What a treat to have Martha write for us on Monday -- Thank you, Martha! And, phew, the titles of our latest blog posts may look like we're being challenging. Are you kicking against the goads? was Martha's post. Now, mine is titled: Are you fighting the right battles? That said, the Apostle Paul was convicting; so, I guess a study about him will lift our game.
Nothing wrong with that! In fact, I always think that's a sign of a good church, if people are challenged to better discipleship.
So, yes, are we fighting the battles God wants us to fight? Are we putting our energy into the right places?
In the Book of Acts, there is a story where Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel in a particular place, Bythnia. Paul wanted to go there -- He had huge passion and truth to share. Surely the people of Bythnia needed him ...? And yet he was forbidden. Why? Only God knows.
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bythnia, but the Spirit did not permit them.
So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel to them. (Acts 16:6-10, NKJV)
We don't know what would have happened if they had gone to Bythnia. It's like a movie plot where Bythnia is the mysterious path not taken. What we do know is what happened in Macedonia: They met a lovely lady, Lydia, in Philippi, and baptized her and her household (Acts 16:11-15). Angels would have sung at that! Perhaps they were always meant to meet Lydia. What's more, they had their massive Midnight Hour miracle, where they were broken out of prison and the jailer's household was saved too (Acts 16:25-34). Yes, the power story that Lynn told last week about Paul and Silas happened in Macedonia. If they had gone to Bythnia .... Well, we would never have had that story. But they did go, they obeyed God, and these salvations occurred.
Hallelujah to that! And, Lord, help us to listen to your voice carefully.
I believe this story is relevant to the craziness we find ourselves in today. Right now, there are all kinds of battles we can fight, all kinds of things we can speak to. But where and how does God want us to speak or act? Some of us might be called to one battle, others to another. But, we must keep listening to him.
I suppose it's a little like Peter who gets told by Jesus, after the resurrection, what his commission is to be. Jesus specifically tells him that he will die a hard death. Peter turns and gestures towards the other close disciple, John, "But what about him?" Jesus's reply is this: "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." (John 21:21-22). In other words, you do your bit; and your bit might look different to someone else's.
There are only so many hours in the day. Who knows, there could be a Lydia waiting around the corner for us, but if we're too busy throwing ourselves into 'Bythnia' rather than 'Macedonia', yikes, we might miss it!
I guess, then, this whole story says this: In doing good works for Jesus, I must pay careful attention to where he wants my energy, and walk that particular path.
Then -- if I do -- I will say this with joy:
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV)
My friends, in the comments, perhaps we can share where we feel God might be asking us to put our energy/words at the moment? And where he is asking us not to go?
Much love to you all,