They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
What a remarkable passage of Scripture! Paul and his companions were embarked on mission to share the Gospel of Christ with as many as possible. You would expect that Satan would make every effort to frustrate their efforts, and that God would move heaven and earth to advance the good work. And yet we see that the Holy Spirit twice forbade them from preaching the Good News in certain regions. As the kids often say, what’s up with that?!
I cannot tell you how many times I hear someone describe how the devil is hard at work opposing them. This is frequently true, yet I’ve learned from personal experience that often it is not Lucifer, but the Lord who has His loving hand of restraint upon me. It only looks like the work of the devil, because my vision is short-sighted, my plans are self-centered, and my goals are self-absorbed.
I must continually remember that God has not promised to give to us all our hopes and dreams. We want to get a good education, a secure and successful career, marry the perfect person, raise perfect children, and live happily ever after on a plush retirement plan. Just one problem: God never promised to give us any of these things! We may in fact enjoy these good gifts from the hand of God. But the moment we begin to connect our identity to school or job or spouse or children or bank accounts and anchor our happiness in these, we can be certain that God will place His restraining hand upon us. God will not make us comfortable in our idol worship!
If we are adopted members of God’s forever family, there are times when God will stand in opposition to us—not because He is angry with us or disappointed with us, but because He loves us and wants the best for us. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves,” the letter to the Hebrews explained, “and chastises every son whom he receives” (12:6).
Just like a child who pleads for a chocolate bar twenty minutes before dinner, we often set our hearts on what our Father knows is not best for us! Our vision is clouded by our sin, and we may regard God as a cosmic kill-joy when we don’t get what we want. We mentally stamp a petulant foot and wonder why God won’t come through for us! Yet He has come through, by withholding the stuff we think will meet us in our place of deepest need—the need which, in reality, only God can meet.
Our deepest need will never be met by people, our profession, or our possessions. It will only be fulfilled in a person—one Person—and His name is Jesus Christ. Everything smaller than God will inevitably disappoint us. We all know this to be true from repeated personal experience.
So remember, it’s not always Satan who is working to derail your plans. God will take the wheels right off the track when we are moving in the wrong direction. God simply loves us too much to let us shrink the size of our life down to the size of our life by chasing after the idols of the heart.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!