We cannot impact everyone but we can impact someone, we cannot advance the kingdom everywhere but we can somewhere. As we go forth daily as vehicles of God we must remember who is at the wheel. When we let Him lead us it will bring much better results than when we lead and then ask Him to help us.
Paul and his team traveled from Macedonia to Thessalonica but they passed right by two major cities, not yet evangelized, why? These two cities had no Jewish synagogue. See, Paul had a strategy and that is what he would stick to unless the Holy Spirit said differently. His role was to establish a church in a territory and then move on to the next, Jews and Gentile God-Fearers already had knowledge of God. So when Paul would explain through prophecy in the old covenant that Jesus is their long-awaited Messiah since they already had a foundation it would be much easier for them to accept and be quickly rooted in faith. Most of the Jews because of religious pride had a hard time but the God-fearers were the ones that accepted the message with open hearts.
In Thessalonica, it says some of the Jews and many of the God-fearers were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas. As usual, the Jews that rejected the message got jealous and stirred up trouble where a mob was formed and they dragged out Jason who was hosting Paul and Silas, saying "these trouble makers are here to turn this city upside down, acting contrary to Caesar's decrees, turning people to another King named Jesus!" The result was Paul and Silas had for their lives to a quieter less noticeable city called Berea.
The biggest enemy to the move of God is the spirit of legalism. Those who have been under legalism gain their worth and identity from their religious works. To say these things are unnecessary and that there is a better way is a direct attack against all that they have held dear. Most people when they learn that there is an easier, less burdensome way to follow God, will choose it. Those who are heavily invested in their religion though will feel threatened as they lose crowds which also means money and their prestigious positions in society. Those who are threatened respond with hostility.
Religious hostility is not just between Christianity and other religions it also can develop within. God is a builder and He is building from one generation to the next, it is all part of the restoration of the earth. He builds through Truth, so each move of God has certain truths that are highlighted for a period of time. These truths will bring changes. People don't like change and they become proud of what they accomplished. As Kingdom citizens, all glory should go to God, and we should be willing to move with God as He moves, no matter what changes come about. We should celebrate with each generation and support them as God does a new work in and through them to continue to build on what we have helped establish.
Paul's journeys have brought him to many challenging places. As Matthew 11:12 says, "the Kingdom of God suffers violence but the violent take it by force." The Kingdom is advancing in each place Paul travels but it always ends with him being run out of town. His major opposition is always the Jews who through jealousy stir up the masses to turn against them. So as they run out of the capital city of Thessalonica they find refuge in a much smaller town called Berea. It says that they were open-minded to Paul's preaching and searched the scriptures daily to confirm that it was the truth they were hearing.
The heart's desire for every preacher should be to have an audience of people that are open-minded, who take what they hear in church and dive into the word for further study daily. True students of the Word! Some people seem open-minded, they come to church regularly, get involved, but they are not in the Word daily and therefore are not experiencing personal transformation. Then there are those who will reach out to me to challenge me on something I taught or simply ask for an explanation so they can better understand, I prefer that than those who seem to be listening but in reality, give what they hear very little thought.
The city life is a complex one, it is busy with many distractions, it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle of being success driven. God wants us to be successful but not as the world defines success, He wants us to be driven by Him and His will. Joshua 1:8 says "meditate on the law night and day and you will be successful in all you do." The key to success in the Kingdom of God is knowing God and His ways and the more we meditate on it the more it is infused in our heart and becomes who we are. It is hard to try to do things God's way it is much easier when His ways become our ways. Meaning we have let His heart beat in our own. The simple life of solitude is one necessary to be a student of God's word. Country life makes it easier but even in the city through the grace of the Holy Spirit we gain the divine nature of self-control and can learn to walk with God in the midst of all the noise and possible distractions.
Berea is the first place that said many Jews believed as well as prominent Greek women and men. When people are busy and wealthy they have little time to reflect and are often set in their ways, they are too proud to be challenged. The simple life leads people towards a more humble outlook. They may be ignorant because of less exposure but yet more open when the truth is presented. Most of the disciples that Jesus chose were from the countryside, very ignorant, but open. I am not saying that we all need to live like monks in the country but we do need to be aware so we can resist the enemies schemes. There are no excuses for remaining a weak Christian, as long as we have received Holy Spirit we have everything we need to grow in whatever place we dwell. So whether we are in the city or country if we let God guide we will live a balanced humble Christ-centered existence.
It wasn't long before the enemies of God found Paul and Silas and stirred up trouble in Berea and so time there was short-lived but yet mission complete, with a mix of Jews and prominent Greeks, students of the Word, the church in Berea would grow.
As the Apostolic team was run out of town, Paul went ahead and waited in Athens while Silas and Timothy finished things up in Berea. Paul was not the type of person who would wait idly, so while waiting, his spirit was troubled because the city was so full of idols and he decided to speak out about it.
America is fashioned after ancient Greece and just like Athens we are full of idolatry. I am proud to be an American and I love our freedom but with all the privileges we have, we also tend to worship our possessions more than our God. That's why it was ordained that on our dollar bill we would be reminded "In God we trust." All people have the opportunity to gain wealth if they work hard but in that pursuit, we often leave God out. He can be just one of many gods that we serve, including our high-tech devices, vehicles, jobs, friends, family, recreation, and hobbies. So many options so many directions to place our passion. None of these things are bad in of themselves but when they distract us from God's will, we have a problem.
It didn't say Paul worked miracles rather he reasoned with the people. It was a culture that loved public debate for this is where Plato and Socrates were from, so Paul went against his accustomed approach of speaking in a synagogue or in the marketplace working miracles. Some of the people started heckling Paul saying he is "babbling," while others said listen up he is preaching about foreign gods. So they brought Paul to Mars Hill, the hot spot, where people sat around doing nothing else but talking about the newest idea.
There are a lot more people who like to talk than act. People who are on social media all day posting about one issue after the other. How much value can we get from words it should be our action that brings worth to who we truly are. As Christians, we will be judged by God more for what we did than what we said. What did we do with the gifts, talents, and passions that the Lord has given us?
Paul figured out his crowd that they were open to anything for they believed basically everything. He said "I see you are very religious, as I was passing through your objects of worship I came upon an altar that was inscribed: "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD." Instead of bringing another idea of god to them he wisely took one of their own so-called god's in which they knew nothing about and enlightened them. In doing so he discredited all the other gods for he said that this unknown God, is not something that is man-made, rather He is the creator of mankind and all that they enjoy, He is not a being separate dwelling elsewhere but He is personal and wants us to seek Him for it is through Him that we live, breathe, and have our being.
Though we know about God the question is do we know God? We may not worship a statue made by man but in our worship of God is it in spirit and truth? Do we worship more the idea of God than the person Himself? Can we say that He is our source of competence in whom we put all our trust(2 Cor. 3:5). Since God is supernatural if our faith is in Him we should all be living supernaturally. Miracles, Signs, and Wonders should be a common everyday experience. I believe there are many that know everything they could about God and yet He is unknown.
This was a tough crowd for Paul, they mocked, laughed, ridiculed and for most rejected his message. Debating with people usually doesn't end well. Ministering through power evangelism and personal testimony usually has a much better response. Yet, Paul was in Athens and debate was the way people communicated their religious beliefs. But, it wasn't for naught, for it says that some joined and believed. As long as even one person turns to the Lord we can say mission complete, even if no one does as long as the Lord led us we can trust that the Word will not return void.