I have a dear brother who was a pastor for a few years in a difficult church where a number of Freemasons were members. That in itself was challenging, but he struggled with a far bigger problem. This brother was suitably qualified to be a pastor, happily married with a number of children and above all … he had a passion for lost souls. He was a man of prayer. He preached the Gospel Sunday by Sunday and after three or four years at that church he decided to leave because as he put it … “I preach my heart out and I pray for conversions and in these years I can’t say I have seen one.”
I understand what he said because every pastor wants to see conversions … apart from nurturing the flock, conversions is what the Gospel is all about! What I learnt after a number of years was that the seed you sow might not germinate in your presence.
Let me share an example. In my first Church God blessed us with a number of conversions through the visitation ministry of which I was part and also through the counseling and preaching ministry. I left there after five years and a good number of years later a young lady, who had been through university joined the new church. She was a brilliant student, deep thinker, questioned just about everything and soundly converted. At a Bible Study one night she, rather out of the blue said she was converted after a Sunday Night Service in the old Church. She said my sermon disturbed her so much that she prayed and experienced the gift of grace.
The reason for this story is that a preacher, pastor or lay person might share the Gospel often and not see visible conversions at that moment or perhaps not at all. But that does not mean the Gospel seed was not planted and at a later stage that seed would germinate and grow in Gospel understand leading to confession, belief and repentance. Thank God that He is the one who saves souls, not us!
On his missionary journey, Paul was prohibited from preaching the Gospel is the Province of Asia … Ac 16:6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.
Ac 16:7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. But the journey is not in vain because 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Theologians call this the Macedonian Call … “come over … help us”. One needs to understand the word “help” in the context of preaching the Gospel to the people in Macedonia. We will see the relevance shortly … but get this, the Holy Spirit closed the Asian Door because He had opened the Macedonian Door! At times we might be frustrated because we intended to do something as a Church, a family, a business and we can’t get started. Our frustration might even turn to anger … but we need to remember that God closes one door and opens another. Once we understand this we will always wait on the Lord without getting angry, bitter or be disappointed when He closes doors. There is always something better waiting ahead! So Paul and his missionary team arrive at Philippi. Philippi was a Roman Colony and a leading city … in fact Philippi was one of the three principal cities in the Province of Macedonia (v12). What is rather phenomenal is that Philippi is in Europe … meaning that this is the first time that the Gospel Seed is planted “on European soil”. Now … as we turn to Acts 16 we find three dramatic conversions of people of whom we could say … “the least expected converts to Jesus.” The first is Lydia a business woman, the second is a demon possessed slave girl and the third is a jailer. All three found Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of the City of Philippi.
1) Let’s consider the conversion of Lydia first.
Ac 16:13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
There is far too much information to get through in this Daily Note but we will continue tomorrow. Notice for today …
(1) Because it was the Sabbath they searched for a place to pray. There was no synagogue for worship so they looked for a place where they could pray without hindrance. Prayer is the most important activity in missionary work. Not only do missionaries need to be men and women of prayer, they need people praying for them from home-base too. But let me add quickly that prayer in not only the most important ingredient of missions … it is of the church and the family too. Does your Church have a prayer meeting? We would often call the Church Prayer Meeting “the powerhouse”. Think this through … no prayer meeting no powerhouse. Is this possibly the reason the Church today is so weak? Is this the reason we see few converts? Is this the reason many Churches fail financially? Is this the reason some Churches resort to un-Biblical tactics to draw people or raise finances? What about the family prayer meeting? Remember the slogan … “the family that prays together stays together”? Never forget that the families of the Church are micro-Churches on their own that form the Church Gathered. Like I say … “you cannot complain about the government if you don’t pray for them.” I base this on:
1Ti 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Do you see why we pray for those in authority? So that peace may reign and people be saved. No prayer no power in the Church or home!
Dear Lord our God, convict us of the need for a more dynamic personal prayer life so that we might stir our families and Churches to pray for souls to be saved for Jesus. Amen.