The Apostle Paul didn’t have a mission board that examined populations and analyzed demographics. There wasn’t an advance team that worked with media outlets and their focus groups. Paul wasn’t managed and directed by a team of international experts. Paul just followed God’s direction.
When it became apparent that it was time to commence the second missionary adventure,
“Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended by the brothers and sisters to the grace of the Lord” (Acts 15:40). The church at Antioch, much like they had done before the first missionary journey, probably with fasting and praying, commissioned Paul to carry the Gospel to a lost world (Acts 13:1-3).
So, I wonder, how did Paul decide where to go? When Paul needed Divine direction, he must have sought guidance from the Holy Spirit and from God’s Written Word, the light to his path (Psalm 119:105). Surely, Paul prayed for God’s direction. As Jesus had taught, Paul must have prayed, “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
With the Lord’s leadership, Paul returned to the region of Galatia in Asia Minor, to the churches that he had helped to establish while on the first missionary journey. Incredibly, Paul returned to Lystra where he had been brutally beaten and stoned. “As they traveled through the towns ... the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers” (Acts 16:4–5).
Having completed their work in Galatia, they headed west, going farther away from home and deeper into the unknown “uttermost” (Acts 1:8. KJV). Strangely, they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). Apparently, as they travelled westward, God didn’t open doors of opportunity. When they came to Mysia, the northwestern part of modern-day Turkey, they tried to turn back to the northeast, toward Bithynia, along the Black Sea, “but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:7). Again, God closed the door!
The Biblical record is incomplete. We are left to imagine how God redirected the missionary and his team. It is likely that God quietly whispered to Paul’s spirit, saying, “No, Paul, I have a better plan!” Like sheep that know their shepherd’s voice, Paul knew the sound of God’s voice (John 10:27).
Having travelled nearly one thousand miles, Paul arrived at Troas on the banks of the Aegean Sea, on the western edge of modern-day Turkey. “During the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, ‘Cross over to Macedonia and help us!’ ” (Acts 16:9). The dream was so real! Paul saw and heard a man begging for the missionaries to cross the Aegean Sea and into Macedonia. “Please! Help us! Bring us the Good News of the Rescuer!”
If we want to be on mission, we must heed Paul’s example. We need to know the sound of His voice and we must actively pursue His purposes. Later, Paul gave great advice to the church at Rome... and to us. “I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1–2). Discerning the “perfect will of God” always includes a willingness to become “a living sacrifice.”