But That’s Not Who I Expected! Acts 16:11-15

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.

In our last post from the book of Acts we saw how Paul was on the move for Jesus, but, initially at least, he was heading off in the wrong direction. Why that was a good thing is what we discussed in Paul–Heading Off in the Wrong Direction–Acts 16:6-10.

In today’s post we’ll see how Paul encounters someone he may not have expected to encounter. And we’ll look at how he handled his violated expectations.

The Unexpected Class President

Imagine with me for a moment you’re back in high school, or maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe you’re in high school right now. But also, imagine it’s election time. Time to vote for who you think should be the next student government president. You’re mulling over your choices: Who should I vote for? The quarterback of the football team? The cheerleader? The leading scorer on the basketball team?

When I was in high school, in Wauconda, Illinois, there was a boy named Carl Shook in my class who had some type of debilitating disease that left him crippled. It also effected his ability to speak. Being the mush for brains high schoolers that we were, we loved to tease Carl about his body, his speech, and anything else we could think of. Carl was an easy target. In October, a month before elections would be held for Student Council government, I got the brilliant idea that it would be hilarious if I talked Carl into running for Class President. What a great joke on Carl, and on the Student Council system, if a cripple who had trouble speaking, were to run. Of course he could never win, but at least he’d campaign and the thought of Carl campaigning struck me as funny.

Carl, whose mind was not effected by his disease, and who was actually very intelligent, loved the idea of running for office. So I became his campaign manager and we filled out the proper paper work to get him on the ballot.

As I spent time with Carl I got to know him better and better. And as I got to know him, as I recruited others to help in his campaign, as I designed and created Carl’s campaign posters, something interesting began to happen. Carl’s desire, not just to run, but to win and serve as Class President, became my desire also.

God’s hand was on that election, because, amazingly, Carl won!

Nobody — and I mean nobody — expected Carl Shook would become their class president.

I imagine there were more than a few people who were disappointed.

“What happened?”

“Where’s the quarterback I voted for?”

“Where’s the cheerleader my friends voted for?”

“Who is this guy anyway?”

Acts 16:11-15

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 16:11-15

In our last post, we saw how Paul was heading to Asia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Then Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia urging him to go and help the Macedonian people. So Paul immediately sought to go into Macedonia, concluding God had called them to preach the Gospel there.

So they journeyed to Philippi, a leading city of Macedonia and a Roman colony. But here’s the thing about Philippi: most scholars believe there was no synagogue in Philippi, probably because at least ten Jewish men were required to establish a synagogue. Apparently Philippi had less than ten.

Someone in Paul’s situation might have thought (indeed Paul and his company might have thought), “Why is there no synagogue in this place? What do we do now? What about our normal play? We go into the synagogue and share Jesus there, that’s what we do.”

Whatever Paul thought, we see that he’s flexible enough to pivot. Paul hears about this place of prayer where Jews gather on the Sabbath. So when the Sabbath day comes, he and Luke, and the rest of his company head over to this location where Jews gather to pray. It was a place outside the city gate near the river. And when they arrive there, do they find a Macedonian man?


Who do they find?

A group of women.

So what does Paul do? Does he turn around because he didn’t find any Macedonian men?


Instead, Paul shares Jesus with the group.

Not Who We Expected

So here’s the thing about the unexpected class president of Wauconda high school. For Carl, the position of class president wasn’t a popularity contest. It turned out that he was serious about the position. It wasn’t long before it became apparent to everyone Carl Shook was one of the best class presidents Wauconda high school ever had.

Which brings us to Lydia. Among the group of women Paul shared with that day was this one woman in particular. Her name was Lydia, a seller of purple goods, and a worshiper of God. A woman with a beautiful spirit. And God opened her heart to receive what Paul was saying. She was baptized and so was her household. Afterwards she urged Paul and his friends to stay in her house. And they accepted.

Lydia turned out to be amazing. The very first convert in Europe, she was a true worshiper of God who desired to bless other Jesus followers.

I’m so glad Paul didn’t let (what might have been) his own expectations get in the way of what God wanted to do. When he came to a place without a synagogue he didn’t pass on through. When he found a group of women instead of Macedonian men, he shared Jesus anyway.

Sometimes we might want to share the gospel with the cool kids. Or maybe we want to share Jesus with adults and we don’t give much thought to sharing with children. Or maybe we want to share Christ with young people and we don’t care to share with the elderly.

But that’s not what we see here from Paul.

I love Paul’s example.

He shared Jesus with whoever God put in front of him.

Lord make me a man who does the same.


Image of Women’s Bible Study via UN Women Asia and the Pacific on Flickr — Creative Commons

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One Comment on “But That’s Not Who I Expected! Acts 16:11-15

  1. Pingback: Is the Unseen Real: Acts 16:16-18 | God Running

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