Stuck In Reverse

Day 6 of 10 • This day’s reading


Charting a New Direction

During his first missionary trip, the apostle Paul traveled through several cities in Galatia, then crossed a portion of the Mediterranean Sea to Antioch. From there he traveled to the island of Cyprus and back to Galatia.

By his second journey, he’d learned the art of planning for a long trip. He mapped his destinations, and when he felt the timing was right, he headed northwest through portions of Galatia and Phrygia. With the better part of the trip in front of him, Paul hit his first snag. As his party tried to travel south into Asia, he found himself being “forbidden” by the Holy Spirit to speak a word in the region.

We can imagine Paul stopping along the roadway, pulling out his maps, double-checking what he’d written in order to see if he was following the right route. Feeling affirmed that he was, he pushed forward and tried a second time to enter the region in order to preach the gospel to a group of people he knew needed to hear the truth of God.

What could possibly be wrong with his plans? Didn’t God instruct him to take the gospel message first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles? Yes! However, God reserves the right to change our course—at any time and for any reason.

Once again Paul tried to enter the region but was blocked by “the Spirit of Jesus,” and it became obvious that God had different plans than the ones Paul had written down (Acts 16:6). Therefore, the apostle traveled northwest to the city of Troas. During the night he was there, he had a vision of a man “standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (Acts 16:9).

This was all the instruction Paul needed. By early light, he ordered the campfires doused with water and everyone’s bags packed. They had clear guidance from God and were off to do His will. From the city of Troas, they boarded a ship and sailed toward Macedonia. 

Have you ever sensed God’s Spirit telling you to stop doing what you’re doing? Many people ignore His warning and continue going in the direction opposite of His will. Just because we’re moving doesn’t mean we’re moving forward. In fact, when we disobey God, our forward progress is stopped.

Paul, however, was committed to obeying the Lord. When he sensed the Lord blocking his efforts, he stopped and waited for guidance. Although he paused, his life never shifted into reverse. This is because Paul’s heart was set on doing God’s will God’s way.

As a result of his actions, the Lord began to move. Paul took the gospel message west into an area where it’d never been preached. Today, we have the truth of God’s Word mainly because of the faithfulness and obedience of this man and the men and women who came after him. Paul never hesitated, stopped, or demanded his own way. Later, the Lord allowed His truth to be preached throughout Asia—Paul’s original choice for his second missionary journey—and the impact was tremendous.

Had Paul decided he knew better than God, his missionary efforts would’ve come to a halt. Paul, however, was committed to the Lord. The key to his success wasn’t human talent or reasoning. It was an insatiable desire to obey God and to know Him. 

May the same be true of us.