PRAYING FOR CHURCH PLANTING THROUGH THE BOOK OF ACTS
From the very beginning Paul's ministry has been led by God through the Spirit. Today's section opens up by saying that "Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem" (19:21; emphasis added). He would later tell the Ephesian elders that he was "constrained by the Spirit" (20:22). The Holy Spirit was active in the ministry of the local church in many ways, and this direct leading of Paul was one of them. This is important for Paul and for us. Luke records two occasions where Paul experienced direct opposition: once from the Jews (19:8-10) and once from the non-believing Gentiles (19:23-41). Opposition will come from the religious and non-religious alike. The Lord knows our hearts. And that means he knows we are tempted to second guess ourselves in difficult circumstances. We need to know that he is with us and lead us to this place. So that is why we pray (as we have so many times the past thirty-five days) for continued leading from the Holy Spirit.
This section of Acts 19 records the opposition that Paul experienced from a man named Demetrius. We're told he was "a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis" (19:24). This was a source of tremendous income for him. Luke records a conversation he had with his fellow tradesman: "Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth...and there is danger...that this trade of ours may come into disrepute" (19:25, 27). He also says that Paul's preaching of the gospel has disrupted the worship of Artemis. She was a fertility goddess in the Greco-Roman mythology. Her temple was built in Ephesus and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It drew tens of thousands of worshippers who would buy the trades created by these craftsman for their worship and devotion. It is good for the gospel to disrupt ungodly trades in our cities. Houston is one of the largest centers for human trafficking and boasts the largest Planned Parenthood. So we pray that God would use our church to disrupt the ungodly trades in our neighborhood.
This speech by Demetrius would incite a riot that carried Paul and his companions into the local theater (19:28-29). There was confusion (19:30) and yelling (19:34) for nearly two hours. Finally one of the local leaders quieted the crowd and warned them not to continue. He feared that the Roman military would fear a riot and come in to "put it down". The town clerk was able to dismiss the riot while also validating Paul's ministry. Christianity was not viewed as a menace to be eradicated. It upheld the virtues of a just, fair, and orderly society. Once again we see the church being granted favor with the local government. So we pray again that God would give us favor with local leaders, especially in the face of any potential opposition.