It can be difficult when we’re told “no” or “not now,” especially when we sense God has opened a door for us to serve others. Early in my ministry, two opportunities came my way where I thought my gifts and skills matched the churches’ needs, but both doors eventually closed. After these two disappointments, another position came along, and I was selected. With that ministry call came thirteen years of life-touching pastoral labors.
Twice in Acts 16 Paul and company were redirected by God. First, they were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia” (v. 6). Then, “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to” (v. 7). Unknown to them, God had other plans that would be right for His work and workers. His no to the previous plans put them in a position to listen to and be confidently led by Him (vv. 9–10).
Who among us hasn’t grieved what we initially thought to be a painful loss? We’ve felt wounded when we didn’t get a certain job, when a service opportunity didn’t materialize, when a relocation got derailed. Though such things can momentarily be weighty, time often reveals that such detours are actually divine diversions that God graciously uses to get us where He wants us, and we are grateful.
What loss have you grieved only to be grateful that what you desired you didn’t get? How did the situation serve to bolster your trust in the Lord?
On his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1–18:22), Paul wanted to preach the gospel in the provinces of Asia Minor (modern-day western Turkey) and Bithynia (modern-day northern Turkey); however, God redirected Paul northwest to Troas. Through “a vision of a man of Macedonia” God called Paul to bring the gospel into Europe (16:8–9). The identity of the “man of Macedonia” is much debated. Because the pronoun “they” in verse 8 changes to “we” in verse 10, some scholars say this man is Luke himself who has now joined the mission team. Luke, a gentile medical doctor (Colossians 4:14), wrote the gospel of Luke and Acts and became Paul’s traveling companion and co-worker (Acts 16:10–40, 20:4–17, Philemon 1:24). He also took care of Paul during his last days in prison before his death (2 Timothy 4:11).