by Dave Hintz
In Acts chapter 16 Paul seems to be on a spiritual high. The recently convened Jerusalem Council proved to be a personal victory for him. The church leadership vindicates his ministry by accepting gentiles into the church as gentiles. Empowered by this news Paul takes a second missionary journey to spread this good news to the gentiles. All seems to go well as the ministry starts as a smashing success.
Acts 16:5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.
Encouraged by the results, Paul continues his journey which is unexpectedly lengthened on account of several road blocks:
6 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia;
Undeterred, Paul keeps walking along the road over mountains, through valleys, under the scorching Mediterranean sun seeking another opportunity to minister but once again:
7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them;
At this point, you have to wonder if the dark clouds of discouragement would have rained Paul. If in such a situation, I would have gone Eeyore with God, “Father, I am not walking over mountains and through valleys for exercise. You know that this is not a vacation, or a means of getting rich. I simply want to serve you. Why do you keep shutting these doors?” Perhaps some of you can relate. You read in the Bible that it’s not good for man to be alone, so you seek a spouse, but all potentials do not see you as a potential. You want to provide for your family giving your wife the freedom to stay home, but all of your résumés and phone calls are never returned. You find yourself or someone you love in deep physical affliction. The elders lay their hands upon you, but relief never seems to come. In all of these situations you desire biblical blessings, but God seems to be closing the door. Thus, you are confronted with two possibilities:
1. Stop seeking these desires believing that God has shut the door.
2. Walk in faith believing that God has laid these desires upon your heart for a reason.
As Christians, we often go to possibility number one too quickly. Focusing on the fact that we are sinners who deserve hell we forget the character of our Father as revealed in Luke 11:11-13 “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Before you stop seeking these desires, it may be helpful to examine your own heart. Perhaps your prayer requests are prompted by personal sin. You want a spouse because you are not content. You want a better paying job because you are greedy for more material possessions. If that is the case, then the reason why God is not answering your prayer is obvious. However, if you know of no sinful motivation, then by all means keep praying. Trusting that God will give you the desires of your heart in a way which will make you give Him maximum glory.
In the case of Paul, God closed all of the exits on his journey so that he would press on to Troas – a small port on the western coast of Asia Minor approximately 500 miles where he started (Acts 16:1). Paul eagerly desires to do ministry for the glory of God, but the Lord shuts every door until he comes to Troas. None-the-less, the Apostle to the Gentiles presses on in faith believing that God has placed him on this road for a reason. I am sure that Paul would have preferred to know where he was going from outset. It would have prevented him from getting his hopes up as he approached certain cities. God did not want it that way.
The Father hid His will so that Paul would learn to walk by faith, persevering in hopes of fulfilling the desire to minister which God placed on his heart. Christian, do not be discouraged if you sense that God seems to be closing each door of opportunity. God may want you to keep walking the road to Troas to learn some important lessons about faith and trusting Him. In fact it may be that in our Father’s perfect wisdom, the means of acquiring the blessing may ultimately give you the gift you seek.