Acts 16:6-10 - 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. This is an odd passage. Why on earth would God forbid Paul and his companions to preach the Gospel anywhere, let alone the Roman province of Asia? And it happened again in Bithynia: "The Spirit of Jesus did not allow them." Finally, Paul had a vision in which God told them where to go: "Immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them."
The forbidding didn't last that long. By chapter 18 of Acts, Paul is teaching in Ephesus, a city of Asia, and soon a thriving church was growing there. But it sounds weird that God would forbid the Gospel to be preached anywhere. Why?
We don't know. We can guess, of course; maybe God knew that the people weren't ready yet, or maybe there was a severe threat of persecution, and God didn't intend Paul and the other missionaries to go through that experience, at least not right then. Or maybe God simply wanted to get the group to Macedonia faster. We can guess, but we don't know.
And it's like that for us today in our lives, too. God does some strange things at times. We may watch a loved one who was baptized into the faith, who was confirmed and seemed to be a strong Christian-but for years now they've gone off on their own path, far away from Jesus. We pray for them and hope for them to return, but they seem farther away than ever. And when we talk to them, we seem to be doing no good. In fact, we worry we may be doing them harm. How could God allow this to happen? Surely God wants that person to return!
We are right in thinking God wants that person back in the faith. And Paul was right in thinking that God wanted the Gospel preached everywhere, including Asia and Bithynia. But the details of how God reaches out to people-the mysteries of how God deals with groups of people and with individuals-these are things God has not told us. And it's hard to deal with.
So what can we do? The same thing Paul and Silas and Timothy did-we can keep trying, all the while trusting God to show the way. Because He will. God brought the missionaries safely to Macedonia, where they met a small group of women praying beside a river outside Philippi. One of them was Lydia, the first documented Christian convert in Europe. She and many others in her city came to know Jesus our Savior, who laid down His life to rescue them and us from the power of evil. This was God's plan for them from the beginning.
We know that Jesus loves the people we care about, even more than we do. He died for them, after all. And we know that He will do everything possible for them to be His. He rose from the dead so that could happen. In the meantime, we can pray, hope, and hold ourselves ready to serve-however Jesus calls us.
THE PRAYER: Lord, please reach the people I love who are far from You, and bring them to Yourself. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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