Officer Scott Patrick of the Sarasota, Florida Police Department was walking into the department headquarters to turn in some paperwork when a car stopped in the middle of the road and honked at him. Figuring the driver needed help, he walked over to see what he could do. As he walked over, the driver jumped out of the vehicle and said, “Thank you officer, may I give you a hug?” Patrick was taken aback, but then said yes. The man hugged him and said “Thank you again. Get home safely to your family.” Then the man jumped into his car and drove off. Officer Patrick noted that he saw someone who might need help and tried to respond. Only afterwards did he note that the hugger was black while he was white, and this happened in the midst of some of the tensions between the black community and the police.
Unexpected encouraging words and actions are the best surprises of all. Officer Patrick shared the story to remind people that skin color doesn’t define the quality of any person, the size of the heart does. After feeling rejected by so many because of the color of his uniform, this story gave him smiles he could share with others. Paul was rejected quite a bit. Paul’s normal stay in a town was less than a month, according to my calculations. He arrived. He preached in the synagogue. People believed, but the leaders of the synagogue got jealous and kicked him out of the synagogue. He went to the Gentiles and was having success, whereupon the Jews would conspire with the political leaders and run Paul out of town. Then, he got a reprieve from God. “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’” (Acts 18:9-10)
It’s important to remember that Paul was under God’s protection throughout his travels. He was stoned and left for dead but God kept him alive. He was beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked, but God kept him alive. God’s protection at Corinth gave Paul a chance to stay and help develop the church at Corinth. He stayed there a year and a half teaching the word of God to the people, and strengthening the church. When leaders of the synagogue tried to get the political authorities to crack down on Paul, they were rebuffed. So Paul was able to preach without troubles. He helped build up the church in an amazing way. It might be argued that Paul’s presence didn’t help much because the church at Corinth had all kinds of trouble. On the other hand, they may have had so many troubles because there were so many who had followed Christ under Paul’s preaching there. Without having a Bible to guide, nor mature Christians, it was easy to fall into heresy.
The key to understanding this story is realizing that Paul lived his life being sensitive to the leading of God’s Spirit. It was God’s Spirit that had led Paul to cross the sea to Europe. It was God’s spirit that eventually led Paul to Corinth. The Holy Spirit doesn’t lead everybody to do the same thing. He gives each of us different gifts. He leads us in different ways. He does all of that with one purpose in mind: He wants to encourage the spread of the gospel. How is God speaking to you today? Better yet, if He spoke to you, would you hear Him? Some would say that it’s crazy to believe this, but God still speaks to us today. Too many don’t hear Him because they don’t expect Him to speak. Make today a day that you listen for God to speak and expect to hear from Him. It will change your life!
How often do I let You know what I want in prayer, Lord, and not even take a few minutes to listen for Your direction? Help me to be attentive to Your leading, and obey Your direction in my life.