Thursday, April 06, 2006
Acts 16 whisks us away with Paul and his companions on a second missionary journey. An immense journey taking them into Macedonia. (Modern day Greece. Where the disciples end up (Philippi) is located slightly to the southwest of kavala.) Paul recruits a young man by the named of Timothy to help out and he teaches him the ropes of spreading the Gospel (he’s discipling him). The author of Acts (Luke) also joins them (v. 10). But, something rather bizarre happens at the beginning of their journey. They are told by the Holy Spirit to not preach the word (v. 6-8).
What? Don’t tell someone about Jesus the Christ! Don’t tell someone about the life He offers! Don’t tell someone about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Don’t tell someone about eternity in Heaven! I admit I read this passage slightly perturbed and confused. I thought we were supposed to preach and tell others about Jesus. You could go anywhere and do anything as long as you were intent on preaching Jesus Christ to others. And now I’m reading in God’s Word that the Holy Spirit told Paul not to preach Jesus to a certain group of people. Do you find this confusing?
This passage weighs heavy on people with the mentality that says, “I can do whatever and go wherever I want as long as I’m willing to tell others about Jesus.” This chapter in Acts is an in your face reminder that the Holy Spirit is our guide.
Listen to the words of Jesus: 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)
What does a guide do? I do a lot of fishing. I have one of the greatest fishing guides ever and if it weren’t for him, I would be clueless at fishing. (Thanks dad!) He knows when and where the fish will be. He knows what baits to use and not to use. He knows the best times. He knows the best spots. He knows the rivers and how to navigate them successfully without tearing a hole in the boat. He has experience and he shares that with whom he guides. I’m better off because of him. A guide makes us better.
I use this example to illustrate how the Holy Spirit guides us. He leads us, makes us aware of things we might not normally see, and he keeps us on his intended path. And He really is a know it all! John 16:13 gives ample proof that we are to be followers of God. We don’t pave the way and ask God to follow us. We’re supposed to do the opposite. So, for any of you do-it -yourselfers out there who think God will just get on board with your plans, think again (and read Acts 16). He has asked us to follow Him. We may not fully understand the specifics of His ways and why He does what He does, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a follower of Him. God wants people who are willing to be used and led by Him. I hesitate to write that because we see “being used” as purely negative in our culture. But, God uses us for good. He uses us to build His Kingdom.
Look at the good things that occurred as a result of God changing Paul’s plans and Paul letting God use him:
- Lydia, a wealthy dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira accepts Jesus Christ. She and her household were baptized. (v.13-15)
- A demon possessed slave girl was freed from the demon possessing her. (v. 16-18)
- Prisoners hear and witness the awesome power of God. (v.25-28)
- A jailer and his household accept Jesus Christ. (v. 29-33)
And to think, all of this happened as a result of these early disciples yielding to God’s leading. Followers led by a Guide (Holy Spirit). The above action takes place in the Roman city of Philippi. A major trade center between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. The Church at Philippi was a strong Church. Paul writes a letter to them (the book of Philippians) calling them saints and commending them in their hard labor for the spread of the Gospel (Philippians 1:1-8). God uses us for good.
Any thoughts on this?
Does this remind you of any experiences you’ve had with the Holy Spirit?
What do you think about God using us?
What do you think the world thinks about God using us?
*Out of my own curiosity: Why do you think Paul and his companions were kept from preaching in Asia and Bithynia?