They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite 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. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Last week we talked about the role of the Spirit in worship and how if you make worship about you instead of God that grieves the Spirit. We also talked about how worship is a lifestyle, you bring it everyday and give it up everyday. If you are going to bring it, you need to find it, and today that’s what we are talking about how the Spirit directs us and sometimes we have to wait on that direction. So let’s get started.
As usual lets set this in historical and Biblical context. Acts is actually Part of the Gospel of Luke. it is the continuation of the story Luke started in the Gospel. Luke writes in both of them to Theophilus.
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
In the salutation from The Gospel we see that Theophilus (which means lover of God by the way) is addressed as most excellent. This may indicate that Theophilus was a Roman authority figure of some kind. Maybe someone who commissioned the writing of these two books. The again Theophilus could mean any one that is a lover of God. Additionally, it is tradition that says Luke wrote both these books. neither of the books contain the author’s name, although it is obviously the same author.
Luke ends Acts with Paul’s captivity in Rome which is about 60AD, before the destruction of the temple. Lukes audience, of course Theophilus, but it is a history of the formation of the church after Jesus ascension to Paul’s time in Rome. The Holy Spirit, or Jesus Spirit as it calls it here at one point, is interceding in history and enabling the apostles to establish Jesus’ church here on earth, from Jerusalem to Rome.
So the text we are dealing with today features the Holy Spirit opening and closing doors and Paul’s traveling companions trying to figure our what God wants them to do. What we have here is a story that relates to us how a Christian disciple must patiently await God’s instructions.
Have we ever been dealing with this at McEver! We voted sometime ago to move and it seems that doors have closed rather than opened. We have started the process of forming a co-op which has stalled out. Does this mean that we are not on the right track? Why are we having to wait like this? How long o’ Lord!
Well, let’s see what we can discover in this text because Paul is having the same problem. Bottom line is everywhere they went the Spirit said Nope! The door was closed. They were directed to Troas by closing doors. You can see here how their trip kind of wound around, yet the Spirit of Jesus, as look writes, keeps directing them.
Troas was the gateway to the Western part of the Empire from Asia. it was here, from the very place Paul had to be to go to Macedonia, that he received the vision of the Macedonian man pleading with “Paul to come over and help them.” What kind of help we do not know.
Now, it appears after the vision that Paul and his companions, which now includes look, notice the “we” in verse 10, must have discussed this, and decided to go to Macedonia as quick as possible. There would have been a period of waiting to go to Macedonia as well. There was no such thing as a passenger ship. You sailed on merchant vessels, you had to bring your own provisions and prepare your own food. You lived on deck and prepared food after the crew fixed theirs. You never knew when you were going to leave, it was up to the captain of the boat and you never knew exactly when you would arrive. So they didn't just go down and buy tickets for a passenger ship going to Macedonia. There was a “boat load’’ of preperation to be done, plus you never knew exactly when you were leaving. You had to be ready on a moments notice to leave! Most likely they had some time to think about this and it seemed to make them even more certain this was God’s doing.
But in all of this there was a lot of waiting. A lot of, “What’s goin on here?” A lot of “What is God directing us to do? For Luke’s readers this would have reassured them, that when they were having trouble discerning God’s will, that God will disclose his will at the right time. God’s time is Kairos not chronos.
Also you can be sure when they had decided on a direction and it didn't happen or it took a long time, their was some second guessing. Well, is this what I should do? Did we do the right thing?
And if they were absolutely certain they were in God’s will, then what do we do during this time?
This are all questions that are still relevant today, especially where we are as a community. I am certain that moving and building and merging is in God’s will. Why am I so certain. Because the community, our community, has been in the majority for it. We got together and talked about it just like Paul, Luke, Silas and Timothy did that day on Troas. They could see the path, they all discerned it was the correct one. And it was! The gospel came to Europe because they were not afraid to risk it all for the sake of the gospel.
They were able to go where God wanted because they had a submissive Spirit. They were willing to be led by God wherever that may be. They were able to discern in community of Paul’s vision was correct. Was this really where God wants us to go, or did I just have indigestion from strange food?
On commentator noted that the missionary journeys of Paul revealed an extraordinary combination of strategic planning and sensitivity to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul was a visionary, he planned ahead, and developed strategies for reaching the lost and spreading the gospel. The decision we have made is strategic and planned to spread the gospel, to reach the lost, to build the kingdom in Hall county!
We might not have received a direct vision from God, but a totally unanimous decision in any church no less miraculous. Maybe some people chose to stay at home that Sunday, and maybe that was God closing those doors? How ever you want to paint that day, it was nothing short of miraculous for those that we’re there. Those that decided to stay home, they missed a powerful experience of Christian unity. That kind of unity only occurs through the “spirit of Jesus.”
So when trying to discern what the Holy Spirit is doing, remember your community, talk with those in the community about where god is leading, pray, decide, and do it. Everything that is done for God involves risk, because God wants us to be who he knows we are, and that involves risk. There is not growth wihotut risk. if you think God is directing you somewhere and there is no risk involved, I would think hard about whether God is really i it or not.
Also, I think often God leaves the decision totally to us and bless what we decide to do.
But, waiting is usually part of it. So what do we do while we’re waiting? (Explain list and how it came about)
The bells gonna ring, and it will be time to get on with the moving, merging, and building work God has planned for us. But in the meantime, we have Kingdom work to do.