A Life Lesson from the Apostle Paul
Recently, I was reflecting on a passage from the book of Acts, realizing how it is an excellent lesson in Bible geography, world missions, and life:
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas (Acts 16:6-8).
As I meditated on the passage, I wondered: how often have I seen those who enter missionary activity end up in a decidedly different ministry abroad than what they had planned? They are in good company! Such was the case in the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey.
A Route Diverted
Paul and Timothy were headed west in what is now the country of Turkey. Evangelism was their aim. As they journeyed, their intent was to turn south into Asia Minor. The Holy Spirit said no. They then decided to go north to Bithynia. Again, they were forbidden by the Lord to do so. Retreat was not an option. Thus, they continued west to Troas on the Aegean Sea. There, things began to happen.
At Troas, Paul received his Macedonian vision. He received clear direction on where to go and what to do. This, in fact, is how the gospel got to Europe!
How often God changes our well-meant plans. When we shun discouragement and instead wait patiently on God’s will for direction in our lives, he never fails us. It is humbling to consider how faithfully the Lord comes through in those situations, and how we experience great fruitfulness as a result.
A Lesson from the Apostle Paul for Today’s Believer
Have you had an experience where you arrived at a certain point in your walk with the Lord and were able to look back and see God was leading all along the way? If so, perhaps you recall a time when you tried to go in one direction, but doors were closed to you. These “closed doors” ended up leading you to the place where you finally heard God’s call. Then, you found yourself involved in what you recognized as God’s good will.
At the time you came across these obstacles that denied you access to where you had originally wanted to go, you might have been shattered or even heartbroken. Later, however, you see God’s providence in them. As you look back on these events, you see God’s Spirit was at work—steering you in the right direction, keeping you from harm or a wasted life. Thank God for his guiding providence. Divine blessings often come heavily disguised.
What a lesson this potentially frustrating episode from the life of Paul is for us—missionaries and otherwise—today! When God diverts our plans, we can trust that it is because his plan is better.