6 Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 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
Doesn’t God lead in all sorts of funny ways? Paul and his companions tried to preach the word of God in Asia. We don’t know what exactly happened but the conclusion is that the Holy Spirit would not let them. Then they try and enter Bithynia and, well, let’s just say, the Holy Spirit would not let them. What were they to do? Well very simple – go to sleep (I assume – it was at night) and while they were sleeping, Paul would see a vision of a man from Macedonia saying it as clearly as possible: “Come over to Macedonia and help us”. Case closed; God wants us in Macedonia, and off we go.
Now here’s the problem. We tend to read this and somehow out of this passage figure that God wants us to try doors out and that the Holy Spirit will stop us if we try the wrong door. There is a part of that (somehow) that is understandable, but the problem comes when our first port of call is to try doors and assume that’s just how God leads – by shutting the right ones and opening “The One”.
This story wasn’t given to us as a pattern to be followed that way, even though God does lead through circumstance. Our first port of call ought to be to pray and ask God for guidance and wisdom as we aim to make the right decisions. Sometimes, God will cause things to just fall into place, sometimes he will give us a vision or dream, sometimes, He will use someone to point us in the right direction. The secret is faith, prayer and walking with Jesus and full of the Spirit. He will lead us.
So I pray that as you seek God, that you won’t apply a blanket pattern to the way you seek Him, but that out of relationship, you will hear his voice and learn to follow it. God is speaking to you all the time. Listen to him and obey!