“Paul and his companions traveled 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.” Acts 16:6-9
The new work of spreading the gospel was moving forward. Paul, the missionary with a call to the Gentiles, was traveling, preaching and teaching as the good news spread to new cities and towns. It was an exciting and challenging time in the early history of the church.
In this passage from Acts, Luke writes that Paul and his team were pursuing guidance from the Lord as to where they were to go next. Full of passion and commitment to go and make disciples, they were eager to move forward and reach more people.
Then we reach this fascinating passage. Paul and his companions were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the Word in the province of Asia.” I wonder how the Holy Spirit spoke this direction to the apostles.
They must have encountered closed doors of some kind. Even clearer, they must have felt that there was no peace or rest in going to Asia. The Holy Spirit made it clear to them that Asia was not their next step in their missionary efforts. There is a powerful lesson here.
One of the greatest tasks of the Holy Spirit is to guide us. He guides us into all truth (John 16), and He guides us in our efforts to do His work in the earth. This is critical for us to grasp as we seek to bear fruit in the kingdom.
Jesus told us how he went about His work. Here are His words. “So Jesus explained, I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing.” John 5:19-20
This is one of the amazing works of the Holy Spirit. He shows us everything the Father is doing. Conversely, He will show us what the Father is not doing. This is what Paul and Luke discovered. He showed them that the Father was not calling them to Asia.
Next they tried to enter Bithynia, “but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them.” The Spirit was actively, dynamically guiding them in their work. How exciting to know that the Spirit so present and eager to help us discern the Father’s perfect plans!
Then Paul has a dream: another dynamic message of guidance from the Holy Spirit. He sees a man from Macedonia “standing and begging, saying ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
How clear the Holy Spirit speaks! No doubt there was someone in Macedonia praying for help in their gospel work. The Holy Spirit actively guided and encouraged these early missionaries to go where the Father had specific work for them to do. And the gospel spread with great fruit.
What can we learn from today’s passage? Trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Take time to listen to His voice. Wait on His clear direction as you do God’s work. Pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to be present and active in guiding you.
I find this aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work so comforting and joyful. I don’t have to know everything. I don’t have to figure out every detail. He knows what the Father wants me to do next.
My job is to worship, pray, seek and ask. The Holy Spirit’s job is to guide me. The life of Jesus will bring the fruit. So come Holy Spirit. Show us what the Father is doing.
Sounds like a great plan to me!