SPIRITUAL - PART 5
Sunday, June 2, 2019
A vision of a man from Macedonia came to Paul during the night. He stood urging Paul, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”…
…On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the riverbank, where we thought there might be a place for prayer. We sat down and began to talk with the women who had gathered. One of those women was Lydia, a Gentile God-worshipper from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth. As she listened, the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul’s message.
Acts 16:9, 13-14
Lydia is one of the few named women we have in the early church, and it is generally believed that she became one of the leaders and hosts of the church at Philippi. We know plenty about this church from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, but here in Acts we find the beginning of her story. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, we meet her at a significant transition in her life of faith and perhaps at the moment of her call to ministry.
To understand the beginnings of this new church movement in Philippi, we have to step back a few verses to see how the Holy Spirit was at work in Paul’s missionary journey.
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the regions of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from speaking the word in the province of Asia. When they approached the province of Mysia, they tried to enter the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them. Passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas instead.
Don’t you just hate it when travel plans get messed up? Clearly Paul’s mission trip was not going as planned. He and his companions tried to proclaim the Good News of Christ in Asia, Mysia, Bithynia, Troas, and no doubt many other places along their route. But in each case it says the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them.
At first glance this seems absurd. Why would the Holy Spirit not allow them to proclaim the Good News?
Personally, I don’t believe God wanted to withhold the message of salvation from these places. It may be that they were either not yet ready to receive the message or that Paul was not the one God wanted to use to bring this message to these particular groups. Instead, God was calling Paul to answer the prayer of this man from Macedonia.
When Paul responds, he finds Lydia, a woman of means who believed in God and already hosted a prayer-gathering in her home.
This is the key to the work of the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t expect us to simply drop into a new place or knock on a random door, pray a miraculous prayer with a perfect stranger, and expect them to be saved and change the world.
We have a bad habit of practicing what I call “Air Drop” Christianity. Whether it’s a quick in-and-out mission trip, door-to-door evangelism, or a quick handshake on Sunday morning and then we move on, we have a bad habit of sprinkling ourselves here and there as if our faith is a garnish, rather than at the heart of who we are. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’m sure: INVEST IN PEOPLE. It’s hard work, but it’s the stuff of life when we have the proper perspective
Christian Piatt, Sojourners (https://sojo.net/articles/ten-antidotes-christian-cliches)
The Holy Spirit works primarily by making connections between people. In this case, the Spirit connected Paul and Lydia through the prayers of another unknown third party from Macedonia. When Paul saw how God was already at work in Lydia’s life and incorporated her ministry into the larger work of the Church, the Church grew and a new faith community was planted.
Who might God be calling you to connect with? We were never meant to do this work of ministry alone.
At the last minute this morning, Holy Spirit laid on my heart to share the story of Grace Kids UMC: A Church for Kids. My description did not do it justice so I invite you to check out their website and learn more about how Holy Spirit connected this once tiny church with the kids in their community to be in ministry together.