The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
1 Kings 17:16
Consider the faithfulness of divine love. It is clear that this woman had daily necessities. She had to feed her son and herself in a time of famine; and now, in addition, the prophet Elijah was also to be fed. But though the need was threefold, the supply was not spent, for it was constant. Each day she made withdrawals from the jar, but each day it remained the same.
You, dear reader, have daily necessities, and because they come so frequently, you are apt to fear that the jar of flour will one day be empty, and the jug of oil will fail you. Rest assured that, according to the Word of God, this shall not be the case. Each day, though it bring its trouble, it shall also bring its help; and though you should live longer than Methuselah, and your needs should be as many as the sands of the seashore, yet God's grace and mercy will last through all your necessities, and you will never know a real lack.
For three long years, in this widow's days, the heavens never saw a cloud, and the stars never wept a holy tear of dew upon the wicked earth: famine and desolation and death made the land a howling wilderness, but this woman was never hungry but always joyful in abundance. So it will be with you. You will see the sinner's hope perish, for he trusts in himself; you will see the proud Pharisee's confidence crumble, for he builds his hope upon the sand; you will even see your own plans blown apart, but you will discover that your daily needs are amply supplied. Better to have God for your guardian than the Bank of England for your possession. You might spend the wealth of the nations, but you can never exhaust the infinite mercies of God.
Taken from https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/daily-devotionals/02/28/0/
This should be a great encouragement in proclaiming the Gospel, since among the people in our communities--the disinterested, the rebellious, the careless--God has an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs.
They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ's property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of selfish pleasures and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them, He will have them.
God is not unfaithful to forget the price that His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go to them with the quickening Word of God.
More than this, the ungodly are prayed for by Christ before the throne. "I do not ask for these only," says the great Intercessor, "but also for those who will believe in me through their word."1 Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and before long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace.
The predestinated moment has not struck; but when it comes, they will obey, for God will have His own. They must, for the Spirit is not to be resisted when He comes with the fullness of power--they must become the willing servants of the living God. "Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power."2 He will "make many to be accounted righteous."3 "Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied."4 "I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong."
Taken from https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/daily-devotionals/12/4/1/
“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (v. 16).
- Acts 17:16–21
The city of Athens was the seat of Greek philosophy. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had lived and taught there. Before them Thales, Anaximander, Parmenides, Heraclitus, and many others had practiced philosophy there. Each was seeking the one ultimate principle of which all things were supposedly composed. Thales believed that ultimately, everything is water, while in a more sophisticated way, Plato and Aristotle claimed that ultimately, everything is “being.”
By focusing on this one ultimate aspect of reality, the philosophers were pushing against the worship of particular things like idols. In time, however, idolatry returned even stronger than before. After all, if everything in the world is a piece of the Ultimate, then everything is divine to some degree. Things that have more “being” are more divine, and so for our own good we had better worship them. Eventually, Athens, the city of philosophy, also became the city of idols. Greek philosophy led straight to superstition.
The Bible has very little admiration for Greek philosophy, though unfortunately, many in the history of the Christian church have not shared the Bible’s viewpoint. Paul was not impressed by what he saw in Athens. He was distressed. He did not say, “Athens, at last! The home of the wonderful philosophers Plato and Parmenides.” He did not try to meld the Gospel to the thinking of Aristotle. Instead, he confronted the Athenians head-on.
The philosophers in Athens at this time were organized into two groups. The Epicureans argued that men should seek pleasure, and that the best way to do that is to live moderately. The Stoics argued that men should seek independence and self-sufficiency, and suppress their desires. Both groups were continually seeking new things, the Epicureans because of their quest for new pleasures, and the Stoics because of curiosity about nature. Thus, when Paul arrived in their midst with a strange new teaching, they rapidly brought him to the Council of the Areopagus, which supervised the religions and foreign gods in Athens. They wanted to hear about this new “manifestation of being.”
The idea of all the world being a part of God, or participating in deity, is common in New Age thinking. Perhaps this view is popular in the West because it is so democratic, all things sharing equally in divinity. Remember always the infinite gap between Creator and creation. Praise God as the single source of all being.
