When Our Calling Is Confusing
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to 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. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.— Acts 16:6-10
Now on the video today, I will throw up a map so you can picture what Luke is trying to communicate about the journey of Paul, Silas, and Timothy as they head west. So at the bottom right, you will see two cities that Paul and Barnabas visited on their first trip. They have just gone back through these cities, and Paul picked up a new disciple Timothy. Yet Paul wants to go further. And so he heads west. And to put the distance they travel in perspective, the distance from Lystra to Iconium is about 20 miles. So from Iconium to Troas, you have about 400 miles. And they did not travel this by car, but by foot, which would have taken a couple of weeks. And on the map, you will notice the region of Asia to the south of their line. Bithynia was to the north of that line. So they travel the entire border of Asia and Bithynia, avoiding both regions. And it says in the text they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”
Now there are several reasons why it’s important to see this. First, we don’t really know why there was this disallowance by the Holy Spirit. But there was a reason. Second, we also don’t know how the Spirit communicated this to Paul, Silas, and Timothy. And that I would love to know. But third, there is an excellent lesson in this. You see, sometimes God gives us a calling, vision, or mission. And while the calling, vision, and mission may be clear, how we are supposed to accomplish that calling is not so clear. Remember, Paul’s first missionary journey was fast-paced and full of action, yet this one starts with a long hard walk of doing nothing — for probably a couple of weeks. I am sure Paul anticipated traveling into Asia or Bithynia along the way, but as we learn here, he was prevented. Yet these men just kept walking, stayed on mission, and actively listened to the Holy Spirit.
You know I bet sometimes you have a plan to. That you have planned to accomplish something you felt you were called to do. But that along the way, there was something that prevented you creating a cavernous gap between the calling, vision, and mission and the accomplishment of it. I am just guessing that’s happened to you somewhere in your life. And this gap can be frustrating if not irritating, causing us to question the calling, vision, and mission. But I love what these men do in this instance. Even though we don’t know exactly why it happened nor how it happened — they just kept listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That little red line on the map today represents three men who spent two weeks together getting trained by the Holy Spirit. And I bet while they were on that line, there were moments Silas and Timothy questioned their new calling, vision, and mission. But together, they just kept walking that thin red line listening to God one step at a time.
So today, if you are on that thin red line. Don’t get off. Don’t get frustrated. Just keep moving forward. And in time, God will reveal his calling to you in his way. And someday, like Paul, Silas, and Timothy, you too may look back and see the purpose of the thin red line.
ASK THIS: Where in your life do you feel like you are walking that thin red line? (Share this in the comments below).
DO THIS: Listen to the Holy Spirit.
PRAY THIS: God, I confess I am frustrated. I don’t know your plan for me on this line I am taking in life. I ask that your Spirit guide me. I need direction that only you can provide. Lift my spirits today. Amen.
PLAY THIS: Lord, I Need You — Matt Maher.
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