ACTS 16:6-10: “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Passing by Mysia they went down to Troas. 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!” After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” CSB
OBSERVATION: Am I being led by the Holy Spirit? Is my heart attuned to hearing His still small voice? Am I positioned and ready to obey His voice when I hear it? These are the questions that come to mind when I read these verses from Acts.
I remember watching a game show when I was a child. It was “Let’s Make a Deal.” Many times a contestant was given the opportunity of trading what they had already won for something behind three curtains. One curtain held a big prize, one curtain held a lesser prize, and the last curtain held a joke prize. As I watched the show I would think to myself, “If only I could know what is behind each curtain before making my choice!” However, without this knowledge, more often than not, the contestant ended up with a goat rather than a car.
Life is very much like this game show. We are constantly faced with choices. They all look good, but only one is the right choice. And, it even makes it harder when all three are good choices. This is where Paul found himself. Yet, Paul had learned to walk in the Spirit. He had trained his ear to listen for His still small voice. When they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia to preach the Gospel, the Holy Spirit would not allow them to stop. Then, when they tried to go to Bithynia to preach the Gospel, again the Holy Spirit would not allow them to stop. And then, behind door number three, Paul discovered the Lord’s will and direction.
During the night the Spirit spoke to Paul in a dream. In this dream he saw a man from Macedonia pleading with him to come to Macedonia and help them. Paul, upon waking, perceived it was a dream given to him from the Holy Spirit and set course to preach the Gospel in Macedonia. Paul did not know what really was behind curtain number three. Yet, he was positioned to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, and hearing, to obey.
The rest of the story is quite interesting. Paul encounters a godly woman named Lydia, who upon hearing the Gospel, places her faith in Jesus Christ. She and her entire household believed and were baptized. And, Lydia invites Paul and Silas to stay at her house while they were in the region. God had led them to reach this household for Jesus Christ, and also to receive provision for their journey. The Holy Spirit led them to the very hearts who needed to hear the Gospel. The Holy Spirit knew that Lydia and her household were ready to receive and believe.
What happens next is quite interesting. Paul and Silas encounter a demon possessed girl that had been manipulated by certain men to make money by predicting the future. When Paul casts out the spirit in this girl, and when these men realize their source of revenue has been taken away, they incite a riot against Paul and Silas. Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown into prison. One may being to wonder if Paul really received the direction of the Holy Spirit under these circumstances. However, what happens next confirms that he did.
Paul and Silas, in jail, begin to sing hymns and pray. The rest of the prisoners, as well as the guard, hear them. Then the Lord caused a great earthquake to open up all the prison doors and loose all the prisoners shackles. The guard proceeds with an attempt to take his own life because he envisions that all the prisoners have escaped. Yet, Paul reassures him that they are all there. The jailer invites Paul and Silas to his home. The jailer and his entire family hear the Gospel, believe, and are baptized. And Paul and Silas are vindicated as the town leaders come to apologize for beating them and lead them safely out of town.
Who could have envisioned these turn of events? Only the Holy Spirit. The Lord knew that there were two households that were ready to receive the Gospel. And Paul and Silas, sensing they were being led by the Lord, continued in worship and prayer, even when they were thrown into prison. When you know that you are in the will of the Lord there is peace and great joy. Even if you find yourself in the midst of a storm. You know that where the Lord guides, He provides! There is nothing better than knowing you have heard the voice of the Spirit and you are right where God wants you to be!
- “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:13-14 CSB
The indwelling and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit is the wonderful assurance that we are the children of God. It is the promise of the Father given on the Day of Pentecost. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit opens the door to a lifetime of walking in the power and leading of the Lord. We no longer have to wonder what is behind each curtain. We can trust the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. The key is to learn to listen. We train our ear to listen as we abide in God’s Word, continue in prayer, and position our heart in worship.
It is in the secret place of the Word, prayer, and worship that we hear His still small voice. Jesus regularly drew apart from His disciples into a quiet place to be with the Father. In His earthly life, Jesus did not rely upon his heavenly attributes. Rather, as a man, he relied on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And, He has promised us that the Holy Spirit will also guide us into all truth. What a wonderful privilege and blessing. We have not been left alone. We have a comforter and a guide that is present with us, and will lead and guide us on a daily basis.
Lord, this morning I am led to pray what David prayed. Lord, keep me from presumptuous sin. Help me not to move ahead prematurely in my life until I hear the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart – “This is the way, walk in it.” May I wait upon You, meditating upon Your Word, seeking You in earnest prayer, and worshipping You with a sincere heart. Help me to train my inner ear to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice.
In Jesus Name!