Acts 16 - August 16
Today we are covering Paul’s trip to Macedonia. Many events have taken place in this chapter but, if I can sum it up in one sentence it would be God’s providential plan for our lives is much better than what we can plan. Brian Davis, a pastor at Del Ray Baptist church, in the opening of his sermon on this chapter says, “God often says no to very good things.” Which I completely agree with, maybe you are waiting for a spouse (very good thing), but God says not right now. Maybe you are waiting for a promotion at a job to better be able to sustain your family but maybe God is saying not right now. Maybe there is some physical pain you are enduring, and you want it to be taken away, but God is saying not right now. There are moments in our lives where we can desire very good things, which God himself calls good but it might not be in his providential plan for us in the moment. We see this all over in chapter 16 and through the book of Acts. Let’s break this down a bit.
Timothy (who Paul directs the Timothy epistles to later on) joins Paul and Silas on their missionary journey. It seems somehow that God through the Holy Spirit had forbidden the three of them to go into Asia to share the gospel. At first, you might ask why would God not want the gospel to be preached in Asia? Do the people there not matter to God? Jesus himself commanded the disciples to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. So why not let them go into Asia? We will see that as good as something might be, God’s plans are much better than what we can imagine. At night Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia urging them to go to Macedonia to help them. Paul realizes God had different plans and in verse 10 listens and concludes that “God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” When they arrive in Macedonia, they come to a place called Philippi. This later on would become the church he writes the letter of Philippians to. It is in the city of Philippi that they meet a woman by the name of Lydia they preach the gospel to her, and the Lord opens her heart to be saved. It seems as if the rest of her house also believed and were saved.
As Paul, Silas, and Timothy stay in Philippi preaching the gospel, a (slave girl) who was possessed by a demon followed them around yelling “these men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim the way to you of salvation.” You might be thinking… What is wrong with what she is saying? The problem is that her goal was not the glory of God, it was for her owners to have financial gain. Paul was annoyed and casted the demon out of her which had some consequences that followed. The slave girls’ owners were angry that they could not make any money off of her anymore, so they seize Paul and Silas bringing them before the rulers accusing them of disturbing the city and then beat them and throw them in jail. Imagine being badly beaten and then thrown in jail and having your whole body in a position where you cannot move. Instead of saying “I knew we should have gone to Asia, Paul and Silas start singing. A form of trust and peace that comes from the Lord. When they sing an earthquake happens the doors and chains of the jail are loosened, but all the prisoners stay, and through that event the jailer and his family believe in the gospel.
The miracles that happened in this chapter (casting out of the demon) and (the jail doors being opened from the earthquake) are not the main points of this passage. The main point is that God is sovereignly ordering the events that happen in our lives for His glory. Paul, Silas, and Timothy had some good plans to go to Asia and share the gospel, but God deemed it better for them to go to Macedonia so that Lydia and her house, the jailer and his house, and the people of Philippi would be saved. What we see is that God used those miraculous events to bring the gospel to a people who would not have known him otherwise. He sovereignly ordered those events because God’s providential plan always has these two purposes. For us to know him more and for others to come and believe the gospel to be saved. So, friends, if you have good plans and God is saying not right now, know that He has better plans in mind that will glorify Him all the more and be for our good. Paul later writes to the Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Let us learn to be content in the providential dealings of God in our lives.