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Acts 16:6-10 Clarify Your Vision

Author: Dr. George M. Flattery

Acts 16:6-10 Clarify Your Vision

two white doves flying

Thoughts from Acts 16:6-10 Clarify Your Vision

Christ has commanded us, as believers, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We know that this involves many specialized tasks. Moreover, we know there are many people with specific talents to do these tasks. Nevertheless, we are left with the question of what God wants each of us individually to do. We want to have a clear vision of what God wants us to do.

How do we clarify our vision? Our text will give us some help with this question. The incident recorded here took place on Paul’s second missionary journey. When Paul left Antioch, he took Silas instead of Mark with him (Acts 15:40). At Lystra (Acts 16:3) Timothy joined them (Acts 16:3). Paul and his party wanted to journey westward and preach the gospel in the part of the world then known as Asia. In modern times, this is Turkey. Undoubtedly, Paul’s vision included the city of Ephesus.

Our text tells the story of what happened: “6 And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.  9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

As we read this story, we can identify several steps in the clarification of the vision of Paul, Silas, and Timothy. In our next “thoughts” we will study how the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from doing what he originally planned to do, how God gave Paul a clear vision, and how Paul accepted that vision as the call of God. We will apply this story to our lives.

More Thoughts from Acts 16:6-10 Clarify Your Vision

We are studying how Paul’s vision for ministry was clarified. In his case step, one was that the Spirit prevented him from doing wanted at the time he desired.

As Luke tells the story, Paul and his team were deterred twice from preaching the gospel where they wanted to go. Concerning the first time, Luke writes: “And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). Asia was a province in Asia Minor. Even though Paul, Silas, and Timothy did not preach in Asia, they may have passed through this province. The significant point is that, despite the great need in the cities of Asia, Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word there.

Regarding the second time, Paul and his party came to the northwest region of the province of Asia which was known as Mysia. They wanted to go to Bithynia, which was another province of Asia Minor, and preach the gospel. This province was northeast of Mysia. Luke writes, “and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (Acts 16:7).

Sometimes we are prevented by the Spirit from doing what we want. It may be that the objective is good, but the timing is wrong. God’s way is best. We used to talk about the Spirit “blocking” what we wanted to do. In some ways we really ought to pray that God will block anything we want to do that is not in His will for the immediate time.

More Thoughts from Acts 16:6-10 Clarify Your Vision

Luke tells the story of how God clarified Paul’s ministry vision. First, the Holy Spirit forbid Paul from preaching the Word in Asia. Second, God gave Paul a very clear vision.

Paul and his party passed by Mysia and came down to Troas. Then a vision appeared to Paul in the night. We are not told who gave him the vision, but we can assume it was from the Spirit. A man from Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (verse 9). Nothing more is said.

Some things about this experience, however, are clear. One, the vision was an instance of divine intervention. The vision was from God. Many times, our hearts have yearned for such a vivid vision. Most of the time we must clarify our vision in a much more mundane way.

Two, the vision was a definite experience. Paul did not doubt the vision. In his vision, he saw the man from Macedonia! Today, God sometimes gives this kind of vision. However, many times our vision is clarified over a period and involves growing understanding and consideration of options.

Three, the man from Macedonia called upon Paul for help. Here is an important point. Paul and his party knew they were needed, but the man from Macedonia did not say what kind of help he needed. However, it seems apparent that the man from Macedonia was calling for Paul to preach the gospel.

Naturally, we would like to have a vision such as Paul had. If God does give us a vision like this, the vision will strongly guide us and our activities. Many times, however, we must go through a divine-human process to make these decisions. In my next “thoughts” I will discuss this process.

More Thoughts from Acts 16:6-10 Clarify Your Vision

Many of us would like to have a vision such as Paul had. Such a vision would make it easy for us to determine how to expend our energies. Most of the time, however, we must go through a divine-human process to make these decisions.

A key verse for us is Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Here, indeed, is a divine-human process at work. How, then, do we determine God’s plan for us? How do we clarify the vision God wants us to see? I want to suggest several steps.

Step One. Continually look for spiritual needs. These can be felt needs or just needs that you see whether the people involved feeling these needs. It is easier to help people who feel their needs.

Step Two. Determine how the needs can be met. What kinds of activities will meet the need? Here, the emphasis is on methods of ministry as well as spiritual needs. We know, for example, that we are to evangelize, make disciples, and train, but how shall we do it?

Step Three. What resources will be needed? What will it cost in terms of money, time, and energy? Do we have the inner fire to commit? Do we have the time and strength? However, let us be careful not to leave out the element of faith!

Step Four. What natural and spiritual gifts are required? Do I have these gifts? Even though I may not have them, shall I trust God to give them to me? Normally, God will use us to do those things for which we have talents and gifts. However, we must not preclude the possibility of divine intervention in unusual ways.

Step Five. Decide and act with faith and assurance that God will be with you. We cannot be double-minded (James 1:6-8) in our thinking.  Once the decision is made, we must move ahead with confidence.

In my next “thoughts” we will continue this discussion. Your comments are welcome!

More Thoughts from Acts 16:6-10 Clarify Your Vision

We have been talking about a way to clarify our vision. We can do this through a divine-human process. Meanwhile, let us stay open to the possibility that God will intervene dramatically, change our direction, and call us to serve in another way. He may have a “certain man from Macedonia” waiting to get our attention. While we are at work, let us be always listening for the Spirit’s voice.

Before we leave this process, let us think about the need and the soil. The soil is more fertile when the need is felt. But this alone does not determine the will of God.

The Macedonian call was given by a man who felt the need. We do not know whether the people of Macedonia felt the same need. Many times, we are called upon to reach out to people who, themselves, do not seem to be aware of their spiritual needs. We may even see the need without a call from anyone.

Whenever possible, we want to respond to legitimate felt needs. Find a felt need and fill it! This is the creed of good business as well as spiritual needs. We must realize, however, that sometimes we are sent to places where the spiritual need is very great, but the soil is rocky and the response small. If God should call us to labor where the soil is rocky, we must be faithful. This, too, must be done with clear vision!

More Thoughts from Acts 16:6-10 Clarify Your Vision

We have talked about two potential steps that Paul experienced in clarifying his vision. The Holy Spirit forbid him to preach the gospel in Asia and in a vision the man from Macedonia asked him to come and help him.

A third step has to do with Paul’s response to the invitation of the Macedonian man.

Paul and his party immediately concluded that God was calling them to go to Macedonia. Luke writes: “And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia” (Verse 10). Here, Luke includes himself. He was now a part of Paul’s party.

Two points in this sentence capture our attention. The first point is that Paul had seen the vision! Let us pray that we will see the vision that God wants for us. More than ever, we need to have a clear vision.  When we see the vision and know that God has called, we can act with confidence and faith. We will not always know just how things will work out or even if they will be to our liking, but we will know we are in God’s hands. This is comfortable enough for us!

Second, once Paul had seen the vision, they “immediately” sought to go into Macedonia. They acted upon the information they had. Sometimes we go on weighing the matter when we should be acting. Once Paul had seen the vision, there was not much more consideration of the consequences. The early disciples simply wanted to know God had spoken. From then on, they were ready to act. The key element was knowing they had heard from God.

Now, in the last part of verse 10, Luke explains their willingness to act. He says we acted immediately, “concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” They “concluded” that they were to preach the gospel. Earlier, we suspected that this was the reason for the Macedonian call. Now, we see that this was the reason.

George M. Flattery, Ph.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

Excerpts transferred from a series originally posted on Dr. George's Facebook.

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