Acts 16:6-10 6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[c] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Have you ever been through a period in your life when it felt like doors kept closing? It sounds like that’s what was happening here to Paul and Timothy: forbidden to speak in Asia, not allowed into Bithynia, etc. (By the way, these areas roughly map onto Northwest Turkey, traveling West.) Luke is the one writing the book of Acts, and he doesn’t tell us exactly how they were forbidden or not allowed. Did someone speak a prophecy? Did the weather turn bad? Did they just have a sinking feeling in their stomach? We don’t know. But we do know that Paul and Timothy were men of God who were willing to do whatever God told them, and were intent on sharing God’s word, so it must have been something pretty definitive.
But then, just as they’re about to try the next door, the vision comes. They’ve been seemingly wandering around, but listening when God told them no, and now he’s given them a direction they can go in. And they go immediately!
It is frustrating to not know what happens next, or when it will happen. But it shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus, after He was resurrected and just before His ascension, was asked “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered:
Acts 1:7 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus didn’t just say it wasn’t for us to know when Israel would be restored. He said it wasn’t for us to know “times or seasons” the Father has fixed. In other words, when God wants to reveal His checkpoints, He will, but we don’t get to know the plan ahead of time.
I don’t know if Paul and Timothy felt as frustrated as you or I might, or if they had these last words of Jesus seared into their minds. But I do know that they did receive the Holy Spirit and they did become His witnesses all over the earth. So if what it takes is accepting closed doors and continuing to seek the Lord until He reveals the next mission, then that’s what we’re called to do. Maybe some people get easier missions than others, but their mission is not my thing to worry about. I need to keep walking in faith and waiting for the vision, wherever that takes me.