Summary: God makes a way when we get out of the way.
God Uses Ordinary People: Lydia
Rev. Brian Bill
I thought I better get out ahead of something that happened to me in Mexico before my team members spill the beans. During our first Sunday in San Juan del Rio, we attended the worship service at the Community Center. The service there lasts much longer than ours and I knew I wasn’t going to make it without getting up to use the restroom. I was a bit nervous to do this however because the bathroom was located up near the front of the room where the service was held and it was going to be difficult to slip away unnoticed. I was even more unsettled when I got there because I realized that instead of a door into the bathroom there was just a shower curtain.
I hurried into the little room hoping that no one would walk in on me. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough because a young mother and her child opened the curtain and started to walk in. They quickly left and I’m certain I heard some muffled laughter as they did an about face. I was thankful they didn’t come all the way in but then I realized I had another problem. A lot of people probably saw what happened and now I needed to walk back to my seat while they stared at me. I decided my best bet was to just keep my eyes down and walk quickly. I could feel my face turn bright red and when I was almost to my row I looked up, only to see Gideon Yeager and David Grimes laughing hysterically. I tell you there’s no respect for the clergy nowadays.
I’ve come to appreciate the importance of doors and the locks that go with them. This morning we’re continuing in our series called, “God Uses Ordinary People” as we take a look at how God used both closed doors and open doors to impact Europe with the gospel through a businesswoman named Lydia. Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 16. The apostle Paul is traveling with a team of servants to deliver the decisions made at a special council held in Jerusalem. They’re moving from one city to the next to visit churches they’ve started and to begin new ones. But then, all of a sudden doors start closing.
I see four lessons from Lydia’s life that we can apply to our lives.
1. Look for open doors. God uses closed doors to put us in situations for His message to get out to the people He has already prepared to hear it. In verse 6, we see that the Holy Spirit shut a door into Asia. Notice that they were “kept by the Holy Spirit” from preaching there. In verse 7, the Spirit of Jesus “would not allow them to” enter another area. Doors were closed twice and Paul didn’t understand why because it made good sense to go into these communities. My guess is that Paul was disappointed and maybe even discouraged when these doors closed.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? The first line in the movie Bella goes like this: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Sometimes things seem so clear to us but when we try to move forward the door is often slammed in our faces – the house sale doesn’t go through, the promotion dissolves, and the health report is not what we were expecting. Instead of getting frustrated or angry, try to see that this is God’s loving way of redirecting us. Here’s a principle I first heard Henry Blackaby state: Find out where God is working and join Him there. That’s much better than just doing what we want and asking Him to bless us.
Now, instead of striving, Paul tries sleeping and in verse 9, he has a vision of a man from Macedonia who begged, “Come over to Macedonia to help us.” After seeing this vision, they got ready “at once” to leave. Here’s the principle: God often makes a way when we get out of the way. When we wait, God goes to work. Psalm 38:15: “I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God.”
Look at Acts 16:12: “From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia…” Philippi was a colony of Rome even though it was separated geographically from Italy. Paul and his team arrived in this town expecting to find the man who had appeared in the vision. I imagine that they’re probably getting a bit anxious because they can’t find a believer anywhere and yet verse 12 concludes this way: “And we stayed for several days.” This is a good principle when you’re waiting for a door to open. Don’t be in such a hurry. Wait for God’s timing.