The first evangelistic journey of Paul and Barnabas was recorded by Luke, "the beloved physician," in the 13th and 14th chapters of the book of Acts. The Holy Spirit sent Paul and Barnabas out from Antioch of Syria to what is now known as south-central Turkey (Acts 13:1-3).
Sailing from Selucia they journeyed to the isle of Cyprus where they preached to the Jews in the Synagogue (Acts 13:4-12), and then to a Roman Proconsul, Sergius Paulus. It was also here that Elymas the sorcerer was struck blind.
At Antioch of Pisidia they preached first to the Jews in the synagogue and then to the Gentiles in the city, and "the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region" (Acts 13:49). At Iconium, they again preached to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 14:1-7).
At Lystra the apostles were mistaken for gods and the people of the city attempted to worship them (Acts 14:8-18). Jews from Antioch tried to kill Paul (Acts 14:19), and then Paul and Barnabas departed for Derbe (Acts 14:20). After preaching in Derbe, "they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.'" (Acts 14:21-22). Elders were appointed at various congregations along the way (Acts 14:23).
Luke then records: "And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. And when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." (Acts 14:24-27). The phrase, "opened the door of faith," is interesting. "God had furnished an opportunity of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, and the preaching had met with success beyond any heretofore made in conversion of the Gentiles. 'Open doors' -- a characteristic expression of Paul -- speaks of abundant opportunities and great progress." (Gareth Reese, New Testament History, A Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 524).
Paul uses phrases similar to "the door of faith" in other passages: "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord..." (2 Cor. 2:12). "For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries" (1 Cor. 16:9). "...praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ..." (Col. 4:3). In similar tones, Paul asked the brethren at Thessalonica to "pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, just as it is with you..." (2 Thes. 3:1).
Paul looked for opportunities to preach the gospel wherever he went -- what can we learn from his example in preaching the Word?
Paul not only used every opportunity he had (Phil. 1:12-14; 4:23), but he continued to pray for further opportunities (Col. 4:3; 2 Thes. 3:1).
In public prayer, brethren sometimes ask the Lord to "wear us out in Thy service." The truth of the matter is that if they would get themselves ready to be used, the Lord would do His part. The problem is, people often pray for things they don't want.
Every accountable being will give account of the opportunities they have squandered in living here below (Matt. 25:14-30).
For decades in this country brethren prayed for the opportunity to preach the gospel behind the Iron Curtain. We got what we prayed for when the Berlin Wall was torn down. However, many of those who prayed for the opportunity to preach in Europe now refuse to support those who journey to the former Communist countries. The opportunity was short-lived in some respects -- the door has begun to shut in some areas due to changing political situations.
I am happy to report that the brethren here in Zion have supported several men as they have preached in the former Soviet Bloc nations, as well as those preaching on the continent of Africa.
After his success in preaching to the Ethiopian nobleman on the road to Gaza, Phillip "was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea." (Acts 8:40).
After preaching to those in Thessalonica and the noble Bereans, Paul went to Athens and "his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols" (Acts 17:16), and while there in Athens he preached one of the most memorable sermons recorded in the Bible.
We can not rest upon our past accomplishments in the kingdom of Christ (Phil. 3:13-14). Whatever you have accomplished in the past for the kingdom of heaven must not lull you into complacency.
Our age has given us opportunities unheard of in prior generations. Printing presses and moveable type have only been available for a little over 500 years, since the days of Guttenberg. During this century churches have had the opportunity to preach the gospel by means of bulletins and tracts. Unfortunately, the quality of some of the material printed by our brethren does not do justice to the message we present! We have the greatest message in the world, but some want to print it on recycled Kleenex just to save a few pennies. The church here in Zion prints most of our own tracts, class books, and brochures.
We also have the opportunity to use the Internet in taking the gospel to the world. Many Christians are new to computers and have just recently got connected to the Internet so they can receive E-mail (I've had an E-mail account since 1982 and I'm glad you caught up!).
For over four years this congregation has had a Web site available on the Internet and every week people throughout the world visit that site. We average well over 45,000 visitors per month -- the majority are from the United States, but about 12% come from foreign countries, including Mexico, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Russia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece and over 30 other countries.
On the Web site they can read all of our bulletin articles, download and print the same class books we use here and view photographs from many of the cities of the Bible world. You can take a "virtual tour" of the cities of Jerusalem, Caesarea Philippi, Caesarea Maritima, Capernaum and Smyrna. We have received numerous letters from Christians in other countries who download our class books for use in their Bible study groups.
On a personal note, maintaining the Web site takes a great deal of my time -- not only in the initial design of the site, but in my continuing education in graphic design and computer technology. I want to thank the brethren in Zion for supporting me in this work and for not asking me to "leave the word of God and serve tables" (Acts 6:2).
The way technology changes this "door of opportunity" might not be the same in a few years -- so let's use it while we can.
Are you using every opportunity the Lord has given you? Do you continue to look for further opportunities to spread the Word? Have you used the opportunity you have to become one of God's children?