Expect the Unexpected
“If there’s a word I would want every church to grow in, it’s this idea of expectancy. And it just means, more and more of what can only be explained by God. And to have expectancy we just need to be awake and available.”
Have you ever had an experience that you know could only have been the work of God? Maybe, someone prayed over you and released a word that freed you from the pain you had been going through. Maybe, it was an unexpected job that came to you when you hadn’t even applied for new opportunities? Or maybe, it was just an overwhelming peace that settled on you for no apparent reason.
Why does God move in unexpected people, places, and ways? Why can’t we just encounter him when we are comfortable and ready? Why is He so mysterious? Is He hiding from us or is He hiding something for us?
On Sunday, Pastor Todd Proctor took us on a journey through Acts 16 of the bible to show us instances where the Holy Spirit showed up in beautifully, unpredictable situations to fill and empower people for the Kingdom.
The best part: Pastor Proctor made clear that this isn’t just the story of Acts. That God wants to “continue to write Acts through us” and that all we have to do is be awake and available for Him to do so.
The first instance in the bible that Pastor Proctor took us through was in Acts 16: 6 when Paul was on his second missionary journey.
Acts 16: 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
As they get clarity on their journey, Paul’s mission moves. Through the Holy Spirit, God directed Paul and his team once they were in motion. “God doesn’t steer parked cars,” Pastor Proctor reminded.
So many of us are so scared of making the wrong choice that we paralyze ourselves from making any choice at all. Rather than stay stuck, Paul and his team moved with an attentiveness to the Spirit and let the Spirit guide them wherever God was leading. Paul and Silas had to have the courage to step out in faith before they could discern the move of God. And once they stepped out, He directed every step.
Paul and his team end up in a town called Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia where they stayed several days.
Acts 16:13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Here we have an unexpected person in an unexpected place in an unexpected way helping to establish the church by offering her house as the base of operations. Lydia is a gentile but God-fearing gentile. She is a prominent, female, businesses woman- an unexpected person to set up church, especially at that time.
Yet, she invites them into her house. The unexpected place that they meet her is at a river rather than an officially religious place like a synagogue. And lastly, the entire encounter happens in an unexpected way, through a conversation by the river.
It's important to note that God opened Lydia’s heart. It wasn’t Paul and Silas. When we listen and obey God, he breaks down barriers that are in front of us without us even realizing!
As Paul and his team journey on, they encounter a female slave who can predict the future.
Acts 16: 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
Once again, Paul and Silas are on their way and the Holy Spirit moves. They are called out by an unexpected person- a young, demon possessed woman while on route (an unexpected place). She finds salvation in an unexpected way by being delivered by Paul even when Paul's acting out of annoyance rather than true compassion.
However, because the girl can no longer tell the future and be used for profit, the slave girl’s owners seize Paul and Silas and drag them into the marketplace to face the authorities claiming that the “Jews are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept our practice.”
Paul and Silas were flogged and put into prison where the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully, putting them in the inner cell and fastening their feet in the stocks. But God was faithful once again.
Acts 16: 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
The jailer is in deep trouble and needs help. Paul and Sila don’t know what he needs. But they know who he needs: Jesus.
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Paul and Silas have expanded the church with another unexpected person (the jailer), in an unexpected way (through an Earthquake) and at an unexpected place (the jailer’s house).
“God wants to take the credit through people it wouldn’t make sense a part from him,” Pastor Proctor reminded.
God has called you into His story to showcase an expectancy around the Holy Spirit.
The steps we take today are our unique mission. Have you opened up yourself to letting God guide you? To listening and obeying? To the wild adventure He has in store for you?
You carry the same Holy Spirit in you that Paul and Sila did. The same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead.
It’s time to expect the unexpected.