The Christian walk is a walk of faith. And so is the process of sharing our faith. For there are times in the providence of God when doors of opportunity open and times when doors that were once open seem to close.
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” For “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11)
As we journey through life, people will enter our lives along with opportunities to sow and water gospel seeds. And sometimes those same doors that once were open now close, windows of opportunity fade and a season of sowing and watering ends. Have you been there?
I certainly have!
And what ought our response be to such circumstances? Move on!
But isn’t that difficult and sometimes painful? In my life with various people through the years, I invested time, energy, prayer. There were times of demonstrating God’s love and other times I had the opportunity to proclaim the wonders of His love found in the gospel.
And then that person exits my life. It may be they move away. It may be they no longer want to hang out with the ‘Jesus freak’ – was I really that overbearing or forthright [my thoughts, not theirs]? It could be a natural or an abrupt conclusion. In any case, they are removed from my life and I’m left to simply move on.
Have you been there?
I certainly have!
As we continue our study in the book of Acts, we turn our attention to the Apostle Paul, examining the circumstances surrounding his ‘moving on’ in Acts 17. And though the circumstances surrounding his ‘moving on’ are unique and most likely different from ours, perhaps there are some principles we can draw from his experience that can inform and encourage our witness.
While Paul and Silas continue ministry during Paul’s 2nd missionary journey, their travels take them to Thessalonica, where Paul taught for 3 weeks. While there, the ministry was fruitful:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:1-4)
So far, so good! The fruit of salvation blooming! But no so fast. You see, this blooming would bring forth brewing – namely the brewing of trouble. There was a group of Jewish people who opposed the gospel in Thessalonica. And there opposition becomes violent:
But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. (Acts 17:5-9)
The security was a pledge or bond which would be forfeited by Jason if Paul and his companions continued to share the gospel, which was trouble-making in the eyes of the authorities. Claiming another king but Caesar was a serious crime. The security granted safety for Jason and others, under the condition Paul and friends would cease and desist their activity.
Though the church at Thessalonica is born, Paul, Timothy, and Silas leave town immediately and go to Berea, a town 50 miles west of Thessalonica. When they arrive they continue in ministry – again seeing fruit. And once again, the rabble-rousers follow them all the way from Thessalonica. This time, however, it’s only Paul who leaves town. Silas and Timothy remain, but only briefly, as Paul would command they join him in Athens.
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed. (Acts 17:10-15)
In the case of Paul, Silas and Timothy, the time to move on was quite clear. And although they left, the Spirit of God remained, as did those people filled with the Spirit – those who believed through their ministry.
In our lives moving on generally won’t involve such hostile circumstances. Yet, there are times people with whom we have a gospel witness will exit our lives. And there are times the Lord may call us to stop ministering to someone in our life.
I’ve noticed in my own Christian journey it’s easier for me to discern when someone has exited my life and testimony. This tends to be fairly natural. However, I find it more difficult to know when to ‘cut someone loose,’ so to speak. How about you?
There are no cut and dried answers in this instance. For we walk by faith and must trust and follow the Lord’s leading in all areas, including this area of moving on.
As we follow the Lord, may He give each one us greater wisdom and discernment as people come into our lives and when the Lord calls us to move on. And may we praise and thank God for the time He does give us to sow and water gospel seeds into the lives of people – until that time they may exit our lives.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)