Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.
They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite 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. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
This passage from Acts is commonly known as the Macedonian Call. It represents a turning point in Paul’s missionary ministry. Paul’s plan had been to continue his missionary work in Asia Minor heading toward the Black Sea, but it is clear God had another plan. God’s plan was to lead Paul to a totally different mission field than Paul had imagined. There is a wonderful old saying that we plan, and God laughs.
Part of what I love so much about this story is the unimagined grace and fruitfulness that unfolds because Paul paid attention. Paul’s success in expanding the mission field to Europe and the Gentiles had to have been so far beyond what he “could have asked or imagined.” Reading on in Acts, we learn that Paul goes to Philippi where he encounters Lydia, a faith-filled and successful businesswoman, on the sabbath praying in the outskirts of town. Lydia is open to the Good News that Paul shares, and she is baptized and becomes the first European convert. The birth and growth of the church in Europe and beyond would never have happened if Paul had stubbornly pursued his own plan. Paul changed course, and God blessed his mission ministry.
When have you faced a watershed time in your life where your decision to go one way or another shaped your destiny? Did you ask God to show you the way? When have your choices resulted in far exceeding what you “could have asked or imagined?” These are challenging times that demand that we listen even more intently for God’s direction in our lives. Pay attention and ask God to show you where you are called to be in this time and place. Be not afraid, for God is with us!
Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold Your people in my heart
(John Michael Talbot)