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Guided By The Holy Spirit

Acts 16:6-10
Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (NIVUK)

Paul, Silas, Timothy and some others travelled from city to city preaching Christ Jesus - the crucified yet risen Saviour of the world. How did they know where to go? The Holy Spirit allowed them to go to obvious places when that was right, and prevented them from journeys that were not in God's will. How did the Holy Spirit guide them? We do not know but we can only assume it was a combination of God's Word with divinely arranged external circumstances, internally discerned choices and sensitive consciences.

Paul's focus had been on what is now Turkey. The area was full of vibrant trading routes from China to the Aegean Sea ports with bustling market towns and fortified outposts of the Roman Empire. Paul had certainly encountered opposition but had also seen real conversions and the formation of new churches (Acts 14:21-26). It seemed to be full of gospel potential and Paul wanted to travel its length and breadth. But the Holy Spirit would not allow them the liberty to do so.

Instead, the Lord kept nudging them north west until they reached the seaport of Alexandria Troas, which faced the port of Neapolis in Greece, although there were many rocky islands in the way. It may be that the apostolic team did not understand what the Lord wanted them to do, until Paul had a vision that night. A Greek man in Macedonia was standing with hands extended, begging Paul to come and bring the gospel to his country. Early the next morning, the confusion of the previous weeks cleared away like mist in sunshine: the team, now including Luke, knew that God was calling them to take the gospel to Greece.

Some of the most difficult times for passionate believers are times of uncertainty and waiting (Psalm 27:14). Frustrated by not being able to serve in what seems a sensible and logical direction, it is easy to stop listening to the Lord and do what we think is right without listening to the Lord's wisdom and crashing against His strategically placed obstacles. It is not wrong to try an idea or to 'push a door'; but do not bulldoze ahead without the Lord's clear leading. Although believers need to be inflexible on the truth of Scripture, they must be fully flexible and willing to serve the Lord wherever and however He chooses. After all: it is His gospel to grow His kingdom, in His way, and at His time. The gospel is not our tool for self-satisfaction; it is His tool to save many people. So, if you are 'stuck' at the moment, try various possibilities but let the Lord decide how and where you are best used (Lamentations 3:26).

Father God. Thank You that Your plans are best. Forgive me for pushing against Your 'no entry' signs and failing to wait prayerfully for the next step in the journey. Please help me to be sensitive to the way in which Your Spirit is guiding me through Your Word, circumstances and a sharpened conscience so that I may fulfil the role You have chosen for me in Your kingdom. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams