Note from Jesus
I promised My followers that the Holy Spirit would guide them in their witness to the nations (Acts 1:8). Today, I want to talk to you about an example of that guidance. I also want to show you an occasion when this guidance produced fruit in places that Paul and his missionary team had not planned to go. Closed doors and changed plans are not necessarily reasons for discouragement or a sense of failure!
The Spirit guided the mission efforts of My first disciples. The Spirit indicated that Barnabas and Paul should be sent on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3). The Holy Spirit helped the church decide what to do about welcoming Gentile converts they brought to Me in Antioch and on their first journey (Acts 15:1-35). My church was growing and reaching out to the lost in more areas. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit guided Paul and his partners Silas and Timothy in the direction and to the places they needed to go on their second journey. Part of the way through this journey, they were kept from going to their intended destinations. Instead, Paul had a vision that a man from Macedonia invited them to come to Macedonia and help. Although sharing My story was challenging almost everywhere they went, they also enjoyed success essentially everywhere they went. What began as frustration and closed doors ended up as great victories for the kingdom of God!
My disciples in every era can become discouraged when they have a plan to carry out My mission, and their work is thwarted at every turn. Please read carefully what happens in today’s verses. Paul and his team didn’t get to go where they thought they should go as the door to these places was shut by the Holy Spirit. Instead, I opened another door to go into Europe — Macedonia, Achaia, and Greece. People were waiting to have the message shared with them in these places. Paul and his team couldn’t foresee this opportunity, but I knew and yearned for these people to find My grace! Philippi was one of those places where this was true.
Lydia and those in her household who worked for her in her fine fabric business were some of those people whose hearts were yearning for My grace. In Philippi, Paul continued his strategy of going “first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16 NIV). There was no synagogue, so he went to the Jewish place of prayer by the river. Lydia and her household were there. They heard My message from Paul. They believed that message and were baptized.
Their hearts were ready for the gospel. They not only responded to the message, but they also opened their lives up to work for the sake of the gospel. Lydia offered her house to be the place for the missionary team to stay and also for this new church to meet. More became My disciples in Philippi in the days that followed Lydia’s conversion, but her story is enough for Me to make My point to you today. Remember what I said earlier to the disciples:
Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be My witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.
Sharing My message does not depend just on you and your plans. It’s about My guidance and power given to you through the Holy Spirit along with your willingness to respond to the Spirit’s leading.
Verses to Live
Please don’t become discouraged when you find closed doors. Some doors the evil one closes. Some I close for strategic reasons. Trust in this: I know those who are seeking Me. I long to get My people into position to share My grace with these seekers. Don’t let closed doors dishearten you. Instead, seek the Spirit’s guidance and trust that I will get you to the place and the people at the time that is most effective in sharing My grace. This trust was true in Philippi in Paul’s day. This confidence is also true for you in your day!
Leaving there [Derbe and Lystra], now accompanied by Timothy, they [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] delivered to the churches in each town the decisions and instructions given by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. The churches were strengthened in the faith by their visit and kept growing in numbers on a daily basis.
They sensed the Holy Spirit telling them not to preach their message in Asia at this time, so they traveled through Phrygia and Galatia. They came near Mysia and planned to go into Bithynia, but again they felt restrained from doing so by the Spirit of Jesus. So they bypassed Mysia and went down to Troas. That night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was pleading with him.
Come over to Macedonia! Come help us!
This vision convinced us all that God was calling us to bring the good news to that region.
We set sail from the port city of Troas, first stopping in Samothrace, then the next day in Neapolis, finally arriving in Philippi, a Roman colony and one of Macedonia’s leading cities. We stayed in Philippi for several days. On the Sabbath day, we went outside the city walls to the nearby river, assuming that some Jewish people might be gathering for prayer. We found a group of women there, so we sat down and spoke to them. One of them, Lydia, was a business woman originally from Thyatira. She made a living buying and selling fine purple fabric. She was a true worshiper of God and listened to Paul with special interest. The Lord opened her heart to take in the message with enthusiasm. She and her whole household were… washed through baptism.
If you believe I’m truly faithful to the Lord, please, you must come and stay at my home.
We couldn’t turn down her invitation.
Response in Prayer
O Father, guide my steps, lead my heart, and open my eyes to Your opportunities to reach people who are hungering and thirsting to know Your grace. Don’t let me be discouraged by periods of rejection or opposition. Keep the fire in me alive during those times when my plans fail, and I find it hard to find Your way forward. I want to believe that You still lead Your people to bring Your grace to others, but please, O Lord, help my unbelief. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.