Things were heating up in Thessalonica. The Jews (Acts 17: 5) had formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. They had dragged Paul and Silas’ host into the square demanding they hand over Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:6). So (Acts 17:10) the brethren thought it best to get Paul and Silas out of town. So they sent them to Berea.
After a few days in Berea, the Jews from Thessalonica heard Paul and Silas were preaching in Berea so they followed them there and (Acts 17:13) agitated and stirred up the crowds there as well. So, leaving Silas and Timothy behind, they brought Paul to Athens (Acts 17:15).
So here is Paul in Athens. He has been run out of two cities. The last one he was ushered out so quickly he had to leave behind his 2 disciples. He’s now waiting for them (Acts 17:16). What would be your state of mind in that moment?
- Questioning God
That would have been my thoughts anyway. I certainly would have had a few words for God at that moment. I probably would have been a bit gun-shy as well, and been laying low until my friends were safe. But, what did Paul do? What was going through Paul’s head?
Acts 17:16 “His spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.”
Paul’s focus was not on his circumstances, even though they were very difficult. His focus was on the fact that the city was full of idols and He knew he held the answer to their problem.
This week I have been sitting through about 40 hours of lectures at the Biblical Counseling Training Conference. One of the biggest take-aways for me is probably this very concept. When we look around us, in the church and outside the church, lots of people are controlled by and in bondage to their idols. As believers, we have answers for them, in God’s Word!
Even though he was being persecuted for it (persecuted from the Jews by the way, not the gentiles), Paul was so confident in the message he had, the hope that we have in Christ, he wanted to share it with everyone. So, what did he do?
- He started in the synagogue with the Jews. (Acts 17:17) Paul started with the “church” of the day. Those who claimed to know God, and sought to point them to the source of hope. The passage doesn’t say anything about the Jews response, which tells me their must not have been much response.
- Then he went into the market place every day, and reasoned with whoever happened to be there.
Paul proclaimed hope in Christ first in the Synagogue, then to those with the unknown God.
When you read Paul’s message to the gentiles , the worshippers of the unknown God (Acts 17:22-31), Paul speaks with such confidence and boldness.
Acts 17:24-27 What you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it… he gives to all mankind life and breath and everything… that they (that you) would seek God, and perhaps feel your way toward him and find him.
Acts 17:28-33 I’m here to tell you, He is not hard to find! He is not some distant being far off in space. He is not some lifeless image! In the past people have ignored him, and God overlooked that. But now He is calling you to repent because he has set a day of judgment, and the one the Jews condemned and crucified, who God raised from the dead, He is going to be the judge.
How do we give hope to troubled lives? Hope is found in knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, and living for Jesus! It’s only when we give up our idols and turn to Jesus that we will have peace and hope.
Acts 17:32-33 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” …some men joined him and believed.
May we be more like Paul, and be messengers of hope. But, in order for us to be messengers of hope, we have to able to do what Paul did.
- Know Jesus as our source of hope
- Look up from our troubles
- See the world as God sees it… a world in need of hope.
- Then be willing to share Jesus with them, no matter how they respond.
Pray for me in this, as I pray for you.