Reading through the Bible together
Paul was a pastor, but mainly a missionary. He cared for the flocks of new converts made in Asia Minor during his first mission trip, but his heart was set to go where no follower of Christ had ever gone. He was fearless and bold for the gospel of Jesus. He knew that even the most hardened pagan could be transformed, melted by the grace of the living God. Hadn’t Jesus changed him?
God had specific plans for Paul. In Troas a vision was given Paul to go to Macedonia, the northern part of Greece. This was really going far away from home! In Philippi—a Roman colony of veterans—they discovered there was no synagogue. But they found God-worshipers gathered on Sabbath along the riverside. No doubt they had been much in prayer for God’s specific guidance. Well, Lydia was the first to respond. A rich business woman, she was the first European convert! Satan must have been stunned. He realized “his kingdom was being invaded” by followers of Jesus (Acts of the Apostles, p. 212). So, he counterattacked through a fortune-telling slave girl, possessed by his spirit. The attack was very clever. Instead of making her say untruths, she proclaimed the truth about the apostles. A demon-possessed girl introducing the servants of God created confusion, and that’s what Satan wanted. When Paul silenced the demon, the girl’s business sponsors had the apostles arrested and placed in prison!
What if that had happened to you, after faithfully doing God’s work where God specifically told you to go? Would you be prone to discouragement? Paul and Silas fought the torture and pain by pray-singing hymns to God! I remember years ago how I learned the lesson to sing your prayers to God. Divine help always comes when praises to God are sung (2 Chron. 20:21, 22). Read the rest of the story: angels came to visit them and caused an earthquake when they landed. The sweet spirit of Jesus permeated the jail and every inmate listened to the songs and intently looked at the apostles. They did not make a move to escape. Now the jailer is stunned. Realizing he is in the presence of servants of the Most High, he pleads for forgiveness and the knowledge of salvation.
At Philippi, Lydia and her household, the former demon-possessed slave girl who chose to become a follower of Christ (Acts of Apostles, p. 213), the warden and his household all became disciples of Jesus. These first European believers ended up being “the most loving and truehearted of the apostle’s converts” (The Acts of the Apostles, p.391). When God guides your life you will make converts.
Ron E. M. Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and TheologySeminary, Andrews University