Summary: Our discouragement over our apparent lack of success reveals our lack of faith.
Our discouragement over our apparent lack of success in telling others about Jesus Christ, or in living our Christian life reveals our lack of faith. We must remain obedient to Jesus and continue to share who Jesus is, even in the face of no success.
In our Scripture this morning, Paul, Silas and Timothy take the Egnatian Way to Thessalonica which was the principal city of Macedonia. Thessalonica was founded in 315 BC. It was named after the half sister of Alexander the great and was about 62 miles west of Philippi, where the men had just been.
This is a very strategic move on their part. Much like our hometown, Anchorage, Thessalonica was also a multicultural city. As a port city Thessalonica was a crossroad of trade and culture. Since people were always moving in and through the city, if the Gospel is planted in Thessalonica, it would then spread to the surrounding region.
This is a strategy still used today, because it works and this is how it is still used today: A friend of mine, Bill, was a bible translator for Wycliff Bible Translators in some very remote mountains in Bolivia. Bill was on the second Wycliff team. The first Wycliff team went into the most prominent village in the area and learned the local Bolivian language. They then developed and alphabet and a written language. This took approximately 25 years.
Through the work of the first translation team a very small Christian church came into being. The people of this church struggled and were not generally well treated by the other people in the village.
Bill then went in with his Wycliff team, which was Bill, his wife Evangeline, and their three toddler age children. Bill and his wife would then take the newly developed written language, and translate the Bible into that local language. This would take another 25 years. As Bill and Evangeline translated the Scriptures, they taught the members of the local church to read and write in their own native language.
After many years Bill and Evangeline finally produced a full New Testament Bible in the local language and they sent it off to the printer. Now, remember after almost 50 years of work, there are only a handful of Christian believers. Bill told me that as they sent the manuscript off to the printers they couldn’t help but wonder if all their had work and the hard work of the team before them would be a waste, because there we so few believers to receive it.
Now, many of the people of the area knew Spanish as their second language and some could even read a little Spanish, but for these local Bolivian people, Spanish was not their language, it was only one of the 39 different languages in Bolivia.
Finally, the day arrived when the newly printed bibles arrived at the village. To Bill’s great surprise, hundreds of cheering people arrived - You see, everyone wanted a book written in their own native tongue, whether they could read it or not. This bible was the only book on the entire planet that was written in their language. It became the prized possession to everyone who was able to get their hands on one.
Bill and Evangeline’s literacy classes filled to overflowing...and the church exploded. New churches appeared overnight in the closest villages and people were becoming Christians left and right. To Bill’s delight, a second printing had to be ordered. People who had learned how to read were spontaneously heading out to share the Gospel in the more remote villages in the area. Bill and Evangeline felt a little ashamed for their lack of faith, they should have known the power of the Word of God
So this team of Paul, Silas and Timothy enter the city of Thessalonica. For three weeks straight Paul was able speak at the synagogue. Paul’s topic was how Jesus was the prophesied messiah. Paul showed this by going through all the Scriptures in the OT and showing how the life of Jesus fulfilled the scriptures. Remember, Paul was not only a rabbi, but a rabbi educated in the best rabbinical school of the day, by the best teacher of the day. A teacher of Paul’s caliber would be wonderful for these people to hear and they would be eager to hear his teachings.
Some Jews believed, but many more Greeks believed - both men and women believed. Women are especially highlighted here for Macedonian women were well known for their independence and for their enterprising spirit. In other words, the women of the region had a reputation for having a mind of their own - something unheard of at this time. Today here in America, we take this for granted, but in the ancient world women like this were rare indeed.