Good morning. I would like to welcome you back to this short time of sharing. After an absence of three weeks, it is good to be back with you again. Today, I am again sharing with you another lesson that God is teaching me as I walk with Him. I hope it can be an encouragement to you in your own walk with God.
In your daily interaction with God, you may also experience similar lessons in your life. Good experiences are for us to treasure, tough experiences are for us to learn from and bad experiences are to mould us to grow in God and glow for God.
The Opening Prayer
The night has passed and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind. As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and for ever. Amen.
Prayer of the Week
Fifth Sunday in Lent
We thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: we pray that as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his presence abiding in us he may raise us to joys eternal; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This morning our Bible Reading is taken from Acts 16:1-10
Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. 6 Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
As I looked back to the past week of my life, the passage we just read resonates my situation very much. I just had two weeks of leave before this where Ruth and I had day trips driving to the country towns of Victoria for sightseeing. We had a great time enjoying God’s beautiful creation throughout the countryside and the beautiful country towns.
Just a day before I was due back to work, I developed cold-like symptoms. Fearing the worse, I worked from home on Monday and got myself a COVID test. The result came back that night. To our great relief, it was a negative. The next day, I went to see my GP and he told me that I caught a cold-virus that has infected quite a number of people. I was told to rest and drink lots of water. Being somewhat of a workaholic, that was disappointing news as I had a heavy workload that week. The plans I have laid was interrupted. Ahhhhh….
This is not as bad as what happened to Paul and his companions as they travelled through the towns preaching the gospel. They had barely begun Paul’s second missionary journey. They were bearing two exciting messages. The message from the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 for the new believers of the churches that they will be revisiting. But more importantly, there was also the gospel message of salvation to all who would believe in Jesus.
Indeed, we hear in verses 4 and 5 that, “As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So, the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”
They even recruited a new preaching companion named Timothy. Things are looking up, they were keen as mustard to go to as many towns as possible. However, “Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.”
The Greek word “having been kept” is a word used for a ship docked in harbour or a dog on a leash. This word means to make it difficult for someone to do something or for something to happen – in this case to preach the Gospel in the province of Asia. Commentators called it “divine passive.” It is God closing the doors to the province of Asia.
One commentator puts it like this, “Paul was guided by hindrance. The Holy Spirit often guides as much by the closing of doors as He does by the opening of doors. David Livingstone wanted to go to China, but God sent him to Africa. William Carey wanted to go to Polynesia, but God sent him to India. Adoniram Judson went to India, but God guided him to Burma. God guides us along the way, to just the right place.”
More than that, we read in verse 7, “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”
“They tried to enter Bithynia…” The imperfect tense of the word “tried” pictures Paul and his gospel companions repeatedly trying to enter Bithynia.
“But the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to”.
The Greek has it in the strongest negative which signifies He absolutely did not permit them! Asia needed the Gospel, but this was not God’s time. Need did not constitute their call. They had just come from the east; they had been forbidden to go south or north, but they did not presume that the Lord was leading them to the west – they waited His specific directions. Logic alone is not the basis for a call.
Why? We may ask. The answer is in verses 9 and 10. “ During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
What a wonderful ministry they would have in Macedonia! They were obedient to God’s passive and active prevention and they reaped His reward.
I was interrupted by God closing the door for me to come back in person to the Cathedral to work last week. I was frustrated. But God knows best. I needed to be submissive though it is not what I would have chosen.
Life is full of interruptions. It is in these interruptions that we hear God better when we listen to him. Someone said, when life is going well, God has to shout for us to hear him. When life is going OK, God needs to talk loudly for us to hear. It is in life’s interruptions that we hear God’s whispers. Are you hearing him?
The Morning Collect
Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to your service, and live this day in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the beauty of God be reflected in your eyes,
the love of God be reflected in your hands,
the wisdom of God be reflected in your words,
and the knowledge of God flow from your heart,
that all might see, and seeing, believe
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is such a privilege and joy for me to share this short time with me again. As we follow Him each day, may the interruptions we experience bring us closer to God and make us more like him.
Looking forward to be with you again next week. In the meantime, do good. Love outrageously. Enjoy life. Praise God. Amen. Goodbye.