While I’m one of those that believe every moment of history is important---even some of the most mundane everyday moments---there are those events that can be placed in the monumental category. Moments like the landing of the first Europeans in America during the late 1400s and early 1500s, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, or the events of September 11th. Other monumental events include Moses being given the Ten Commandments, David’s little altercation with Goliath, and the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The other morning at church our focus text was Acts 16: 6-10 which states: [Paul and his companions] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. During the night a vision appeared to Paul: a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
At first glance it would appear this passage is merely transition from one location to another….a simple list of places Paul and his companions went on their way to Macedonia during his second missionary journey.
It is much more than that. These simple verses signify the first time the gospel will enter Europe, and I’m sure you would agree it is a very monumental event. These verses also provide insight into Paul’s character, his relationship to the Lord, and a lesson for us to apply to our own lives.
First of all the geography begs for explanation. Take a look at the map I’ve placed with this post. Note that the Bible states Paul was prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in the province of Asia. Think of Asia today and thoughts of India, Vietnam, Korea, and China come to mind, however, during the time of the Roman Empire the province of Asia was not the Asian continent we know of today. The Roman province of Asia is present day Turkey. The map I present here is Turkey as it would have appeared during Paul’s life.
Notice the Bible text states the group traveled across Galatia and Phrygia and then north to Bithynia along the Black Sea. Having tried several directions Paul and his companions finally go another way. They traveled west to the seaport town of Troas. During Paul’s time Troas was a major seaport along the Aegean Sea and was the crossing point for those who wanted to travel across to Macedonia and then follow the land route into Rome.
Paul tried several different locations to spread the Gospel, and according to the text he was not allowed to share his message in the province of Asia. He was stopped by the Holy Spirit, the part of the Godhead that reveals the mind of God to mankind (I Peter 1: 10-12). The Holy Spirit lives within followers of Christ. It is God’s of way of revealing his heart to us. The text at I Corinthians 2: 7-13 explains God’s revelations are given without error and inspire us.
The Bible text does not explain why the doors were closed to Paul in Asia, but they were. I find it interesting that Paul kept trying. He traveled to several places in the province of Asia before reaching Troas. Knowing what I already do about Paul it would make sense that he prayed to and worshipped the Lord along the way. He might have been agitated, exasperated, and at times he might have even felt like he should just go home, but he didn’t.
Isn’t that the way we feel sometimes when we are attempting something new? Route after route to our goal is blocked, doors are closed, equipment breaks down, co-workers don’t do their share…..the list is endless. Today we live in a society where we are constantly told nothing is impossible. We are making huge strides in technology that will have tremendous impact on society in the coming years.As an educator I am to constantly tell students they are the best, they can succeed, and there is nothing that can keep them from their goals.
The thing is no matter how many self-help podcasts you view, blogs you read, or books you buy doors will be closed in your face. Like Paul, the Holy Spirit will prevent you from taking a particular route. What must be remembered is in the overall scheme of things it isn’t about me or you…..it’s about God and his plan. Sometimes our purpose and intent is not in alignment with the will of God, and we will be told no just like Paul.
The trick is to keep going….keep knocking on those doors as Jesus teaches in Luke 11:9---“So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. Paul traveled in several different directions and finally the only choice that was left for him was west. Paul didn’t stop….he kept moving. Once at Troas he received his vision---a supernatural image or picture given by a revelation of God that can come when you are awake or sleeping. Because of this close relationship with the Lord Paul trusted his vision and it made all the difference in the world because entering Europe was the will of God.
Closed doors are not moments to succumb to moments of self- loathing and “can’t help its”. They are prompts for you keep the Lord close to you as a partner in whatever goal you are trying to reach. Through prayer and worship He will provide the key to unlock that all elusive door.