Read Acts 16:9-15
As Luke tells the story of the birth of the Christian church, he wants to make two things clear. The sharing of the Gospel to the Gentiles is something approved by the Spirit and by the Jerusalem Church. The vision we read about today is God’s approval for mission to Macedonia.
There are two great lessons here:
First, God Calls Us to Listen to the Spirit……
What do you do when you are stymied in life? When things just seem shut to you? How you answer this question tells us a lot about you. I think the general advice we receive from the culture is to press forward with determination and break through on our own. After all, we can’t let little obstacles get in our path, can we? We know that those who achieve most are often the most determined and focused, and so the “lesson” seems to be that when obstacles arise, keep going. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard TV preachers say, “You’ve got to turn those stumbling blocks into stepping stones!!”
But that’s not the message God gives Paul. When Paul was blocked, he stopped and listened. When you get blocked or stymied, you might try one more time to see what’s what, but if blocked again, then it’s time to listen. We are so busy trying to overcome everything that we never stop, pray and listen. A lot of the time we don’t listen because we are afraid. We think, ‘if I really took some time to listen to where God is leading me, what kind of life would I be led to?’ Take Paul here as a guide and spend more time listening than proclaiming; more time in developing ears that hear.
Second, God Calls Us to Look for Opportunities….
Paul went into Macedonia and sought out the people who would be receptive. Paul’s experience in mission illustrates for us how useful it is not only to be spiritually attuned to the world around us but also to be practically-minded. In the passage, Paul goes to where the seekers gather. He was strategic. And we find, as in this case, that God opens a way where we only thought there may have been opposition.
I will tell you that since I arrived at Wesley United Methodist Church at Frederica in 2009, we’ve accomplished a lot. But all along the way I have to tell you that I have done a lot of prayerful listening. I have been listening to the Spirit and waiting for the clear, unifying vision God has for us. What I have found as I talk to so many of you is this: Some of us have a clear vision for God’s work in the world around you and you have been at work. Others of us know Wesley should be engaged in mission, but it hasn’t always been clear enough to motivate at an organizational level. Others of you, as you have shared with me honestly, are having a hard time listening to the Spirit and seeing the opportunities because of the debt of the church. I can understand all three of these responses.
Retiring the debt has been a top priority for us since 2009, which is why we have made such wonderful progress. What gives me great hope and excitement is this: If we can rally to pay down our debt by $3.3 million in 4 years, just image what this church can do out of debt with a clear and compelling vision from God for this community and world?
I am excited for our future. I hope you can see that God is working among us. When this debt is no longer a limitation, I truly believe God will open the floodgates toward transforming our community.