Acts 16: 1-10: God at the wheel.

16 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 travelled 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 travelled 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.

‘Our path through life will often be indicated by the fact that the doors which lead off the straight track are barred and bolted, so that we have no option save to go on. Paul was blocked first on the left, that he should not go into the province of Asia; then on the right, that he should not go into Bithynia. Finally he reached Troas, and stood face to face with the ocean that lay between him and Europe. Here he had a vision which made a deep impression upon him…God often leaves us to infer our own course. He does not ignore his own great gift of reason.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, pages 493/494.  So there are some important principles of guidance that emerge here.

Also note that in the Christian life we may need to combine firmness of conviction with flexibility in practice. Where people wanted to insist on circumcision as necessary for salvation, Paul fought against it, as we saw in the previous chapter. However, Paul was quite prepared to have Timothy circumcised in order to remove an unnecessary stumbling block to his mission.