Paul had assembled a world-class mission team: Dr. Luke, Silas, and a bright young Christian named Timothy. For a while they were missionaries without a mission field. The Holy Spirit would not allow them to preach in the Roman province of Asia or to go north to Bithynia. But one night as Paul slept God gave him a dream of a Macedonian man begging for help. Paul took that to mean that God was leading them westward to Macedonia, to preach the gospel for the first time on the European continent!
When Paul said, “Macedonia,” Paul and his team got there as quickly as possible, taking the most direct route and arriving in the city of Philippi. Paul would normally have gone first to the Jewish synagogue in a new city, but evidently there was not one there — all they found was a group of God-seeking women who met by the river for prayer.
Paul preached the gospel to the little group and one of them, a woman named Lydia, became the first European to open her heart to Jesus…and then her whole household was saved! Lydia was seeking God, she was open to the gospel, she was receptive to the gospel, and then (v.15) she invested in the gospel. Through Lydia, God provided Paul and his team a place to stay — no doubt this included food and supplies, a place for the new believers to meet (a church), and a home base for the mission. What a blessing! Where God guides, God provides. Wherever He leads you, He will not leave you hanging; He will provide the resources and relationships you need to serve.
As the mission team began to reach out from that riverbank and build on Lydia’s Sunday School class, they began to be harassed by a poor, demon-possessed girl who had demonically-empowered psychic abilities and was being exploited by wicked men. Paul used this setback as an opportunity to minister to the girl, freeing her from the demons in the name of Jesus. This enraged her “owners” (v.19), who had Paul and Silas arrested, stripped, beaten with rods, and jailed.
Verse 25 describes a strange scene: two men, bloody and bruised, in the worst part of the prison, having a sing-along at midnight, a prayer meeting in the dark. But as they began to worship, God began to move. An earthquake shook open all the prison cells and shook off all the prisoners’ chains! God turned a horrible situation into an opportunity to share the gospel, and the result was that the jailer and his entire family were saved!
Think of all the situations God arranged just to get the gospel to the jailer and his family: He led Paul to switch continents (!), He allowed the missionaries to suffer, and He caused an earthquake…now that’s love. And God loves you like that, too!