9: “During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” – At the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey they had experienced barriers to ministry erected by the Holy Spirit. This vision, similar to the Peter/Cornelius visions, called Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke towards Europe.
10: “When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.” – Luke writes this testimony to the early believers in Jerusalem who were still struggling with the issue of Jewish traditions as a component of Christianity. Justification for traveling to the Gentile region of Macedonia came by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
13: “On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.” – There were Roman laws in place within the city of Philippi that forbid “new religions” so the disciples gathered outside the city gates for prayer.
14: “A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us…; The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.” – Again, it was the Holy Spirit that was responsible for the events that transpired.
15: “When she and her household were baptized, she urged us saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ She prevailed upon us.” – The first Christian home in Europe was established. The disciples entered Lydia’s home through an invitation of hospitality and as an opportunity to teach the new believers more about the Christ they now followed.
Points to Contemplate:
Are you following the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
As Paul considered the opportunities that lay before him, he attempted two paths that were blocked by the Holy Spirit before receiving this vision about Macedonia. Are you sensitive to where God does not want you to go in ministry? Can you tell when He is blocking your path? Have you experienced times when He has put barriers before you? What was your response? Did you push forward on your own agenda, did you become frustrated by the lack of progress, or did you go into prayer, requesting further guidance and inspiration?
Why is it so important to know where God wants you? If Paul had chosen to ignore the Holy Spirit and pushed forward into Asia Minor instead of Macedonia, what do you expect the outcome would have been? In a sense, Luke was justifying Paul’s actions to the believers in Jerusalem. Do you need to justify your actions? If so, to whom? Before taking action, do you ground your ministry in prayer? Are you able to identify clear indications of God’s guidance? Do you use these signals, signs, or visions to inspire others? Can they be used as guidelines as you progress to insure that you remain on the path that God originally inspired?
How is success in ministry measured? Luke went to a great extent to provide his readers the details of their journeys in order to report the successes of these early ministries. What were the measurable outcomes of these early efforts? Did Luke report on number of people in attendance at prayer meetings or being fed and ministered to? Did he discuss the new music or the stain glass windows? Or was his focus on baptisms, the growing number of new believers, and the establishment of new churches? What is the important measurable aspect of your ministry? Is it possible that regardless of the ministry that the only important aspect is the number of souls saved? What can you do in your ministry to refocus your efforts on increasing the number of new believers in Christ? Promises of the Gospel:
The travels of the early disciples into Macedonia were exciting times. But the trip was not a focus-less meandering that just happened to run into an influential woman of faith. The trip was inspired by the Holy Spirit and the results were designed by God. Any step into ministry needs to be grounded in prayer and led by the Holy Spirit. As we move forward in God’s ministry, maintaining an attitude of constant prayer for guidance, blessings, and understanding is critical to insuring that we have remained on the pathway God set forth. These stories in Acts also teach us that there is truly only one measurable outcome to ministry inspired by God – new believers. Everything we do and every consideration make should be pointed towards that outcome.