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, (Acts 16:9-10).
You have probably heard the expression, “Man plans, God laughs.” Figuring out what God wants us to do can be a very perplexing proposition. Just when you think you have a handle on it, you find yourself being thrown a curve. That seems to have been the case even in biblical times, and with a giant of the faith like Paul.
Today’s text is taken from a point in Paul’s second great missionary expedition.
Leaving his home base in Syria, Paul and his companions travel back through the area where he had visited on his first trip. Then it would appear that he had a sense that God wanted him to travel to the Roman Province of Asia to tell people about Jesus. But something happened. The verses preceding our text say that the Holy Spirit kept Paul from his intended destination. We have no idea how the Holy Spirit did that. But somehow, Paul had to adapt.
Turning from the road to Asia, he next has a sense that he is to go to the region of Bithynia in northern Asia Minor. But once again, something happens. We are only told that the "Spirit of Jesus" stops him.
Turning toward the coast, Paul reaches Troas. I think he might have been baffled. God had thrown him two huge curve balls. Then he gets the vision recorded in our text. God wants him to cross over to Europe. I imagine Paul might have finally had a sense that the previous detours were intended to get him to this destination.
In our lives, God’s will is not always clear. We take it one day at a time, and sometimes one step at a time. I love the expression that we are to “do the next indicated thing.” Pray, seek God’s wisdom, and move forward with sensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit. If one door gets closed, try another. If it get’s closed, do the next indicated thing. Faith is the confidence that eventually God will get us where we are supposed to be. Sometimes the process goes smoothly…most of the time it looks a lot like Paul’s experience!