Summary: Look for God’s hand in all of life. We rejoice in his presence when souls are won to Christ. We can also rejoice in his presence when things look critical.
Acts 16 describes the conversions of Lydia and an unnamed Philippian Jailer. Some commentators also believe that the girl with the spirit of divination whom Paul exercised was converted. That may be possible, but we have no information to confirm or deny it. What the Holy Spirit did inspire to be recorded for us shows the hand of God involved in each of the conversions and even the conflicts the missionaries endured. God works through conversions and conflicts.
I have selected the text of Acts 16:6-40 for our lesson. This text divides into six sections. Last week some of you young ladies and young men did a great job of drawing the lesson for me. I’ve put those up on my office door. This week there are several things I’d like for those of you who are budding young artists to draw for me. I want you to listen to the lesson as we go though so you can know what to draw as we get to that section. Give them to me after service if you will, I’d like to see them. I’ll give them back if you want them.
First, the mission team gets the call to Macedonia… 6-10
Second, Lydia is converted at the ladies prayer group by the river… 11-15
Third, Paul casts out the spirit from the slave girl/fortune teller… 16-18
Fourth, Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown in jail…19-24
Fifth, at midnight God interrupts a song and prayer service in the jailhouse with an earthquake, the jailer and his family hear the gospel and are baptized…25-34
Sixth, Paul makes those that beat and imprisoned them scared because he and Silas are Roman citizens…35-40
OK, kids, draw this: Paul has a vision of a man pleading for help.
As we enter our study, Paul and Silas have a new team member, Timothy. They are now trying to figure out where God wants them to go. Not Asia, not Bithynia, so they go west toward Troas where they meet up with another traveling companion named Luke. How do I know this? Because of verse 10, where the pronouns change from third to first person plural. We enter the first “we” section of Acts, where Luke travels with them. Read Verses 6-10
This section shows us that God was directing their mission trip. Just look at it. They want to go East to Asia, God’s Spirit says no. They want to go North to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them. Notice that we have no details at all as to how the Spirit prevented them from going. Just that he did. We do know how God called them to Macedonia. It was a dream that Paul had or more specifically, a vision in the night. What was in the vision? There was a man of Macedonia standing there urging Paul, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”
I find it interesting that this is how they received direction for their mission. It was not extremely clear and certain, because they had to conclude that this is where God was calling them to go. Did you get that?
How do you know God’s will for your life today? Do you pray about what he wants for you? Do you search the scriptures for guidance? Do you discuss things with others who are mature Christians who will pray with you and for you and give you their best counsel? Are there any other indicators that God uses for directing your life?
What we see in this text is God’s hand at every turn. Not so obvious that everyone sees it, but obvious enough for the praying, scripture searching, counsel seeking follower to see. Notice that the scripture in verse 10 says “We concluded that God had called us to preach the gospel [in Macedonia.]” This tells us that after prayer and searching for God’s will, and even after Paul’s vision, they discussed it together. The group came to a consensus about it together. God’s word teaches us to seek counsel before making decisions. His blessings are for those that want to do his will and listen to wise counsel that is in agreement with his word.
God was in the direction of this mission.
The next section shows how God was involved in the preaching of the word and opening of the hearts of those who heard it. Look at verses 11-15. Kids, draw the baptism of Lydia.
The mission team has arrived at Philippi and there is no synagogue there. This indicates that the number of Jews in this area were few. So where does one begin preaching? When Jews had no synagogue they often met by a river side for prayer. Paul and the mission team head for the prayer meeting and find a ladies group there. Paul preaches and look carefully at verse 14. Lydia welcomed the word! It says God opened her heart. By the way, this was her inclination. She, like all others who become faithful Christians, was seeking God. She was not turned off by God’s word, but drawn to it. Remember, what we learned in Acts 10? God prepares both the speaker and the seeker of his Word. It happens every time. God’s hand was present in both the preaching and the pursuing of the gospel. Lydia and her household were all baptized! And Lydia was a woman of hospitality! She prevailed upon this mission team to come stay in her house. Isn’t that great? She receives the gospel and obeys it, and then she receives the missionaries and houses them while they continue the mission in Philippi. It looks like down in verse 40 that the church is meeting at her house! And by the way, when the mission team leaves Philippi, guess who stays behind? Luke! How do I know? Notice the pronoun shift from “we” to “they” when the mission team leaves.