1 John 3:18-24:
18Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Psalm 67 on Page 91 in Christian Worship
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us;
may your ways be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.
Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Gospel Lesson: John 15:1-8:
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Sermon Text: Acts 16:11-15:
11From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Introduction: From time to time you may hear someone tell a story that includes the expression, “Imagine my disappointment.” it might be a story about going to see something on a trip that they had been wanting to see for quite some time. Maybe they’re telling you about a movie that they had heard about that they were really looking forward to. Then they get to that expression, “imagine my disappointment, when…” What follows is an account of how the thing that they wanted to do did not measure up to their expectation. They found out that the tourist attraction if they had wanted to go see for quite some time was very shoddily constructed and wasn’t very interesting. They found out the movie was not nearly as exciting as the preview made it appear to be. This morning, we have an account from the life of the Apostle Paul. He had started out on a journey all excited about the possibilities that lay ahead of him. And then, one thing after another happened that caused him 2 take a different route and to end up doing something that probably disappointed him. We see, though, that God was at work in everything that happened. The same thing is true about everything that happens to us in our lives as well.
“Imagine My Disappointment…”
I. When things don’t go our way…
II. They always go God’s way
Paul began his second missionary journey in a very optimistic way. He went and he revisited the congregations that he had established during his first missionary journey. In one of those cities, he picked up a young man who had proved to be a very great and faithful helper of the Apostle Paul, Timothy. Now was time for him to push on and to go to places where , he hoped, the gospel would find great success. I imagine that he set out into the unknown with a very clear picture in mind as to what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go. However, what happened to him next on his second missionary journey must have seemed like a very great disappointment to him.
In this section, we can see a number of things that might have caused the Apostle Paul some frustration. For example, we hear mention of the city of Troas. It had never been Paul’s intention to get to the city of Troas. The earlier part of this chapter talks about his desire, first of all, to get to the city of Ephesus. It would have made sense for him to be there. Ephesus was the largest and most influential city in all of Asia minor. We are told, though, that the spirit of Jesus would not allow them to go there. After that, he had wanted to go up to the North. This would have given him access to the Black Sea and to the cities that were situated around there. Again, he thought that there would be a lot of mission work to do up there. We are told, though, that God would not let him go there, either. That left him no choice but to go to Troas. Troas was not a very important city at that time. And the Apostle Paul may have wondered why, exactly, God wanted him to go there.
Next we are told that he received a vision at night. There was , in that vision, man from Macedonia who told Paul to come over and give the people of Macedonia some help. He and his traveling companions, which probably included Luke the writer of the book of acts, took that as a sign that they were to make straight away for Macedonia and Europe.
However, the first place they got to in order to do mission work was the highly gentile city of Philippi. As noted in the introduction to this sermon study, Philippi was a city very influenced by the Romans and settled by former Roman soldiers. Their usual practice , upon reaching a new city, was to go to the synagogue and to proclaim Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. However, there was no synagogue in the city of Philippi. Jewish law says that you have to have at least 10 adult males to form a synagogue. In this large city of Philippi, there weren’t even 10 Jewish men interested in forming a synagogue. That left them with the only alternative that they had. They went outside of the gates of this city to the Riverside. Traditionally, if there were Jews in a place where there was no synagogue, they would gather at the River to pray and to speak about God’s word. When he got there, he discovered that there were no influential men. There was only a gathering of women. In Roman society, women were not thought highly of. So here the Apostle Paul was, hundreds of miles from his home base, doing the kind of mission work that most would have probably thought as being unprofitable.
How many times do we find ourselves facing situations very much like the Apostle Paul experienced in the second missionary journey? There are so many times in our lives that we have something in mind, some plan, as to how our lives are going to turn out. And then, one thing after the other happens. Maybe we are not working at our dream job. Maybe the plans that we had for our family don’t work out the way that we want them to. It is in those times that we might feel as if God has let us down. How do we deal with those kind of disappointments? We deal with them in the same way the Apostle Paul dealt with them. We let God take over and see what he has in mind.
Now we come to the unexpected plot twist. Among the women who were at the River on that Sabbath day, was a woman by the name of Lydia. This is not Lydia the tattooed lady. This was a woman who was about as renowned as a woman could be in those days in the Roman Empire. We are told that she was a seller of purple cloth. Purple was a very rare color in those days. It could only be manufactured by extracting it from a certain kind of sea snail. It took a great number of these snails to produce even a small amount of purple dye. And so, going by the law of supply and demand, it made clothes made out of purple dye a very pricey commodity. All this is to say that she was probably a fairly wealthy woman. We are not told of any family that she had. Some think that she was a widow at the time that she meant the Apostle Paul, but there is really no way to tell.
Besides her earthly wealth, she also had another kind of wealth. She is described as someone who fears God. In the New Testament, that always refers to a gentile who is learning about the Jewish faith. She had not become fully converted to the Jewish faith, but she was in the process of learning all about it. The fact that she took time out of her busy schedule and met with other women who were similarly interested in the teachings of the true God, tell us that she was very serious about her studies into the Old Testament, indeed.
Luke, as usual, tells the story with great brevity; But also with a great deal of tenderness. It is fitting that he would be telling us the story of Lydia. Luke, in his writings, often took notice of the women of New Testament history. This goes right along with his chosen occupation as physician. He is someone who would have had interest in the affairs of women. He tells us how Lydia listened to what the Apostle Paul had to say.
And then, in a very interesting way, he tells us what God did with that. He tells us that God opened up her heart. That means that God not only gave her understanding, but also caused her to have a deep emotional feeling about what the Apostle Paul said about Jesus.
We see her response to the teaching of the Apostle Paul here. First of all we see the response of faith. We see how she and her whole household, which probably included a whole number of servants, were baptized in response to Paul’s call for repentance. We also see the way she responded to this great gift that she was given. She wanted to make sure that there would be others who would hear this gospel that had so touched her heart. That is why she practically begs the Apostle Paul and his traveling companions to make her home there home. The rest of his stay in full if I was going to be difficult, but he had the comfort of knowing that Lydia would take care of him.
And so we see that God took care of the Apostle Paul’s ministry. Nothing had worked out the way the Apostle Paul had imagined it. However, God made sure that he got him to the place where he needed to be. When he got to this place that he didn’t intend to get to, God blessed his work and gave him someone to take care of him in the difficult days that were to come. God showed Paul that he was, as always, in control.
This is a hard lesson for us to learn in our lives. We do like to think of ourselves as the Masters of our own fate. We like to think that we know exactly what is best for us. However, time and time again, we find out that our plans don’t always workout. Instead of getting disappointed by that, we need to take in those occasions and see that our God , indeed, knows what is best. Since this talks about the Apostle Paul’s ministry, I can’t help but apply that too what has happened in my ministry. I don’t know what I had in mind when I started out over 30 years ago, but I have a feeling that almost everything that happened to me is not something that I would have planned for myself. I have, however, seen the blessings that God has brought about by bringing me to this place into this ministry. Even though it might not be what I would have chosen at the beginning of my ministry, I wouldn’t trade it for the world because I see the kind of blessings that God has brought about for me and for you.
In the same way, each one of us can learn through situations like this that our God is in control. He always knows what is best for us and he always works things out for our good and for his glory. The more he opens our hearts as he did the heart of Lydia, we see an we feel that our God always does what is best for us. He did that in bringing us to know his son as our savior. He does that every step of the way in our earthly life. And we look forward to his continuous and glorious presence in eternity. Amen.