Daily Devotional: Day 151
“Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:6-7, NKJV).
Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled together, delivering the decision of the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1ff) to the believers in several cities. Today’s passage tells us that at one point, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word of God in Asia. The Holy Spirit further prevented them from going into the Roman province of Bithynia. Instead, the Lord directed them to go to Macedonia; and they complied (cf. Acts 16:8-10).
Why would the Holy Spirit forbid God’s servants from preaching His word in certain places? After all, God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). On the surface, the Holy Spirit’s decision doesn’t make sense. But if we look at things from a spiritual perspective, it should make sense. We need to understand and respect the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Jesus left Him in charge of the Church. To borrow a term from the corporate world, we might call the Holy Spirit, the Director General of all ministry tasks undertaken by the Church. Knowing this, we will do well to discern the will of the Spirit in all our ministry endeavors.
When Paul and his team were forbidden to preach in Asia and Bithynia, they didn’t fight it. They didn’t blame it on the devil. They humbly submitted to the Spirit’s will. How did they know that the Spirit didn’t want them to go to Asia and Bithynia? They discerned. Today, discernment is one of the critical areas of need in the Church. Without discernment, we would be operating in the dark, thinking we are working for the Lord, when in fact, we are on our own.
Some ministry decisions may appear right in our eyes, but to the Holy Spirit we would be operating against God’s will for us. Additionally, some things may appear to us as ministry opportunities, but to the Holy Spirit, that ‘opportunity’ may not be God’s will for us. At times we are so determined to do what we assume (without discernment) to be God’s will, that we fail to notice the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Bottom line: The fact that you see an open door does not mean you must walk through it. Not all open doors are meant for you to enter. Some open doors are traps, not opportunities. Learn – by prayer and study of the Bible – to discern what the Spirit is saying in any given situation. Go where the Spirit wants you to go; don’t go where the Spirit doesn’t want you to go, even if you see opportunities; and finally, do what the Spirit wants you to do, according to the timing of the Spirit.
May the Father bless and increase you! Amen.
For further study: Matthew 10:1-15