The Apostle Paul made many missionary journeys to spread the Christian message after Christ’s resurrection, and there is a lot we can learn from this colorful character in Christian history. I’m focusing on Paul’s second mission (Acts 16,18) in this post, where he visited cities such as Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi and Ephesus. You may recognize that these were peoples to whom he later wrote epistles, or letters, which serve as much of material of the New Testament. Paul was a great missionary, a great orator, a great writer. In short, a great ambassador for Christ. No wonder the Savior went to the trouble of appearing to him and straightening him out when he was persecuting Christians (when he was called Saul in Acts 9).
When the Spirit whispers
When Paul was preparing for his second missionary journey, the Spirit directed Paul not to visit Asia or several other places, but to focus on Macedonia, which he immediately made plans to do. I have found that this kind of selectivity of the gospel is sometimes a sticking point for non-believers. They say that if God is no respecter of persons, then He should offer his truth to all. But we fail to see his big picture and plan, and certainly there are reasons we don’t understand about why He does things a certain way.
Yet I also see value in applying an analogy here. Let’s liken the rollout of the Gospel to a new business product. If I’m a business owner and I’m about to come out with a revolutionary new product, say a new kind of vehicle, one that will make life immeasurable better — it is cheaper, faster, safer, cleaner, etc. — but requires a total shift in thinking from the old gas combustion engine. How would I go about it? In stages, of course: a select test group, a limited edition, and finally a mass-production model that is for everyone. The Lord can roll out his Gospel in whatever way is best for all mankind.
One of Paul’s great strengths is his ability to act by the Spirit. I aspire to this ability. I think there is a partnership that happens when one gets good at hearing the voice of the Holy Ghost, where you always have a consultant but you also bring ideas or plans to the table and have a kind of discussion about it. Paul was no automaton, no puppet controlled by God’s strings. He was a strong, active man who had ideas and plans and initiative. Yet he responded to new ideas the Spirit offered, and responded immediately. I hope that I can do many things of my “own free will and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27), but that I will keep an open mind and listen for that quiet voice of warning, of guidance, of encouragement to know whether I’m on the right track.
Challenges or opportunities
Paul was also effective in his mission because he used every experience to further the cause. When he was in the area of the Philippians, he was jailed for his efforts, but he and his companion Silas taught the gospel to his jailer and converted him and his whole household! Of course, it helped that Paul and Silas used God’s power to break apart the prison beforehand.
I believe we all have missions to accomplish in life. Some may be obviously religious in nature like Paul’s, but others are simply good things we are supposed to accomplish in this life, needs we are uniquely able to meet. We, also, have got to use any and all circumstances to further our life missions, and make opportunities of our challenges.
If we don’t, good things won’t happen, important needs won’t be met, and we will never live the life we were born to love. I’m grateful that Paul accomplished his mission for the early Christian faith, and I hope to accomplish mine.
How is your life mission coming? Are challenges stopping you, or are you finding ways to turn every experience into an opportunity?
The Kairos Life
Next week: Acts 19-20, 1 Cor. 1-3