“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.
“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (NLT)
Paul didn’t normally preach like this. He didn’t begin with Jesus or explain the Old Testament as he did on other occasions. Paul was a wise communicator who knew his audience. This particular audience were a crowd of cultured Athenians who worshipped many gods.
And so Paul tailored his approach to them, though the substance of his message was just like his other messages. Jesus is the way back to the one true God. But getting to that point meant choosing a different path along the way.
A reminder to us that if we share our faith, we won’t adopt some pre-packaged formula we read in some bestseller. We won’t slavishly imitate someone else’s methods. In fact our methods will vary according to the situation.
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We are always tempted to universalise a particular method, whether it be in faith sharing, praying for healing, or encouraging closeness to God. We may do so out of laziness, but also because we assume that our own experience of change or blessing will be the same for everyone. Just because God did a certain thing at a certain time in a certain way in your life doesn’t mean he will do likewise in another’s life.
Our fundamental message may always be the same. The method by which we convey it will usually vary.