“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.” Acts 16:6-10
Paul was a doer. He was full throttle ahead, intentional, deliberate, and just downright zealous. And thank God He was.
I love this story because Paul was headed somewhere, but the Holy Spirit would not allow it. He called him west to Macedonia instead, a place that Paul perhaps had no intention of going.
Paul was in tune to the Spirit, and willing to have his direction and plans entirely changed. It must have seemed right and practical to him to go to Bithynia, but He understood that his life was not his own, and ultimately it was not his choice to decide where or how he should serve.
A doer under the control of the Holy Spirit is a powerful thing, as Paul’s life is testimony. A doer trying to serve God apart from this vital relationship, this listening and obeying, is impotent at best.
I have nowhere near the zeal of Paul, but I do have a natural desire to do and to go. But sometimes God tells me, “No.”
Sometimes he gives me discernment spiritually that it is a “no,” and other times he alters my circumstances to hinder or make me unable to do it.
I’ve also noticed that often when He leads me not to do something, He usually leads me in a clear way to do something else instead or either confirms something he has already given me to do. It is very often not something that I would have thought of doing on my own.
It is so encouraging to see an example of this very experience in scripture.
It is also sobering, because had Paul not obeyed…had he not been listening, and had he not accepted the “no” to Bythinia or recognized the call to Macedonia, the gospel may not have gone west!
I choose to remember today, and believe, that God has a very specific plan for my life, and when I feel discouraged because He is telling me “no” to something that I (or other people) think I should do, He has a very good reason.
My job is to be listening and obeying.
He will take care of the rest!