Divine Detours

Hello, my friends!

Have you ever felt like God was shaking things up in your life? Maybe you had plans all laid out, but suddenly everything changed. Well, that's exactly what happened to Paul and his companions during their second missionary journey. It's a powerful reminder that God's ways are often different from our own, but His plans are always perfect.

Picture this: Paul and Barnabas, fresh from their first missionary journey and the Council of Jerusalem, were ready to revisit the churches they had planted. They had it all mapped out in their minds. But God had other ideas. He was about to bring about a change that would impact the church for the next 2,000 years!

You see, the Bible is “change” literature, and the Holy Spirit is a “change” leader. Are we “change” candidates? That's a question we need to ask ourselves. Spiritual perception is the ability to participate in God's new thing before it happens. And that's exactly what Paul and his team had to do.

But here's where it gets interesting. A disagreement arose between Paul and Barnabas over whether to take John Mark with them. Paul, being pragmatic, saw Mark as a risk after he had deserted them before. Barnabas, ever the encourager, believed in giving Mark another chance. The contention was so great that they ended up parting ways. But isn't it amazing how God can use even our disagreements for His glory? Instead of one missionary team, there were now two!

Paul formed a new team with Silas and Timothy. And let me tell you, this team was divinely appointed. Silas was a prophet and a Roman citizen, which would prove invaluable in the places they were about to go. Timothy, half-Jewish and half-Greek, became like a son to Paul in the faith. Paul later wrote about Timothy, “I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare” (Philippians 2:20). And then there was Luke, who joined them along the way, bringing his keen eye for detail and his medical expertise.

As they set out, they experienced something we all need to understand about God's guidance. Sometimes, it's about restraint, and other times, it's about constraint. The Holy Spirit forbade them from preaching in Asia and Bithynia. It might have seemed strange at the time, but God was leading them to a specific place for a specific purpose. Have you ever felt like God was closing doors in your life? Maybe He's preparing to open a window you never even knew existed!

They ended up in Troas, at the edge of the land, seemingly at a dead end. But then, in the night, Paul received a vision of a man from Macedonia pleading, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And just like that, the gospel was about to make its way to Europe! Can you imagine the excitement and anticipation they must have felt?

Do you see how God works? He closes some doors to open others. He might box us into a corner, only to reveal a whole new continent of opportunity! As Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, “A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” It's a beautiful dance between our plans and God's sovereign direction.

Their journey to Macedonia was swift, sailing before the wind. It was as if God Himself was blowing in their sails! The Bible tells us in Acts 16:11, “We ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis.” This quick journey was a stark contrast to their return trip later, which took five days. It's as if God was saying, “I'm in this, and I want you there now!”

And when they arrived, they were unstoppable. In Philippi, they ministered to people from all walks of life – Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman; a slave girl possessed by a spirit; and a Roman jailer. Each one encountered the life-changing power of the gospel. It's a beautiful picture of how the message of Christ crosses all social and economic boundaries.

With Lydia, we see God opening her heart to respond to the message. Acts 16:14 tells us, “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” It's a reminder that while we speak the words, it's God who does the heart work. Are we trusting Him to work as we share His truth?

The slave girl's story shows us the power of Christ over spiritual darkness. When Paul cast out the spirit, he demonstrated that the gospel is not just words, but power. As Paul later wrote to the Thessalonians, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

And then there's the Roman jailer. In the midst of an earthquake that should have spelled disaster, he encountered the unshakeable faith of Paul and Silas. Their response to adversity – singing hymns at midnight – spoke volumes. When the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” the answer was beautifully simple: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

This message, resolved at the Council of Jerusalem, was now spreading across continents. It's the same message we carry today – a message of grace, forgiveness, and new life in Christ. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

You know, it's amazing to think about how this journey changed the course of church history. If Paul and his team hadn't followed God's leading to Macedonia, we might be missing half of the book of Acts and many of Paul's letters in our New Testament. The gospel's spread to Europe set the stage for the next 1900 years of Christian mission and outreach.

But here's the thing – God's not done writing His story. He's still in the business of changing lives and redirecting paths. Just as He used Paul and his team to turn the world upside down, He wants to use us too. Are we willing to be His instruments of change in our world today?

Friends, are we willing to be “change” candidates like Paul and his team? Are we ready to step out of our comfort zones and follow God's leading, even when it doesn't make sense to us? Remember, our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and wherever we go, we carry the message of God's kingdom.

What if God is calling you to be a 'Lydia' in your workplace, opening your home and resources for the gospel? Or maybe He's asking you to confront spiritual darkness like Paul did with the slave girl. Perhaps He's placing you in difficult circumstances, like Paul and Silas in prison, so that your faith can shine brightly and lead others to Christ.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, remember that God is at work. He's writing His story of redemption, and He wants you to be a part of it. Will you say yes to His call? Will you be open to the changes He wants to bring about in and through your life?

Be blessed today, my brothers and sisters. May we always be open to the winds of change that the Holy Spirit brings. Let's be willing to sail before His wind, trusting that He knows the best course for our lives and for His church. After all, it's not about our plans, but about participating in God's grand design for the salvation of the world. As we go forth, may we echo Paul's words in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”