1 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 traveled 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 traveled 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.
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
It’s difficult reading Acts without a map. By now, more than a few times, I’ve remembered times of family road trips using the good ‘ol Rand McNally Road Atlas. Even before we moved to Texas, I used to love flipping to the back and studying it because it was so big! It occupied more than two big pages. And several Texas cities, like Houston and Dallas, were given close up views to increase the usage rate of the Atlas for folks who lived in the big cities. For reasons I don’t fully know, I’ve always enjoyed geography and navigation.
Because we aren’t as familiar with the geography and historical contexts of the places Paul is travelling to and from, it’s easier for us to assume the journeys and decisions to go certain places before others are random. It’s more difficult for us to discern the purpose of Paul going to Lystra before Galatia. Whereas, if I were to explain my purpose for taking a trip through various Texas cities, without explaining all of the specific reasons for every stop, you would be able to fill in much of the story because of your knowledge and history with the cities and places I stopped and understand their connection to my purpose for the trip.
We don’t have the same background and experience where Paul is travelling so we need to be careful to check our assumptions. Paul and his companions don’t move randomly. They move by the Spirit. They move prayerfully asking God for guidance. They listen to the needs of the churches. They are faithful to obey the consensus of church leadership. The Holy Spirit doesn’t only direct them where to go but also keeps them from going where they are not supposed to.
Sometimes, for reasons God only knows, we are simply asked to go places, serve people, and do things out of obedience. We don’t always get to understand but we can trust in the goodness of God. When we’re moving by the Spirit, we don’t need or desire all of the reasons. We simply want to please God and live a life worthy of the calling we’ve received. Where is the Spirit leading you? Where are you resistant to go? What are you refusing to do? Who are you avoiding? Is it by the Spirit’s leading or the stubbornness of pride?
Holy God, we know how true it is that you do not show favoritism but accept from every nation the one who fears you and does what is right. We have received the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. To the ends of the earth, the message of the gospel is proclaimed---how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. Precious Jesus, empower us with your Spirit to do the same (taken from Acts 10:34-38).
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.