"I don't want you to go there", the Holy Spirit said to Paul and his companions.
It may have come to them as a complete surprise since God's unmistakeable blessing had been on their journeys so far. Everywhere they had gone the churches had been strengthened and people had been saved daily. As far as we know, the Lord had prospered every choice they had made up to this point.
But on this day the Holy Spirit had said NO.
So they turned north . . . and the Spirit stopped them again!
From what we know of Paul, we can be quite sure he had had a plan. That's the kind of person he was. Before his conversion his had been the highly regimented lifestyle of the Pharisees, and in that circle he was at the top. He was known for excelling in everything and famous for leaving his peers behind in his unparalleled zeal for the Law. He knew where and how he was going, and wouldn't stop until he got there!
But that was before.
Paul viewed his new mission in a completely different light. He no longer had a personal agenda nor was his primary focus on checking off his list of target cities. God was the One who made his decisions now. The courageous and energetic missionary had humbly submitted to the will of his Master. The Lord Jesus could move him in any direction, at any moment, and in any way.
And that is exactly the attitude we should have.
Who of us has not heard this same NO?
Can you remember having your suitcases packed and ready when the Spirit clearly made His point: "That is not where I want you to go"? What about the business objective or ministry goal that you were sure was the ideal one? Or how about the family dream you had looked forward to for years?
It can be a disconcerting experience to have these changed by God, but that is what He often does. And every time He moves to rearrange our plans, it is to prepare us for His better ones.
In this Biblical scene, the Spirit had a whole package of spiritual victories awaiting the Gospel preachers. There was Phillipi and it's church born in the jailer's house. There was the congregation of Thessalonica, with its exemplary conversion from idols to the living and true God. There were the Bereans, who eagerly compared the message with the Scriptures, and then the Athenians who heard Paul's mighty sermon about the Unknown God. Finally, before the messenger of God turned back to his sending church at Antioch, a remarkable ministry would be established on the isthmus of Corinth.
All this because a man was open to having the Lord interrupt his schedule.
Are we wise enough and humble enough to be used in this way?
Dear Father, You always know best. I fear that many of my spiritual plans are still laced with subtle strands of private ambitions and desires. Make me easy to direct, easy to change, easy to move in the direction of Your perfect will. Amen.