Bible in our hands. That wasn’t always available. So, just from that verse we can see that Paul had his clothes with him and the Bible with him. I’m sure he had some more personal items but not much. Bags get heavier over time!

What Paul did have did not have to be put into any bags. I want to suggest to you to pack these things with you in your carry-on this summer.

1. Testimony

Paul had a story of how he came to the Lord. We find the account 3 times in the Book of Acts. The first one is by Luke introducing us to Paul, but the next two are by Paul himself – once in Acts 22 before the mob in Jerusalem and second in Acts 26 before King Agrippa. Then, we find Paul making references to his testimony in GalatiansPhilippians, and 1 Corinthians.

How about you? Do you take your testimony with you when you’re not here? Do you have a testimony? Who were you before Christ and who are you since you met Christ?

2. Prayers

1 Thessalonians 1       1 “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13 “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

How about you? How is your prayer life when you are away? How is your prayer life when you get out of your routine? Consider your prayer life your lifeline. Just as you have to breathe to stay alive, you need to pray.

3. Word of God

We already read in 2 Timothy how Paul was asking Timothy to bring the rest of the Bible scrolls to him, but there’s more. 2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Again, 2 Timothy 3       14 “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

How about you? How is your Bible reading when you are away? Thank God we don’t have to carry heavy scrolls or parchments with us. We can have a Bible app on our phone. Do you have a plan to read certain portions of the Bible before the summer is out. Psalm 119:105Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

4. Church

Colossians 2       1 “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

In 2 Corinthians 11 where Paul talks about all his sufferings, he also adds to the list the churches. Verse 28 “besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

How about you? Do you think about your church family when you’re not here? Do you pray for those in need? Do you still take the time to check in? There are folks who will let us know when they will be away. Not that you must get permission, but, if were a family, can we just be absent from a family gathering without letting someone know?

5. Watchfulness

1 Thessalonians 2       17 “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. 18 Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us.”

Are you aware of the Enemy’s tactics against you even when you are away? Don’t lose your values while you are away?

6. Sufferings

2 Corinthians 12:7 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”

Galatians 6:17 “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Paul carried his sufferings along his missionary journeys. We don’t know exactly what it was, maybe the “messenger of Satan” himself. Some of you may have to carry these sufferings with you while you’re away, but God’s grace is sufficient. 

Invitation: In the journey of life, most people do not understand how to pack.

  • Sometimes, they pack too many non-essential things but forget to take the essential things with them. 
  • Sometimes, they pack the essential things in their checked baggage instead of their carry-on. 
  • Sometimes, they forget to have their carry-on with them when they really need it.

For international travel, the most important thing that I keep with me is my Passport and Visa: That is your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you’ve never received Christ as your Savior and King, you may get to the airport, but you can’t get beyond that. They are the most important essentials in the journey of life.

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Do you have a passport and visa for this new journey in your life? Give your life to Christ today and let that always be the most essential thing in your life. Joshua 1:9“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Jesus is Emmanuel = God with us.

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