When Paul was in Troas, he received the famous Macedonian call. Doors were being shut everywhere he and his companions travelled. The Spirit prevented them from preaching in Asia. They covered a lot of ground without preaching. When they attempted to go to Bithynia, the Spirit of Jesus prevented them from going. So they continued on to Troas, where Paul saw a vision: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us'” (Acts 16:9 ESV).
Luke says that they immediately sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that God had called them to preach. Little did they know what trouble was waiting for them. When they went to Philippi, Paul and Silas were whipped and imprisoned. After their release, they were ordered to leave the city. They came to a leading city in Macedonia called Thessalonica. This was a major port city and a Roman capital of a section of Macedonia. Paul was only there for three weeks until a mob was formed and he was forced out.
This is important because Thessalonica not only became a major center of Christianity, but they became the leading evangelistic center. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonian church, he said that the church became an example in all of Macedonia and Achaia. And it didn’t stop there. Paul went on: “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
Paul is clear that the gospel was sowed in much affliction in Thessalonica. But God allowed those seeds to grow. And Jesus Christ became known throughout most of the word. Three weeks. A determined Paul chose to listen to the call and refused to give up. He could have easily kept quiet in Thessalonica. But instead he faithfully trusted God and he preached. The Spirit moved hearts. The new Christians were moved to tell others. And very soon they were telling others. And on the Gospel went!
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When Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, it’s hard to imagine that they knew what challenges waited for them. Very shortly after the ascension of Jesus, the church was persecuted and scattered. Christians were literally meeting in a cave in Antioch of Syria (which ended up becoming the sending church for Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys).
Peter clearly had in mind preaching to Jewish people. But that idea got flipped on its head when God sent him to Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile. When more persecution came, James the brother of John was killed with the sword. This alone would have been a devastating blow to the disciples, because James was one of the “inner circle” during Jesus’ ministry.
As if James’ death wasn’t bad enough, Peter was imprisoned. “He (Herod) killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:2, 3 ESV). We don’t know why Herod kept Peter alive and not James, but clearly Herod was most likely going to put on a show for the Jewish people before killing Peter. Luke records a miraculous escape for Peter, then Peter appears to a group of people praying at Mark’s mother’s house. He told them to “tell these things to James and the brothers,” then he left and went somewhere else.
Peter did not shrink back. Neither did the other disciples. They boldly preached the word of God, because Jesus told them that they would be his witnesses. This is an amazing example of the boldness that we need to have today. The Gospel will go on, but we need to be willing to step up and share it.
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With a host of New Year’s resolutions stacking up for 2020, we mark both the turn of a new year and the turn of a new decade. Each year we begin a new theme for the sermon series. Since we are embarking on a new decade, it seemed fitting to follow the theme of “Revival!”
Revival is needed in every aspect of life because we have a tendency to stagnate. Marriages stagnate. Churches stagnate. Jobs stagnate. Life stagnates. Revival allows us to turn the page and bring about renewal. Psalm 85:6 says, “Will you not revive us again, that you people may rejoice in you?”
God is a God of revival. He revives that which was once lost and dead. He renews and restores. And God rescues and redeems. He revived Israel when he rescued her from Egypt, made a covenant with her, and promised to bring her into the promised land. Jesus revived the sick, lame, and dead. He restored their health and reunited them with their families.
Revival runs strong throughout the entire Bible, because that’s who God is. 2019 brought on many challenges to our congregation. We have faced poverty, death, and much sickness. We have endured and persevered. But now it is time for revival!
If you are tired, come for revival! If you are sick, come for revival! If you are grieving, come for revival! If you have left the church for an extended time, come back for revival! The church functions best when the body of believers joins together in perfect harmony. We’re excited to see where God is taking us and we long for you to be part of the journey!
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