Taken from: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/philosophy-and-superstition/
Have you ever had an experience where you knew God was calling you to do something, but it didn't come out the way you thought it would? When you answered the call of God, you were excited and energized about the possibility of service. You couldn't wait to get where you were going or do what you needed to do. But it was so unlike what you expected. I have had that happen to me, and I would ask God, "Are you sure this is what I am supposed to be doing?"
Sometimes our heart is willing to serve God, but our circumstances cause us to draw back or limit our service. A similar situation confronted Paul on one of his missionary journeys. I want you to know that when you serve God, when you go where He sends you and do what He tells you, you never know what the results might be.
I. The perspective of service
Prior to the verses we just read, Paul received what is known as the Macedonian call. He had a vision of a man in Macedonia pleading with Paul to come and help them. Paul answered the call and he, along with Silas and Luke, undertook the journey described in today's Scripture passage. What must Paul have thought when he received such a powerful call to mission work, only to arrive in a major city like Philippi and discover there is no synagogue.
The Jewish law required ten males for a synagogue to be formed. There are not ten God-fearing Jews in the whole city. In Paul's vision there was a man calling him to Macedonia. If I were him I would be wondering, "where is that man?"
To further complicate the situation, inscribed on the arches outside the city of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing an unrecognized religion into the city. This may explain why there was a Jewish prayer meeting being held outside the city, on the riverbank.
Having been trained by the Jews to be a leader among Jews, Paul would have been well acquainted with their views of women. The rabbis were known to say, "It is better that the words of the Law be burned that be delivered to a woman."
The fact that Paul was willing to speak to these women indicates he no longer held that view. But the lack of a synagogue, no influence in the city, a prohibition against religion, and a prayer meeting at a riverbank does not seem to be the formula for a powerful revival.
So often we see things only from our perspective. There was an organization in Montana that wanted to thin out the population of wolves, so they offered $5,000 for every wolf captured alive. Two old boys, Sam and Jed, decided they could make good money trapping wolves. They searched the mountains, followed tracks, and set traps. This went on for several days, but with no results.
One night Sam woke up to find they were surrounded by wolves. Their eyes were red in the last flickering light of the campfire, their white teeth bared, glowing in the moonlight, and their back legs poised to pounce. Sam nudged Jed and said, "Wake up Jed! We're gonna be rich!" (More Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks, Youth Specialties, Grand Rapids MI, 1995, p. 176.)
What you and I may see as dangerous or hostile may be an opportunity for the kingdom of God. In the words of Esther, "Who knows but that I have come to the kingdom for such a time as this." Here is my problem: I am too quick to allow the circumstances of my life to define my level of service to God. If things get hard, I look for a way out. I look for a way to diminish my dedication to the task. If people don't respond immediately, I look for a new plan or gimmick.
If Paul had done that, he would have bailed on Phillipi. But Paul understood that service for God is always about our faithfulness to God, not the results. The reason I want to bail on bad situations is because I do not see the profitability of it. But that is faulty theology. Such an approach says that God only does what it profitable, like He is a business that only cares about the bottom line. It also means God is limited in power, so He will only use it in prime locations.
We talk about building and growing churches, as if it is something that we can do. That is something only God can do. God wants a relationship with you, and part of that relationship is commitment, dedication, and faithfulness.
You may be in a place like Paul. You look at the things around you and ask, "Am I in the right place, God? Am I doing what you want me to?" The circumstances may be overwhelming. Don't be too quick to throw in the towel. As we are about to find out, just one convert can make all the difference.
II. The pattern of service
The Macedonian call was not about huge numbers. There was only one convert at first, a woman named Lydia. But the Lord used her greatly to aid Paul. We know very little about Lydia. We know she was from Thyatira, a city known for burnished bronze and brass, and purple cloth. Lydia was a business woman who made and sold the expensive purple fabric, but she was also a worshiper of God. Since she was a Gentile, her exposure in a traditional synagogue would have been severely limited, but here at the riverbank she had found a place to belong.
As Paul speaks the Bible says that she listened and opened her heart. The Greek word here for listen indicates a continuing process. In other words Lydia had been listening to those at the riverbank and growing in her devotion to God, but that day Paul led her a little bit further down the road of intellectually understanding who God was and how He had sent Jesus.
