Summary: This sermon is about knowing God’s vision for our church.
How fast can you cover 300 miles? Five or six hours? What about on foot? The average person can walk a mile in about 15 minutes, and that’s moving pretty fast. Continuous walking would allow you to cover 300 miles in 75 hours; that’s over 3 days. Take time out to sleep, eat and take care of other necessary business, it would take a week or more. If you stopped to talk to someone, it would take even longer. It takes only three verses in the book of Acts to cover that distance.
Turn to Act 16:6-10:
This passage, at least verses 6-8, is often skipped right over. Perhaps it’s those awful names: Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, Bithynia, and Troas. This passage is a great example of how ministry sometimes works.
Paul had been dispatched by the Church in Jerusalem to do some follow-up work at the Churches he planted on his first missionary trip. His companion from the first trip, Barnabas, went to some of the other cities. After Paul, finished his part of the mission, he and his companions (Silas and Timothy) decided to move on and reach new areas. They went to Mysia and Bithynia. They were probably headed to Ephesus, which was a large city. It made sense. It was the way Paul had done it before. Paul had a practice of visiting the largest cities to start churches. Paul was following a logical pattern. The pattern had brought him great success on his first journey.
Something wasn’t right this time. It wasn’t working like it had before. He didn’t come close to Ephesus. The Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching the Good News in Asia, which was the name of a Roman province. The Spirit of Jesus kept them out of Mysia and Bithynia. They wound up on the western shore of modern day Turkey in the city of Troas.
No doubt Paul was confounded. He was trying to spread the Good News. He was using a method and a plan that worked for him before. Paul likely had some questions, “What do I do now? Where do I go now? Am I doing the right thing?”
Then one night Paul sees a vision. There’s a man standing there. He’s a European. He’s from Macedonia. He offers a plea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Help us what?
Paul shared the vision with his companions, Silas, Timothy and Luke (which we discover from the use of the word “we”). Immediately the four of them concluded that God had called them to cross over to Europe. There were no long committee meetings. There were no surveys or feasibility studies. They didn’t “sleep on it.” Their first reaction was action. They went right away and secured transportation to Europe.
They went to Philippi, and “stayed there several days.” They met with great success. All the frustrations of closed doors were left behind. Lydia, a local businesswoman, becomes the first European convert to Christianity.
There was a slave girl who was bound by demonic forces. She had made her masters quite rich in the fortune telling business. She follows Paul and the boys around and blurts out one day, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” Paul turned around and told the demon to come of her.
Praise God things are going great.
But wait, the slave girl’s masters are a little perturbed because Paul has put them out of business. Paul and Silas are dragged before the authorities and eventually thrown in prison.
Wait a minute they are following God’s will. Right?
Yes they are. At midnight, Paul and Silas are in the midst of a rat and cockroach infested prison with stocks on their hands and feet. Their bodies were likely sore from being beaten. They probably hadn’t eaten in some time. I would imagine they were a bit tired. But instead of grumping and complaining they are singing praises to God. “I heard and old, old story of how a Savior came from glory.” Then all of a sudden there was an earthquake. The doors are open, and the stocks are loose. They suddenly made out the figure of the jailer about ready to do himself in because he will be held responsible for the escaped prisoners. Paul and Silas talked to him, he accepted the Good News.
The end result of all of this “Macedonian Call” was that the continent of Europe received the Good News. Europe became the center of Christianity.
How did that happen? Paul was obedient to the call of God in his life and in his ministry. Paul could have continued to travel throughout Turkey preaching. He wanted to reach Ephesus. On his way to Europe, he may have thought, “What about the people of Ephesus? Why are we leaving them behind? Shouldn’t we try to reach them first?”