Acts 16-20 follows Paul’s second missionary trip, this time with another young believer, Timothy. His home base is still Antioch in Syria but this time he starts to go to Turkey again, is blocked, and ends up circling more north and around the Mediterranean Sea towards Rome. Again Paul starts with the known, witnessing in the Jewish synagogue as long as people are interested, but then he branches out to the Gentiles. One morning he goes down by the river to pray and engaged a group of women is discussion. At another town he was thrown in jail but an earthquake opened the doors and shook off the shackles but rather than run he engaged the guard and family in a discussion that led to faith. Paul’s group is flogged and Paul has to fall back on his Roman citizenship. Perhaps we could say, different strokes for different folks. But always Paul has a support crew some of which travel with him and some to whom he reports and is accountable. He always seems to work from the friendly and curious with a common framework to the Gentiles who also engage with him. Gradually it becomes obvious that God is leading Paul to witness in Rome.
We do not always understand the whys and wherefores of God’s leading and the events of our life. We worry that we might make a wrong turn but it seems from the readings today that God works in many ways that we don’t understand at the time but which all build our spiritual “resume.” It seems that what is important is that the Holy Spirit leads as we listen. Not being a Lone Ranger but being in community and accountable helps keep us on track. Paul spent some time circling back and encouraging former converts and checking up on people. These are all good rules of thumb for making sure “our way” is God’s way.
Perhaps you feel like you need guidance in some area of your life today. If not guidance, at least affirmation and assurance. Perhaps reflect. Are you in the Word? Are you in fellowship? Are you in prayer? Who is partnering with you? Difficulties do not mean you are out of God’s will, for it may be in your weakest moments, God is the strongest, building you and witnessing to others. Our epic hero, God, is not sitting off in the clouds watching us struggle with the epic villain, but God is standing there beside us, supporting us, even when we don’t see Him or feel Him. Blessings on your challenges today.