Acts 16:6-12: Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
This passage from the book of Acts reveals some important aspects of how the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of believers. Paul and his ministry companions are in the early stages of his second missionary journey from Antioch. Along the way they encountered ministry opportunities that were made available to them (doors opened) and some others that were not (doors closed). In this passage we are told how the Holy Spirit kept Paul and his companions from” preaching the word in the province of Asia” (Acts 16:6). Thankfully, Paul and his companions were persistent and open to God’s guidance. They didn’t give up, even though they may have been discouraged. Faith guided them forward, giving them further opportunities to tell others about Christ. God had a plan and a purpose for their ministry.
Paul was called by God to take the gospel message to the Gentile world and he was obedient to God’s guidance. So as Paul traveled into the northwest part of Asia, the Holy Spirit would not allow him to go any further – a door was closed. We then find that Paul tried to enter Bithynia, but again the Holy Spirit would not allow them to go there. It was becoming clear that Paul was not to “preach the word in the province of Asia.” Paul and his friends changed directions and spent the night at Troas. Then during the night, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia, begging him to travel to Macedonia and help them. The vision of the man from Macedonia, and his message, was clear to Paul. God was opening a door to a ministry opportunity and Paul was resolved to obediently follow God’s call.
In my own ministry, God has recently closed a door. I have had some time to reflect on this missed opportunity and I completely trust that God has another plan for my ministry. What happens when God says “no” and closes a door? The worst thing that we can do is to pull back and not continue to share our faith for fear of being hurt or disappointed again. If we follow God in any type of ministry, we will face rejection and failure. However, we cannot allow that door closing to prevent us from seeking other ways to serve and glorify God. God can take what seems like a failure to us and turn it into something that gives Him the glory. Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
God will guide you, if you will trust in Him and submit to Him, in all your ways. Be obedient, available, and open to any opportunity that God places in your path. We can never be certain when the Holy Spirit will show up and direct us into a way of service that we would have never chosen if we leaned on our own understanding. It is moments like these when we know that the opportunity placed before us is from God. Embrace those opportunities and always remember to give the ultimate glory back to God so that His power will be evident to all.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude