Yesterday I taught a Bible study on one of my favorite passages, Acts 16:6-9. I love this passage so much, because God uses it every time I study it to remind me of a couple of things. This is the story of Paul and his companions trying to take the gospel into western Asia, but the Holy Spirit kept putting obstacles in the way. I wonder about those obstacles . . . it's not like they were going through border checkpoints, but they KNEW that those obstacles came from God.
They finally went to Troas, an artificial harbor, to figure out where to go next. In a vision, Paul was asked by a Macedonian man to come there to "help" him. The word for "help" there was more like an SOS. It was an urgent plea for help. Paul and his companions were "convinced" this was God's leading and they "immediately" left for Macedonia (northeastern Greece today). I love that feeling of urgency and response and obedience and of not looking back, but of only going forward––even into the unknown.
When they arrived in Macedonia, landing in Neopolis, they walked the 10 miles to Philippi because that was the major city in the area. If it had been me, I would have been looking for the "Macedonian Man" who had called us there.
In Philippi, Paul and his companions went to the river outside of town for worship since there was no synagogue in the city. There they met a group of women and sat down to preach. In time, Lydia, already a worshipper of God, accepted Christ and asked to be baptized.
So why does this passage resonate with me so completely?
Because I've run into so many obstacles in my life when I thought I was doing what God wanted me to do. And yet, each time He has redirected me, he has led me into something I could never have imagined for myself.
Because I tend to see things literally. If I had been with Paul, I would have been tempted to pass over seeing the women as part of what God was calling us to do . . . I would still have been looking for that "Macedonian Man." It's a good reminder to me that my expectations of what God is doing are often wrong.
Lydia not only took Paul and his companions into her home, but her home became the gathering place for believers in Philippi (see Acts 16:40). And it's obvious from Paul's letter to the Philippians that the church there was loving and generous and open to those in the community.
So God's reminder to me, again, is to look at the obstacles in my life to see how He is redirecting me, and to not get so literal in my expectations that I miss what God is leading me to do, to see, to meet.
Have you seen obstacles that were God's way of redirecting you? What have you learned through the process?