Women of Philippi
(Back story alert, again. Hang in there. We’ll get to the women soon, but still not yet)
I wonder how Paul felt, as he approached Lystra? Even though his near-death experience had happened years before, did his heart start to pound? Did he have a flashback, with that tight feeling in his chest, hard to breath, tunnel vision, all sweaty hot and cold at the same time? Did he unconsciously clench his fists, or grab hold of Silas, for courage? Certainly, he would have told everyone the story by now.
Did he conjure up in his mind who the faithful were, who had surrounded him that day? Undoubtedly, three of the believers who gathered about that broken, bleeding, dying missionary, had been a young teen with his mother and grandmother. Timothy. Now, five years later, Paul made a bee-line to Timothy’s house, after hearing reports of how he had grown into a spiritually mature young man, of admirable character.
So, Team Two quickly became Team Three: Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Adventures ensued as they made their way north, always trying to press eastward, and the Lord pressing right on back and pushing them westward. Luke explained, the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching the word in the Asian province.
Not sure how that all played out, but apparently it was totally unmistakable. This was God, and He was not having it. In fact, when Team Three got to the border of Mysia, they tried in the worst way to cross over into Bythinia. That would have been straight east to what is today Azerbaijan. This time, the Spirit of Jesus simply would not allow them to do it.
What was that like?! Did they find a strange heaviness in their limbs, so they couldn’t bring one foot up to put down in front of the other? Did a thousand things go wrong so they couldn’t ever get started? Did they constantly get lost and keep ending up where they began? One thing is for certain. They knew it was Jesus who was preventing them. So, they kept going north, and going west.
Still, Luke wrote, in chapter 16, the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they grew daily in numbers. What a beautiful, satisfying time that had to have been, for those three missionaries. Really rich. Even though they were not heading in the direction they wanted to go, they were being affirmed and encouraged where they were. How real life that is. Bet you’re not exactly in the place you had in mind, either. Yet, with the Lord, where you are can be beautiful and rich, nonetheless.
Finally, they got to Troas, which is really a long haul up through Turkey to Greece. Right there at Troas, Team Three became Team Four as they picked up their last teammate: Luke, M.D.
Now, just northeast of Troas was what we’d call Bulgaria today. Every fiber of Paul’s being had to have been pointed towards Bulgaria. One thing we can get about Paul is this man persevered. He was all about pressing on, forging ahead, setting his chin, and his teeth, to the wind and white knuckling it. So, this time, Jesus sent Paul a vision.
What I get from this part of the story is how troubling it is when we’re opposed in doing something good. What’s opposing us? Most of the time we—or, at least, I—first think it must be spiritual opposition, meaning dark, evil spiritual forces. Why would good ever stand in the way of good, right?
But, sometimes, that’s exactly what’s happening. You and I might get it into our heads to do something for the Lord, but, He doesn’t want us to. He has something else in mind for us. Maybe we’re the wrong person for that role, or that work. Maybe the role, or the work, is wrong for us. Maybe the timing is off. Maybe God has—as was the case with Paul—someone else, entirely, in mind.
Opposition is normal in a Christian's "walk of faith"
Listen, opposition really is totally normal for anybody who's put their faith in Jesus, and is trying to live like it. Whenever there’s opposition, it makes sense to slow down, and regroup. Ask God to make it clear—do I press on in Your strength, Lord? Or are you redirecting me?
All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.