Acts 16:6-10 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.
The call to spread the gospel and to make disciples is at the core of what it means to live out the life of the Christ-follower. So it seems ironic in this passage that it was the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit Who empowers us to be witnesses, that told the missionary team, “No, don’t do that here,” and not just one time, but twice.
Every time I read this it catches me a bit off guard; Paul, Silas, and Timothy want to preach the gospel, but the Spirit of Jesus shuts the door. When I think of ministry frustrations and difficulties, the first thing that comes to mind is the opposition of our enemy, and I want to pray (and have prayed) for God to make a way for the gospel to be heard and to take root.
Reading that the Spirit of God sometimes says “No,” causes me to examine my own heart and life, and even to wonder if some of my own “banging on closed doors” was due to functioning on my own agenda, versus the agenda that the LORD is working from.
The rest of Acts 16 reveals that the LORD knew what He was doing by telling the team “No” to Asia and Bithynia; He instead opened a significant door in the city of Philippi, and with signs and wonders, and a well-timed earthquake, used the missionary team to bring about a great, city-changing salvation that shook the spiritual (and physical) world to its core.
I’m reminded that Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father in heaven doing (John 5:19 et al), and that some of the greatest miracles in the book of Acts (Peter and John heal the lame man in Acts 3,) happened specifically as a result of something that Jesus DIDN’T do for whatever reason.
I want to submit my agenda to the LORD, and exchange my good ideas and opportunities for the ones that God would put in front of me. God’s timing matters; His Spirit is at work, and I want to be led by the Spirit of Jesus so I can partner with His God ideas.