Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.” Acts 17:22
Paul’s speech to the Athenians is often quoted, yet it’s not his most successful, if we measure success by the response, “A few men became followers of Paul and believed” (verse 34). Compared to Pisidian for example, where we read, “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region” (13:49).
Paul was having a rough time. He was asked to leave Philippi after being whipped and spending a night in prison. In Thessalonica, the Jews were jealous and started a riot so Paul moved on. But these Jews followed him to Berea, again agitating the crowds (17:13). So Paul moves on and finds himself alone in Athens (verse 16). Paul doesn’t appear to plant a church at Athens and we have no letter to the Athenians. Paul was supposed to wait for the arrival of Silas and Timothy but he leaves before they get there (verse 15). He eventually meets them in Corinth (18:5). Paul had a clear call of God to Macedonia (16:9) yet was treated badly. We tend to expect if God calls us to something it will go well but this isn’t always the case.
Shortly afterwards the Lord encouraged Paul, “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” (18:9-10). Paul stays in Corinth for some time. A significant church is established and we still have the letters he wrote to them.
When things get rough, we may need to take a break, but with God’s enabling we regroup and press on.