I don’t know about you, but I am glad when a fight is over. For when we are done arguing, pushing our own agendas, and belittling the other guy, we can focus on listening to God. We do have to acknowledge when personal issues drive a wedge between us. For Paul and Barnabas, that wedge sent them in different directions.
After the Jerusalem council settled the issue of Gentiles being circumcised, Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch. There they continued to strengthen and encourage the believers. But when Paul asked if they wanted to visit the other churches and Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, a wedge came between Barnabas and Paul. It was such a division that Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus. Paul ended up going to Derbe and Lystra with Silas.
Oh, it is painful when we see people leave the church after a church fight. Yet, I am not sure if that is worse than the pain we have when people leave the church without a whimper. Having unresolved conflict is as bad as being in a church fight. Somehow, someway, the Holy Spirit works through us. Even when we are in pain because of how we treated others and how they treated us in a church fight, the mission of the church continues.
If we can learn anything from Paul and Barnabas, I hope we learn that our personal preferences pale in comparison of what the Holy Spirit can do through us. For the Holy Spirit directed the church to continue then and still directs the church to continue even now. The mission of the church is continuing even today. For the Holy Spirit will direct us to go were people gather.
A. If people are in the synagogues, then we go to the synagogues (16:1-5)
1. Timothy joined Paul and Silas in Lystra and Derbe
2. Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father
3. Paul circumcised Timothy
a. Timothy’s father did not want Timothy circumcised (maybe?)
b. A circumcised Timothy helped Paul have credibility with the Jews
c. Timothy could help the mission by knowing the Greek and the Jewish sides of life
4. The church was strengthened and grew in number
5. Wow! It is possible to continue the mission of making disciples after a church fight. If we have ever been in a church fight, we can see the Holy Spirit continuing to use us to make disciples. So, our spirits need not hamper us in being on mission with the Holy Spirit. Yet, we do pay attention when the Holy Spirit hampers our mission!
B. If people are gathered for prayer, then we go to the place of prayer (16:6-15)
1. The Spirit of Jesus would not let Paul and Silas go to Asia
2. A vision of a man from Macedonia prompted Paul and Silas to go to Europe
3. Yes, the Holy Spirit will block our way at times. But the Holy Spirit knows things we don’t know. When the Holy Spirit halts our progress in one direction, then it is very likely the Holy Spirit wants us to go in a new direction. So, Paul and Silas went to Philippi.
C. If people are gathered in the market, then we go to the market (16:16-40)
1. Philippi was 1 of 4 major Roman cities of Macedonia
2. Paul and Silas were in Philippi some days
3. Lydia and her household
a. The women were gathered for prayer outside the city
b. Paul and Silas joined their conversation
c. Lydia, a worshiper of God, had her heart opened by God to hear the gospel
d. She and her household were baptized
e. Paul and Silas stayed in her house
4. There was that demon-possessed slave girl in the market
a. She pestered Paul and Silas for several days
b. “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim a way to you of salvation.” (Bits of truth, but not the whole truth)
c. “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”
d. After the demon left, the girl’s owners had Paul & Silas arrested
e. The magistrate even had Paul & Silas flogged!
f. Paul & Silas were jailed, even with their feet in shackles!
5. Jailer and his family
a. Paul & Silas were praying and praising God
b. An earthquake opened the prison’s doors & loosened the chains
c. The jailer thought the prisoners had escaped
d. Paul assured them that they had not escaped
e. “What must I do to be saved?”
f. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you & your household.”
g. The jailer and his household were baptized
h. The magistrate had to apologize for treating these 2 Roman citizens so harshly!
6. We go were the people are gathered. There the Holy Spirit can be at work. The Holy Spirit is working in business people’s lives. The Holy Spirit is working in the lives of the abused and mistreated. The Holy Spirit is working in the lives of those who are following orders. Yet, in each situation we find people believing in Jesus Christ. People are even believing in Jesus Christ in our time. Is God going to send you were people are gathering? He will.
I have prayed on and off over the years about meeting people who need to hear a word from the Lord. Days when I have prayed to go were people gather, I have had moments to speak about Jesus Christ. It would be good for me to pray like this more often.
Where will God send you? I am sure God will send us to those who are ready to believe in Jesus Christ. This is what God did for Paul and Silas. If God did so at that time, then God can surely do so again. Will you join me in asking God to send us were people are gathered, ready to believe in Jesus Christ?