Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Macedonian Call

In Acts 16:6-10 we read the story of Paul having a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come and share the Gospel with his people. This powerful story has much to teach us about responding to the various calls that God puts on our lives.

Verse 6 - They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia.
               In this verse the word they is very important. It reminds us that Paul never ministered alone. He always had a team who helped him lead and serve. In this situation, history tells us that the team was made up of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke.
               Paul was the leader of the team. Every team needs a leader, otherwise it just becomes a bunch a people sitting around talking about great ideas but seldom actually do anything.
               Silas was Paul’s assistant and often filled in the gaps that Paul could not. Every leader needs a right hand man to help get the job done.
               Timothy was Paul’s protégé’, whom he was teaching how to be a leader. If we are not investing in the next generation of leaders, then our team is already in trouble.
               Luke was a medical doctor, a historical author, and a well-educated intellectual. Every team needs the “smart” person who reads all the books, goes to all the conferences and helps the team think at a deeper level.
               Each of these people brought something important to the team. When everyone does their part, it is amazing what a team can do! Likewise, when one team member does not do his/her part; it makes the entire team less effective.
               In this situation, the team traveled through Phrygia and Galatia, which in our modern time, is central Turkey. They preached the Gospel in the central part of Turkey, but when they tried to move toward the coast, the Lord said no. Do not get confused, in this verse Asia refers to the Roman province of Asia, not the continent. The Holy Spirit told them not to go to Asia to preach the Gospel. However, many years later the Holy Spirit did let them go there and many came to Christ. But they had to wait until the time was right, and when this verse was written, the time was not yet right.
               We must remember that the Spirit knows the right timing for everything. We would be more successful in our lives if we learned to listen to the Spirit more. His timing is always right.

Verse 7 - When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
               Since the Spirit did not let them go to Asia, they went to Mysia instead. Apparently they spent some time there but when they tried to go to the next area, which was Bithynia, the Spirit once again said no. Imagine how frustrating it must have been to the team for the Holy Spirit to keep saying no. The two areas were right next to each other. They must have wondered why was it okay to go to one place but not another?
               We must never forget that God works in mysterious ways. He knows when it is time and when it is not. We may understand it, we may not, but we do need to learn to listen to what God says.
Verse 8 - So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas.
               They finally came to Troas, which is a port city on Aegean Sea. It is across from Greece, where they had no intention of going. At this point they probably felt like they were going in circles, and to be honest, they sort of were. But God had an amazing plan He was about to reveal to them.
               Sometimes in life we feel like we are just going in circles. In those moments we must trust the Spirit because He does have a plan and when He reveals it, we are going to be amazed.

Verse 9 - During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!”
               While sleeping, God sent Paul a vision. A vision is a supernatural revelation from God. Though we must be careful not to think that every dream is a special message from God, we also must be careful not to put God in a box and assume He is too weak to speak to us in a special way when we need to hear it.
               An important thing to remember is that God will never contradict Himself. Therefore, if we think we get a special word from God and it goes against what the Bible says, then we know it was not from God.
               In this situation, the dream was a man from Macedonia begging Paul to come share the Gospel with his people. Macedonia is in northern Greece, a place that Paul had not intended to go. But the Spirit had Paul walk in circles until he got to a place where he could gaze at Greece across the sea.
               Though we sometimes feel like God has us going in circles, God actually has a plan. At some point, we get to the place where we look up and see the plan that God had all along. Maybe God uses some special revelation to speak to us, or maybe we just finally start paying attention, but we finally realize what God wants us to do all along.
               Notice that the man was pleading for Paul to come help him. In this case, help referred to Paul sharing the Gospel with his people. The Bible clearly tells us that we should help the poor and needy, that we should visit the sick, and in prison, and that we should assist orphans and widows. Far too many churches have neglected these clear commands from God. But in the process of helping people with real needs, we must never forget to share the Gospel with them. Otherwise, we have failed to give them the most important help of all, the salvation of their souls from the fires of an eternal hell.
               Notice that the man is pleading. Every person has a God-sized hole in his/her heart that he/she cries out for something to fill. Too many people have tried to fill that hole with all the wrong things. They are crying out for Jesus and do not even know it. We have the answer they need, how dare we keep it to ourselves.

Verse 10 - After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
               Once Paul had the vision, he immediately made efforts to obey. When the Spirit chooses to move a person, instant obedience is important. Otherwise, the Spirit is quenched and the moment might pass.
               Paul realized that it was not a man from Macedonia that was calling him, but it was God Himself simply using the man to extend the call of God. God has a call to each of us to do something to share the Gospel with others.
               At the very least we can pray. At the very least we can give money to help the church or missionaries reach out. It is not very hard for each one of us to go next door or across the street to tell a friend about Jesus. Some of us may even be called to go around the world and share the Gospel through mission involvement.
               Or, we can choose to ignore God’s call and stay focused on ourselves. If we choose that last option, we will miss out of being part of what God is doing.

What will we do with the call of God on our lives? Will we listen and respond to His calling? Or will we ignore the call of God and miss out on the amazing adventure He had for us?

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