The Apostle Paul was an avid traveler as we all know. His three missionary trips criss-crossed a prominent portion of the Roman Empire and eventually landed him in Rome. One of those journeys reminds me a great deal of our Kentucky trip. Paul began his second missionary trip in Antioch but instead of traveling by sea as he did the first time, Paul sets out on land traveling the Roman road through Cilicia and heading northwest toward Derbe, Lystra and Iconium. After both success and opposition in these areas Paul and his companions proceed toward the province of Asia but the Spirit prevents them from entering the region. So they turned northward to Bithynia but are blocked by the Spirit a second time. I’m sure at this point some of them were thinking, “Well, where in the world are we supposed to go now!?” We are not told how Paul knew the Spirit was blocking the roads to Asia and Bithynia. It’s not as obvious as a 6 car pile-up! But we do know how He showed Paul the right direction. While Paul is staying overnight in Troas he receives a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him to come and help them whereupon Paul and his fellow travelers conclude that this is indeed where God wants them to go (Acts 16:1-11).
The ministry in Macedonia begins in the beautiful city of Philippi. It was a community established by military personnel and tradespeople, situated not too far from its port of Neapolis with the Via Egantia running straight through it. Since it was a predominantly pagan city the small Jewish population met outside the city by the river for prayer and ritual cleansing. This is Paul’s first stop on the Sabbath. The Gospel is shared and it touches the heart of a God-fearing Gentile named Lydia. Her home becomes the base of operations and the Gospel flourishes touching not only Lydia’s life but that of a demon-possessed slave girl and a jailor and his household (Acts 16:13-34). The stories recorded here are some of the most powerful demonstrations of the transforming effect of the Gospel. But what if Paul had insisted on going to Asia when the Spirit said no? Or what if he’d gone to Bithynia anyway thinking the vision had only been a dream? What if he’d stopped short of going into the very heart of Macedonia where Philippi was located and only gone to the border? Would these stories ever come to pass?
As I said before Jeff and I often ask, “What if…?” concerning that trip to Kentucky. But there are many times in life all of us ask ourselves, “What if?” Sometimes we regret decisions or actions and ask, “What if I’d done it differently?” Playing the “what if” game is not always a good idea if it leads to disappointment and discouragement. But if it helps us to bring a new perspective to our struggles and trials, it can be a very positive form of reflection. If it directs us to what the Lord desires for us to do, it is a tool in shaping us like Christ. Perhaps when we encounter obstacles in our daily travels it is time to ask a new question. The question is not, “Why is this happening to me?” but, “What if God is directing me to something better?”
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre