We often think that if God is in it, and if we submit to what God wants us to do, everything will go just fine. That just isn’t true. Paul wanted to go east from Troas but God wouldn’t let him. Instead he called him into 24 philippians1Macedonia on the European continent. Philippi was the first stop on his journey. As you may know Paul’s custom was to go into the local synagogue and tell them who were already prepared spiritually that the Messiah had come. It was important to get a foothold in the Jewish community in every city. I think that’s why he had Timothy circumcised before they proceeded on from Lystra to Troas. Paul’s target was the Jewish men. Yet, when they arrived (Luke, Paul, Silas and a circumcised Timothy) in Philippi they found that there wasn’t a synagogue there probably because there weren’t enough men to establish one. If God was in the vision that brought Paul to Philippi you’d think there would have been a synagogue. But there wasn’t. He’d have to change his method! Oh, no! I hate change! When God gave Peter three visions in Acts 10, it was for Him to grasp the fact that God wanted him to change the way he was reaching out. He didn’t want to change either.

They found their way to a site on the river where some women would go to pray. Lydia, a business woman, was the first convert. After Lydia the next convert was the young slave girl who was demon possessed. She used to make lots of money for her owners. I suspect it was by forecasting the outcome of sporting events. Actually, I have no ideas but it had something to do with supernatural forces of evil at work in and through her. When she came to faith she lost the prophetic spirit and her owners had Paul and Silas arrested. They were beaten and thrown into prison. If God was in it, you’d think they would have had an easier time. Further, it was there in the middle of the night that Paul and Silas were singing hymns and an earthquake came and broke open the prison doors. The Jailor, moved by this example of joy amidst tough times, asked Paul what he needed to do to be saved. He became the third convert in Philippi. Two women from vastly different lives and a Roman soldier were the only 3 converts we read about in Paul’s stop at Philippi. If God was in it, you’d expect much greater results.

Paul planted, Silas and Timothy and Luke watered, and eventually God gave the increase. Ten years later while Paul is in prison again in Rome, he writes his short, four-chapter letter to the Philippians and he addresses it to “all the saints, along with the elders and deacons.” From the three very diverse converts came an entire church. It had a very significant body of believers. It had developed and organized around the Biblical model for the plurality of leadership with Elders who provide oversight and deacons who organize various ministries in the assembly. There was no synagogue when Paul arrived but there was a significant church by the time he was done. It might not have always looked like it, but you can believe God was surely in it. We should see that as true in our lives as well. It might not look or feel like it all the time, but when God calls us and we respond, we can be sure God will give the increase sooner or later.