Listening to the Call

man praying

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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Enduring Hardships Together

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When Paul was on his very first missionary journey, he endured incredible challenges. It is not surprising, because the Lord told Ananias that he would show Paul how much he would suffer for his name. And suffer Paul did. From the very first step he took on the mission trail, Paul experienced opposition.

When Paul and Barnabas came into Lystra, Paul was stoned and left for dead. Luke records that “when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe” (Acts 14:20 ESV). When they had gone on to Derbe, they circled back and entered Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

In the midst of hardships, Paul and his companions were strengthening the church, encouraging people to remain faithful, and were appointing elders in every church. This is such an example of what the church could and should be doing! Most people shut down when they are discouraged. It is normal to feel defeated. But what happens when we share our pain and suffering and use that to the glory of God? Luke records that, in those same churches, “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5). God will bless the church when we lean into him and endure hardships together!

Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash