Acts 17

I sat on one side of a large square table in an executive room suite on the top floor of a building. On three walls of the room were projectors and screens, while the fourth wall was a floor to ceiling window overlooking the city landscape. As the players in the room introduced themselves, there was a chief executive officer (CEO), a CFO, a CMO, and loads of other top leaders within the organization. Then there was me, a pastor. What in the world was I doing in that room?

I wonder if Paul ever felt that way in his missionary journey’s. If he ever stepped back and said, “How in the world did I get here?” Acts 17 has one of those potential moments. A moment Paul was probably ecstatic to be a part of, but a moment of standing in awe at how God leads.

Before we get to that particular moment, the chapter begins with Paul and Silas meeting resistance by some of the Jews in Thessalonica. These Jews were jealous that Paul and Silas were winning converts over to the Way of Jesus, so they started to turn the city upside down to find and likely persecute them. But Paul and Silas escape unscathed.

What was the radical message Paul and Silas were expounding? That there was another king than Caesar. Folks, these aren’t fighting words, these are dying words. And yet, these missionaries couldn’t imagine doing anything else with their lives than sharing the good news of their King, Jesus.

Paul and Silas leave to another region where they find less resistance, but before you know it, Paul finds himself in the city of Athens, standing in the middle of the Areopagus. The Areopagus was the place where the leading Greek teachers and philosophers gathered to discuss the latest wisdom and to gather new information and understanding about the world. Paul was brought there because some had overheard him in the marketplace and they wanted to hear more.

I absolutely love what happens next, for Paul has spent enough time in Athens observing the people that he figures out a way to connect with their deepest hunger.
He tells them, “Men of Athen, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.” First, he compliments them. Who doesn’t want to listen more to someone who thinks highly of you?

Then Paul goes on to explain that they are worshipping and hungering for something that they don’t have a name for, that they can’t grasp. He offers to introduce them to what that unnamed hunger is, and he tells them about Yahweh. Paul even quotes their own authors to help them realize that Yahweh is actually already all around them, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17: 28)
Paul’s interaction with the people is so respectful of their own culture and understanding. He is the great evangelist, but notice what happens at the end of the story. It says that “some men joined him and believed.” This wasn’t the kind of ending like we had in the first few chapters of Acts where the people that heard the gospel and believed ranged in the 1,000’s. This moment led to “some” believing the message.

The call of Christ is to witness to others in the same manner that Christ witnessed to us. He became one of us, lived among us, earned our trust through loving kindness and service, and then He invited us to follow Him. And just like when Jesus was on earth, not everyone will heed the call. But for those that do, their lives and their world will be better for it.

So whether we’re turning the world upside down and seeing countless others accept Jesus, or we’re building a relationship of trust with a neighbor that takes years to come to a place of introducing them to Jesus, may we remember to follow God’s lead, for it is truly in Him at all times that we live, and move, and have our being.

Turns out that room I was in that day, was a room full of highly successful people who were trying to figure out ways to help the people in their organization see Jesus more clearly. I still felt out of place, but when I found that out, I at least knew why God put me in that place. I just hope the work we did that day is still winning some over to the joy that is a life with Jesus.

By Paddy McCoy

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