Getting a framework
I have found it very helpful with young people to give a historical framework to how 'faith' in Jesus Christ spread around the world. Each young person receives a New Testament, I ask them to turn to the book of the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 16, and they follow me as I read verses 6 to 10.
As I read the text, I give 'a running commentary'. Paul (and his company of friends) is on his first missionary journey. Luke is the writer and tells us what occurred.
"Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.
Phrygia and Galatia is eastern Turkey today. This was where the great trades routes to the east intersected, and somehow they felt convicted (Holy Spirit speaking into their spirit) that they were to continue west. At this time they were instructed not to go east to India and China.
"After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them."
Mysia (western Turkey) is directly below the Black Sea, whereas Bithynia is above the Black Sea. Again the Spirit of the Lord convicted them that at this time they were not to go north into Russia.
"So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas."
Why Troas? Troas was one of the great honey pots and tourism centres of the ancient world, like our Gold Coast. The great circus' were there, it's hot baths were renown, the wealthy had holiday houses, beautiful weather, plenty of fun, play and relaxation. Paul and his friends were in need of some respite themselves.
"And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
Like us today, it is sometimes very dangerous to go on holiday knowing the Lord is with you. Relaxing and recuperating it seems is an ideal time for the Lord to challenge us, and in Paul's situation, it was a Call, through a vision (a dream), to bring the story of Jesus Christ's Salvation into Europe - for the very first time.
"Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them."
Although Paul had the vision, he took it to his companions and a joint decision was made (wisdom in consultation).
This story has one key theme – the Spirit of the Lord was guiding them into Europe. Paul keeps returning to Troas on his missionary journeys, as if to acknowledge this 'specific night' as the turning point in his Mission.
It doesn't take a genius to follow the 'time line' of history from this 'vision in Troas' from the first century (of Christian evangelism) all the way through these last two thousand years, yes, all the way to you and me today.
These young people are introduced to the idea that 'faith in Jesus Christ' is an intangible, yet it also has an historical root that can be traced back to this vision in Troas, a vision that was to bring the story of Jesus Christ into Europe, and ultimately all the way to you and me.
Statement: Faith in Jesus Christ is of the heart, and the Bible says is it also of divine revelation by the Holy Spirit.
My next Pastoral letter I shall explore this as it is central in how a relationship with the Lord Jesus can help bring calm and rejoicing.