The other night, Jack, my 3-year old son, was playing with some Legos on the living room floor. Well his tower came apart and crashed all around him. He first started trying to put the pieces together, but they were not fitting for him. Then in frustration he threw them across the room. I said, "Hey, hey, hey! We do not throw our toys. Now pick it up and bring it here. Let's see if Daddy cannot put it back together." And of course Lego blocks are not as difficult for me as they are for him.
Isn't that a picture of our relationship with our Heavenly Father? We get frustrated when things do not immediately work or go together. Then there is the Father, who is more than able and waiting on us to let Him put the pieces together. Some people come to know Christ as their savior all at once. Others need time to listen, ponder, and come back for more. But it is God putting all the pieces in their places.
Paul is in the right place, at Phillipi on a riverbank with a group of women, and Lydia is in the right place listening to Paul. But in that in that moment she believes the word she has heard. That is what it means when it says "she opened her heart to pay attention". She was taking the next step in her spiritual journey, and that step was trusting Christ as her savior. How exciting that Lydia is the first European convert to Christianity!
But Lydia didn't just open her heart, she opened her home. Given her business and the high price purple cloth could fetch, her home was probably one of the nicer ones in Thyatira. But she willingly shared what she had and demonstrated the spiritual gift of hospitality. For Paul, Silas, and Luke to refuse her offer of hospitality would mean that they did not believe she had accepted Christ as her Savior.
I am a peculiar man. I like order and certain things, certain ways. I can't sleep at night if the covers are not just right. I like things in piles that move from right to left on my desk. I like my food a certain way, my house a certain way, and my clothes a certain way. I am not a man who has a natural trait of hospitality. To bring someone in your home is to upset your order and ways. And for every person you are hospitable to the disorder increases. Lydia has the ability to be hospitable, because of the size of her home. She has the desire, for she urges them so strongly. But she also has the gifting.
Look at verse 40 of the same chapter. The missionaries end up at her house again. I really think the ministry they received in verse fifteen by staying at Lydia's house was a surprise blessing. The ministry in verse 40 is an essential necessity. After Paul and the crowd leave Lydia, they cast out a demon, and are arrested for doing so, God sends an earthquake that releases them from prison, they are used of the Lord to convert a jailer and his family, and they re-appear before the government to exercise their rights as Roman citizens. It was a busy couple of days for these men.
As they left Phillipi, They may have talked about how rough it had been, how they hurt physically, emotionally, mentally, and maybe even spiritually. Then Silas might have said, "You know what we need is a place to rest and recharge." Luke could have chimed in, "I know the perfect place. Remember how nice it was at Lydia's, how hospitable she was? Let's go there."
The word hospitality is a kin of hospital. Now we rarely put those two words together in our culture because the mental images they generate are so different. But a hospital is place away from your home that is designed to bring healing and wholeness. Hospitality is not about a vacation, but about allowing your home and your presence to bring emotional, mental, and spiritual healing to others.
I have often heard the old adage that a man's home is his castle. Unfortunately, that is how we have begun to live, in fortresses of gated communities, unlisted numbers, hoarding our privacy, and secluding ourselves away. With a 3-year-old boy, superheroes rule at our house. But these rugged individuals live in caves, labs, and places secluded from the world. We too often live like Superman, in our own fortress of solitude.
God did not design us like that. We were made for community. Don't think so? Look at who Paul and Silas encourage - the brothers. Just 25 verses ago there were no men. Where did the brothers come from? They had to come from Lydia and her evangelistic efforts. Her home was a statement of her wealth and success, and then it became a mission outpost for some traveling missionaries. Now it is a church.
The missionaries encourage the brothers at the church, but how encouraged are they because of the partnership that has occurred? Lydia is using her gifts and possessions to start the church at Phillipi. Paul is using his gifts and ability to exhort, encourage, and build the church spiritually. They are community, they are working together, each with their gifts and abilities. That is a great picture of the church.
So how are you doing at being church? Is your home a secluded fortress or a haven for hurting souls? Are you using your gifts and abilities to do what you can, where you are? Are you listening in such a way that you are taking the next steps in your own spiritual journey? Are you letting circumstances determine your devotion, or are you nurturing a heavenly perspective? Are you willing to open your heart and all that you have to be a servant for God? Lydia did. Will you?
Taken from: http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-lydia-model-service-hospitality-acts-16