My husband recently preached a sermon based on Acts 16, which includes Paul’s “Macedonian Call”, as well as his encounters with Lydia and the Philippian jailer. Re-reading the text and reviewing my sermon notes created some pretty big take-aways for me: Pay Attention (to God’s voice), there is Blessing in the Good, as well as Blessing in the Bad, and I should Look For God Opportunities. Paul and Silas certainly could have lost hope and even blamed God for being beaten and thrown in prison, but they praised God, trusted Him with “the plan”, and as a result were there to keep the Philippian jailer from killing himself after the earthquake broke their chains. They were able to lead the jailer and his whole household to faith!
So I “framed” the take-aways in the margin with summarized notes beneath each one to help me remember how they related to the scripture. (Adding color to each frame and highlighting the supporting verses with the same color helps me see the application in the account.)
But the story of Paul and this new Philippian church doesn’t end here - it continues in his epistle to the Philippians, which is the letter which Paul wrote to them some years later.
The words shared in the sermon were an “aha” for me to realize that the opening of his letter, filled with gratitude and love for this church, was deeply connected to Paul’s initial experience recorded in Acts. So I added Philippians 1:6 to the margin in Acts - and wrote the Acts reference next to those words in Philippians 1.
It’s important to consider the context when reading Scripture, and adding contextual details in your journaling often helps with personal application. For me, I’ll remember that I need to spend time in God’s Word to really know His voice and be able to recognize His promptings in my life. I’ll learn to look for His blessings in both good and bad times, and wait confidently (with eyes open for opportunities He puts in front of me) for his blessing to be revealed during difficult situations.
And hopefully — I will be able to remember enough to look back with gratitude over my life of ups and downs, and give thanks for God’s patient leading along the way from start to finish …..because whatever God starts, He finishes!
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
- Pat Maier