#carmelprays – Acts 18:18-28
Opening Song: You Are So Faithful
Read Scripture: Acts 18:18-28
Have you ever wondered why you didn’t get that promotion, or that course of study, or that grade? Hebrews 13:20-21 assures and reminds us that God equips us with all that is good and necessary through different means to enable us to do His will for His Glory. Today’s passage from Acts shows us how God’s grand plan plays out in Paul’s life, showing us an example where Paul had to choose between God’s plan and a good plan.
Ephesus, when Paul arrived, was home to a large community of Jews who had a synagogue on the city as well as being a centre for pagan worship. Many people came from afar to visit the Temple of the Greek goddess Artemis which was just outside the city limits. In this environment, Paul went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews(v19). Paul must have made progress because the people urged Paul to stay longer with them(v20). Paul had to choose between a good choice (staying in Ephesus), and the right choice(continuing on his journey). If Paul had stayed on in Ephesus, he might have been able to turn more people towards Jesus. To Paul, who dedicated his life to furthering the ministry of Christ, this must have been quite a good offer. And yet, we are told that he declined and continued. Paul stayed focused on the task God set him, which was to spread the word of Christ to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), even though it must have been appealing to continue teaching a crowd that was eager to listen. Paul promises to return if it is in God’s plan (v21) which suggests Paul might have stayed if not for his mission.
So, what can we learn from Paul in these verses?
Firstly, Paul stayed focused on his mission. We are all called to further God’s kingdom in many different ways. Sometimes, it’s hard not to compare yourself to your fellow Christians and wonder why they are given things you aren’t. But when we put aside our own wishes and stay committed to doing God’s work, God works through us to achieve great things. Because Paul stayed focused, he successfully strengthened all the disciples from the region of Galatia and Phrygia (v23) and performed so many miracles that even handkerchiefs and aprons that touched him were able to cure the sick (Acts 19:12). Only Paul, with his knowledge (from being a Pharisee), experience (being blinded by God) and heritage (having hailed from the tribe of Benjamin), could have done what he did.
Secondly, Paul trusted that God would lead him to where he was needed most. While the people in Ephesus were willing to learn more about Christ, strengthening the disciples that were in charge of running all the different churches was more important and urgent. If Paul had stayed on in Ephesus, the disciples might have wavered in faith and be unable to lead their churches. Paul trusted that God knew what was best and he continued to carry out God’s plan. Because of Paul’s trust and dedication, the many churches in the different places continued to stay strong in their faith, and he later was able to return to Ephesus and establish the church of Ephesus which later became head of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. Sometimes, we can’t tell why God opens and closes doors when he does it or why he throws hardship in our path when we thought everything was going smoothly. It’s hard to trust that it is all part of His plan. But we can be inspired by Paul’s resoluteness and trust that in time, everything will become clear to us as God works through us to move the hearts of others. A past hardship for us can allow us to truly understand the pain of a fellow brother or sister in a similar struggle. A closed door can turn us towards another door that has greater things in store for us.
It is not enough for God to have a plan for us. We have to trust and focus on God’s plan for it to work.
Pray in Response
Our loving Father, thank You for Your goodness and faithfulness. As we meditate on the readings in the book of Acts, we see Your goodness and faithfulness to the disciples and the early Church. You remind us in Your word that even when we are unfaithful, You remain faithful, for that is who You are (2 Tim 2:13). Truly, You are faithful and worthy of our trust and praise. Help us to hold dear this is a precious and wonderful truth. As we remember Your faithfulness, may it move us to repentance – towards greater trust in You. May we trust You in this season, when we have questions, when we wait upon You for Your guidance and direction, when we don’t yet have answers – may we remember who You are – and trust in Your goodness and Your word. Take us to that place of blessed assurance and help us to learn to rest in Your goodness. Let faith arise in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Response Song: Goodness Of God
By Esther Chung