Summary: When Paul had the vision to go to Macedonia he had to choose to do what was good or what was better.
Choosing between a good decision and a bad decision is usually pretty simple.
It’s not always easy, but It’s usually simple. The choice is usually clear. Good. Bad.
But what about when you think you are making a good decision and you’re asked to do something different? Not something bad, just something different, perhaps something better.
Paul and his companions had been struggling with what they thought were good decisions, but they kept being sidetracked or checked before their decisions became reality. And now they are being challenged to do something different. To go in a different direction.
Perhaps it was a direction they had considered and rejected earlier, or maybe it was something they hadn’t even considered before, and now they had to.
Our present series at Cornerstone is called Step Out and we are looking at various times in the bible that God’s people are asked to step out in faith. We looked at how Abraham was asked to believe God when God called him to leave his home and settle in what would we think of as present-day Israel. Abraham was promised that he would become a great nation, but at that point, he and his wife Sarah had been unable to have children.
Last week I looked at the story of a man who came to Jesus begging him to come to his home, which was 30 km away and heal his son. Instead of making the journey, Jesus told the man that his son was healed, and he could return home.
And because Abraham stepped out in faith, not only did he and Sarah become parents in their old age, but we have the nation of Israel.
Because the father in last week’s story stepped out in faith and believed the promise of Jesus, not only was his son healed, but his entire household believed in Jesus.
This morning’s story is found about halfway through the book of Acts and takes place during what is often referred to as Paul’s second missionary journey.
It Started with A Plan
The fact that this is often called Paul’s second missionary journey would indicate that there was a first missionary journey, and that journey is recorded in Acts chapters 13 and 14. It’s here we have a chronicle of how Paul and his companions travelled through what was then known as Asia and planted churches in what we now think of as Syria, Turkey and Cyprus.
At the end of this trip, Paul and the team regroup in Antioch and we pick up the story in Acts 15:36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.”
That was a good plan.
Now if you are familiar with the story, you will remember that personalities come into play here. Barnabas wants to take a disciple by the name of John Mark with them. Paul had a negative experience with John Mark on the first journey and so he resisted the suggestion. Eventually, it caused a rift and Barnabas partnered with John Mark and went in one direction and Paul went in another direction.
At this point, we would be tempted to think that this would have been a blow to kingdom expansion, but history would reveal that this was really the beginning of Kingdom expansion.
Barnabas went to Crete, and the church there would eventually become what we think of as the Eastern Orthodox Church. John Mark would end up in Egypt, where the Coptic church would take root. And eventually, Paul would see the birth of the Church in Rome or the Western Church.
Interesting, but a story for a different time.
So, as Paul regroups after Barnabas leaves, the question is where to go and what to do?
Paul gathers a new team, and they spend their time visiting the churches and encouraging the believers in the area.
But Paul is anxious to move on. He’s anxious to see more new churches established and more people reached for Jesus.
But every time he gets ready to move on, he’s blocked.
You heard about that in the scripture that was read earlier. Luke had been describing their activities, saying, Acts 16:4–5 Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day. A good plan.
And then we read in Acts 16:6 Next Paul and Silas travelled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.
But that wasn’t going to stop Paul.
In today’s verbiage, we’d say that Paul had an entrepreneurial spirit and as Stephen Jobs said, "I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the nonsuccessful ones is pure perseverance."