Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/14/16 Sermon - Can You Hear His Voice?

“Can You Hear His Voice?”

Acts 16:6-15

 

Today’s scripture has Paul on his second missionary journey. Originally Paul had suggested to Barnabas that they return to the churches they had visited on their first missionary journey.  Barnabas had agreed that it would be a good idea to go back to where they had originally shared the good news and encourage the believers to continue in the faith. However, Paul and Barnabas could not agree on who was to go with them. Barnabas was determined to take John Mark, his nephew, and Paul was determined not to. The solution was for them to each go their separate ways.

Paul chose Silas to go with him. Silas was a leader in the Jerusalem church who had returned to Antioch to support the work going on there. Along the way, Paul and Silas picked up Timothy and the three of them were traveling through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, the province of Asia. You can see Galatia located on the map in your bulletin, which is where Turkey is today.  As an interesting note, Paul’s second missionary journey manages to visit only one church that he went to on his first missionary journey. So the original plan for him to re-visit the churches he went to on his first journey must have been taken on by Barnabas and John Mark. Because Paul and Silas go north and remain on land until they reach Antioch.

As the three are traveling through Asia from Antioch to the border of Mysia they try to enter Bithynia and the scripture says the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.

Keep this fact in mind as we continue.

The three decided since they are not to enter Bithynia, they would pass by Mysia and go down to the seaport of Troas. While there, during the night, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him to come over to Macedonia and help them. This vision was seen as coming directly from God so Paul and his companions immediately prepared to leave for Macedonia to preach the gospel. Macedonia is today the region of Greece. From Troas, they had to go by boat to Samothrace and then on to Neapolis until they arrived in Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. They decided to stay for several days. The Sabbath came and because there were very few Jews in Philippi there were no synagogues so the three decided, like other Jewish believers, to go down to the river, outside the city gate to find a place to pray. Interestingly  enough, they began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those women happened to be Lydia, who was a merchant who sold purple cloth. Lydia was a worshiper of God. As one who had already believed in God, her heart was open to Paul’s message.  The result of her heart being opened was she and her household were baptized. Following their baptisms, Lydia invited Paul and his companions to stay at her house. It took some persuading, but she managed to convince them.

In this short section of Scripture the idea that humans are able to hear God’s voice and be directed by Him or by His Spirit is demonstrated by each of the characters. Paul is the main character and although I am not sure he was listening to God during his disagreement with Barnabas, he did so on his journey. Silas had been directed by God to leave Jerusalem and eventually join Paul in his journey. The disciple Timothy must have had some Spiritual guidance as he left his family and joined the two roaming evangelists.  Luke then writes that as they were going through Galatia and Asia the Spirit would not allow them to enter certain places and preach the gospel. Paul eventually had a vision, from God, and the group went to Macedonia. They managed to meet up with a group of women, who had also been listening to God as they were Gentiles who were known as worshipers of God.

They were led to be baptized, definitely a leading from the Holy Spirit.

Wouldn’t it be great if Luke had written down “how” these people heard the voice of God direct them to do things? I don’t know about you but I can’t tell you how many times I have had decisions to make and I have prayed for God to speak to me, show me the way He wanted me to go and alas, I felt left on my own to make the decision.

Note I said “it felt” like that.

Which is an important point to make, God’s directions generally have very little to do with how we “feel”. Feelings cannot be trusted. In this passage, and in the entire book of Acts, we do not read that individuals listen to their feelings to determine God’s call. The very act of traveling throughout the countryside, in the first century I am certain did not “feel” easy. Take Timothy, for example, for him to leave his family and join Paul and Silas had to be difficult.

Following Christ isn’t about a feeling, it is an act of the will.

So if we are not suppose to rely on how we feel good about what we think God is directing us to do then how do we know it is God’s will.

(open it up for others to share)

I have a couple of suggestions I would like to offer that I have noticed as we have been reading through the story of the Acts of the apostles. Since the beginning of the book of Acts people have been moved by spiritual instinct, mystical moments and even by some strategic planning, all ways in which God speaks to those involved. The common denominator in all of these movements has been by the needs and by the openness from the world.

Wherever people are open and wherever people are hurting the gospel movement was found. These two themes have been a part of the story again and again.

In chapter two, the Church was meeting needs by those who had extra selling it to assist those who did not.

In chapter three, there was a lame beggar who needed healing and created a bit of drama in the process.

In chapter five the people believed that even the shadow of the apostles could heal and so they were open to the thought that if they brought out their sick to have the shadows fall on them, they would be healed.

In chapter six it was the needs of the Hellenistic widows that shaped the structure of the church.

The two things that keep this narrative going, is God using His people to respond to either a great need or a great openness.

Those two items still exist today, and I believe not only do they exist they are the very things that when recognized, and then focused upon, can assist us in hearing God’s voice.

The church is still needed to be Christ incarnate for those in need and for those who are open.

So if you want to hear God’s voice, I suggest you ask one or both of these questions:

Where is there an opening?

Where is there suffering?

These were the questions the followers of Jesus asked. These are the questions Paul and his companions were asking.

What about you?

Maybe if we put these questions another way, Who needs me? Or Where is the opening for me?

I need to warn you, hearing God’s voice is risky. He may actually ask you to step out of your complacency and do something or go somewhere you think is crazy. And through the eyes of the world, it probably is, but through the eyes of God it is exciting, it is living life abundantly.

Jesus talks about this when he uses the example of him being the gate, in John 10.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.

We are called to go into the world through the gate of Jesus, to see the world from His perspective. And when we do, we are to leave behind our plans, and seek the plans of the Holy Spirit. Those plans will be found when we look at the world the way God does. And God cares for those who are hurting and for those who are open to His love. When we put those two together, with humility, and seek God’s kingdom, we realize, here on earth, there is a glimpse of heaven.

Matthew 6:33New International Version (NIV)

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

My closing prayer is adapted from Brandon Heath’s song, “Give Me Your Eyes.”

Give us your eyes for just one second
Give us your eyes so we can see,
Everything that we keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give us your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond our reach.
Give us Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give us Your eyes so we can see.

Amen.

 

Benediction: Leave today looking for where there is a need and where there is openness, and expect to hear the Holy Spirit, because He is already there.