Acts 16: 1-10
1 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for them to observe. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.
6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia. 7 When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. 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!” 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.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.
On certain nights, if you're sitting on our back porch, you can hear an unusual sound. Beyond the faint noise of cars passing on the road nearby, you think you might hear it but you don't want to get your hopes up. Could it be? Wait a few more minutes. Listen intently. There it is. In the trees just behind the house, an owl is calling out. A few seconds later, another owl calls back. You have to be in just the right place at just the right time or you’ll miss it!
Acts 16 begins with the right time for the start of Paul's second missionary journey. We learn in Acts 15 that Paul wanted to visit the towns where he preached the word of the Lord on his first journey. He wanted to check on those people he had grown to love on that first trip. Paul shared the gospel with people by building relationships with them. He worked side by side with people, got to know their families, shared his story of new life and listened as people shared, sometimes unknowingly, their deep need for a savior. They probably didn't always know what they were looking for—they just knew that life wasn't quite working. They longed for freedom from their mistakes. While there weren't actual chains around their hearts, they felt locked up and unable to truly care for those they loved most. Paul shared with them about a man named Jesus who had the key to their hearts and could give them freedom. He said that Jesus was God and became a man so that people could see what God really looks like. Many people accepted this reality and their hearts began to feel different. Life began to look different. Author Brennan Manning described this new life as being "seized by the power of a great affection”. God loved them and forgave them! Because they were in the right place at the right time, they heard and believed.
It was exciting to see the church grow, but Paul was aware that Satan was looking for opportunities to discourage those who believed in Jesus. Now was the time to visit his friends and see how he could encourage them. Paul took Silas with him and they headed for Derbe and Lystra. We know from many accounts of Paul that he was a man who walked by faith. He leaned hard on the truth he knew about God. He was not distracted by his circumstances. This is certainly true here where we see Paul going to Lystra. The last time that he was in that town, an angry crowd stoned him and left him for dead. Paul didn’t let his fears get in the way of doing God's will but moved forward in faith. While there, he heard about a disciple named Timothy who was both well-known and highly regarded by other believers in that area. He was the right man in the right place at the right time and Paul chose him to join his mission team. The team traveled from town to town encouraging the believers and sharing news from the church in Jerusalem. The churches were strengthened in their faith and everyday grew larger.
Paul and his friends planned next to go into Asia, but the Holy Spirit did not allow them to preach there. Then they tried to go to Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus would not let them enter that area either. The Lord had a definite plan and an exact timetable for this group. Here, we learn about the person of the Holy Spirit. We see the Spirit speaking by closing two doors that, in human terms, seemed like they should be open. Unless God tells us to do something and makes the way clear to do it, it is not His best plan. Good ideas at the wrong time can be discouraging at best and disastrous at worst. The Spirit may have been protecting these men or trying to get them to the right place at the right time. Next, God sent this team on to Troas where Paul received a vision of a man who begged him to come to Macedonia, a new and different part of the world for the gospel.
What God did in Paul's heart, He continues to do today. When hearts are open to Him, He will give us new life—a life of abundance. The spirit of Jesus will come and live in us, guiding us to the right places and closing doors as needed. God always works at just the right time.
- How does your life look different since you became a Christian?
- Where is God calling you to share your faith? What is the right time for you to do this? Have you considered a mission journey?
- How have your fears kept you from moving forward in faith? How can you trust God, not your circumstances, as you take the next step?