Have you ever wondered if God really speaks to people and tells them what to do? If so, all you have to do is read the Bible. It is full of stories of God telling people what to do. We see one of these stories in Acts 16:9-15.
Paul wanted to go to the Roman province of Asia. He was convinced that this was the next step of the strategy for reaching the Gentiles, but God had other plans. When the Holy Spirit lives within us, he will use our emotions and intelligence to tell us if something we are doing is right or wrong. When our purpose and long-range goals are clear, we can trust our consecrated thinking and emotions because our thoughts and feelings are dedicated to serving God.
When God shut down Paul’s plans, Paul moved on to new cities. He followed his purpose of preaching Christ and reaching the Gentiles. God was able to get Paul to go where God wanted him to go. Similarly, God can get us to go where he wants us to go and do what he wants us to do by whatever means he decides to use. Being with God wherever he wants us to be is better than being without him, and doing what God wants us to do with him by our side is better than doing things without him by our side.
Faith involves actively listening for God’s presence in our lives. Once we have heard God, he wants us to act, and that is easier said than done. God wants us to remember that he knows whom to call and why. Paul had a vision that was so forceful and so powerful that he knew God was guiding him. Paul was sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit that he could tell the difference between yes and no when it came to discovering God’s will-and he was obedient enough to respond to both. This time, God directed Paul to leave Asia Minor and go into Europe.
Philippi was a Roman colony, taking its name in 356 BC from Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. It was a favoured city of Rome and its citizens were exempt from paying provincial Roman taxes. Since Paul seemed to prefer to establish ministry beachheads in key regional cities, it should be no surprise that he picked Philippi. There was no significant Jewish population, so Paul witnessed in the closest thing to one-a group of women gathered outside the city for prayer.
One of Paul’s first converts was a businesswoman named Lydia. As a seller of purple goods, she had some wealth. Her house became the gathering place for Christians in the city. That encounter opened the way for Paul’s ministry in Philippi. Lydia was a Jewish “God-fearer.” Purple was the colour of royalty and nobility, so she was probably a very successful businesswoman. She also had a home large enough to host Paul and his team.
God opened Lydia’s heart to the truth of Gospel. No human has ever had the ability to open anyone’s heart except Jesus. Even faithful preachers like Paul can’t do it. God’s servants can sow the Word, but ultimately the Holy Spirit is responsible for accomplishing the harvest.
Lydia was not saved by doing good works. She was saved so that she could do good works. Once she was saved, she began to fellowship with other Christians. God gives us the same responsibility to have fellowship with other Christians, just like all of us are having fellowship right now. Fellowship helps us in our faith, and it will help other believers in their faith. It doesn’t matter if these believers are down the hall, across town, in another part of the province or the country or even in another country. When someone cries out for answers or help, God wants us to answer the call.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1515)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Ogilvie, L.J. and Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 28: Acts (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983, pgs. 244-245)
- Pastor David McGee, “Poke!” Retrieved from www.crossthebridge.com
- Bayless Conley, “’Come Over and Help Us!’” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Os Hillman, “Lydia, A Workplace Minister.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Butch Odom, “Sixth Sunday of Easter 2016-Acts 16:9-10.) Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bruce N.G. Cromwell, Ph.D., “A Plain Account-A Free Online Commentary-Acts 16:9-15.” Retrieved from http://www.aplainaccount.org/