I preached a sermon yesterday at First Presbyterian and below are my sermon notes.
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if God answered, “Yes” to every prayer you ever prayed?
I thank God for not always answering prayers the way I want. I look back on my life, I am so thankful that God said, “No” to many of my prayers. Do you think that when God says, “No”, this makes him a mean God? Does he not care about us when he says, “no”? Does it mean God wants us to be miserable and unhappy? No! I believe it’s just the opposite. God never says, “No” just because. There is always a purpose behind his “no” and today we will see how this was true for Paul and it can be for us today.
Acts 16:6 - 15
Hindered by the Holy Spirit
Vs: 6, 7: Paul and his companions were on a mission’s trip and they were in the towns of Phrygia and Galatia with the intention of going to Asia. Paul’s heart was to go to Asia (Asia Minor) to preach the Gospel, but we are told the Holy Spirit had forbidden Him to go. They changed their plans and when they came to a place called Mysia they decided to go north to Bithynia and once again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
We don’t know exactly why they were not allowed to go to Asia and Bithynia, but we see later that God had other plans for them. We also do not know how they were hindered to go (did God literally and physically restrain them or did he close doors and shut down opportunities?), we just know the Spirit of God would not allow them to go. As far as we know Paul was not doing anything wrong nor was there a known sin that was hindering him. He was zealous. He wanted to proclaim the Gospel and he wanted to bring the good news to places that hadn’t heard it yet. Paul’s desire was for one place and God’s plan was for another and they were not the same.
Vs. 9, 10: In a town called Troas Paul receives a vision of a man from Macedonia who was urging him to come down to him to help them. It seems at this point God’s plan was to bring the Gospel to Europe instead of Asia (Not that the Gospel would never come to Asia, it just wasn’t the right time). It is also at this point the author and physician Luke joins their missionary team because in verse 10 the writer begins writing in the first person (we instead of they). From this point on Luke travels with Paul on his missions journeys.
Vs 11 - 15: The men set sail from Troas they went north to Samothrace and Neopolis and eventually ended up in Macedonia to share the Gospel (in a city called Philipi). They remained there for many days. On the Sabbath the group went to the riverside to find a place of prayer. They began sharing the Gospel with a few women who were there. One of the women who heard the Gospel was Lydia. Lydia was a gentile woman who was a seller of purple (a very expensive and luxurious purple dyed cloth) and the Spirit of God was at work as He opened her heart to receive to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She was baptized (with her household) as a believer into the family of God.
This is an important event in the history of Christianity because Lydia became one of the first Christian converts in Europe. She was probably a wealthy woman because she offered to put Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke up in her household. This is significant because Jews typically would not stay in the home of a gentile, let alone a gentile woman.
When God Says, “NO”
The Spirit of God is at work in this passage. We get a pretty vivid picture as to how God works for His glory when he does things we are not expecting. We see the importance of seeking God’s will and allowing His will to overshadow our will. Paul’s desire was to proclaim the Gospel to the people of but this wasn’t what God had in store at this point of his life. This is often true for so many of us as we are determined to do what we want that we can end up not being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit of God.
We plan. We set goals. We create and cast vision and mission statements. But we sometimes fail to seek God’s over our desires. Sometimes our will and God’s will do not line up. Often our desires and plans are not bad, sinful or selfish but they are not what God has willed at this specific moment. This can be frustrating on a personal level because we put a lot of time, effort and resources into our plans just to see the door closed on us. We think we have wasted all of our time, effort and resources when in reality the closed door is pointing us in the God’s direction. Pastor James Montgomery Boice writes, “We need to understand that ‘closed doors’ though they are a type of negative guidance, are nevertheless true guidance.” It is important to be sensitive to the Spirit of God and flexible to change when God is the one who initiates the change.
Why God Says, “No”?
This brings us to the question many have asked, “Why does God say, ‘No’”? If God truly loved us why would he say, “No”?
Here are four reasons.
Are You On the Right Path?
How do we know we are in God’s will? How is it that we can make sure we are doing the right thing He called us to do? Maybe you are in a difficult point of your life today and you are uncertain as to what God is up to and where he is leading. Here are a few suggestions to help you determine…
 Boice, James Montgomery: Acts, Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1997 p. 274
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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