When God Re-Directs the Man of God
Rejection is an important part of life. We must learn it early and learn it well. You are overlooked on the elementary school playground, and denied a spot on the junior varsity basketball team. The pretty girl says, “no” to your proposed date in high school. Colleges reject you, and then employers. Sometimes spouses just walk away. Rejection is miserable. Of course, it is part of the preparation for some peoples’ eternal home. How a person handles rejection is important.
Rejection is a warning to God’s people not to place our trust in man nor our hope in this world. Rejection is mini-death experience. At some level of relationship building the construction plan is aborted. Sometimes you see it coming, and sometimes it takes you by surprise. The aftershock of rejection is often filled with, “what ifs.”
Christians must learn to trust God. Asa trusted the King of Aram and the seer Hanani rebuked him for it (2 Chron 17:7–10). Faith is required to be a Christian (Heb 11:6), and to trust the Lord means your heart is completely His. The problem is far more complex than the principle, ”Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight (Prv 3:5–6).” Sounds easy enough, right?
God is God, and this is helpful in knowing the beginning from the end. God is Almighty, which is essential for making everything work together for good for us who love Him (Rom 8:28). We are called for His purposes, not our own. Yahweh revealed this to Isaiah, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it (Is 46:9–11).”
The remedy for rejection is resting in the promises of God and not stopping. Consider the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey through the heart of Asia Minor (modern Turkiye). The Jerusalem Council had reached an agreement regarding Gentile inclusion (Acts 15). A conflict arose over John Mark’s desire to re-engage the mission team, but a compromise was reached.
Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus and Paul and Silas returned the church plants in Asia Minor. They picked up Timothy and were ready to enter some new territory. Luke recorded the scene, “They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas (Acts 16:7–8).” Heading toward the northeast, they ended up going toward the northwest. Who knew?
Two surprising things are noteworthy: first, the Holy Spirit’s prohibition to speak; and second, the roadblock in their travel plan. The Holy Spirit is the life of God in the soul of man. Christians are blessed with the gift of God, which is the Spirit of Christ at work in our hearts. The Spirit is our teacher, every moment of every day. He comforts and helps us in times of need, discouragement, and perplexity. The prohibition to speak the Word is truly surprising, however. No details are given to help us understand, but it is natural for man to ask God, “Why?”
Paul, like Jeremiah, had the Word of God burning in his bones (Jer 20:9). He echoed Jeremiah by writing, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel (1 Cor 9:16).” Paul’s emotional response to this event is not recorded, but we must imagine he was disappointed with the hindrance to His preaching ministry.
The second surprising thing was the roadblock. Frustrated by the missed preaching engagement, Paul and his team tried to travel to north central Turkiye. The Spirit of Jesus did not permit them to go where they wanted to go. Again, we are not sure why Bithynia, Pontus, or Cappadocia were of interest. Paul may have desired a circular trek back to Tarsus and Antioch, or the team may have had some personal connections in these places. Tis mystery all!
We press on. Instead of being miserable over ministries denied us, we must pass through Mysia with Paul and the team. Dealing with a disappointing rejection recently, the Spirit seemed to encourage me by putting Mysia on my mind. Mysia, the city in western central Turkiye, only appears twice in the whole Bible: once in verse 7 and once in verse 8 of Acts 16. Hence, there are not many who have spent much time doing the cultural, ethnic, historical, and geo-political surveys other biblical cities have received.
Mysia is the place with a fork in the road when the way is blocked by the Lord. Prevented from preaching, and then a denial in direction, but you just keep moving down the road. That’s Mysia. Paul may have meditated on the “what ifs,” or he may have felt he would someday return to bring these people the Gospel. He may have just moved on without another thought. Paul later wrote to the Philippians, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am (Phil 4:11).” His sentiment was collective, but Mysia was one of those circumstances. Paul was in prison at Rome when he wrote those words. He had learned. Precious are the lessons from the Lord, who does not forsake His children.
Paul’s resume of trouble spots and troubled stops is not hidden from us. He planted the church at Corinth, and factions arose that demanded proof of His apostleship, having practically excommunicated him. Paul also had a sullied reputation in Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Jerusalem. He poured himself out like a drink offering and offended friends and foes along the way. Some did not understand his zeal for Christ, which frequently seemed to cause a riot. Some did not understand his letters. At the end of his life A.W. Pink, the faithful, yet rejected English pastor, turned prolific writer died alone with only his wife by his side. Paul had Luke, and that was all.
Paul’s brand of Christianity simply scared some folks. It was high adventure with Jesus, and there were always some people not appreciating it. Today, we do not judge Paul’s character, but the people in the immediate wake of his turbulence certainly formed opinions. I suppose we should be glad Paul was not one for too much introspection. He pressed on with sentiments like, “By the grace of God I am what I am (1 Cor 15:10),” and he was he ashamed of his self-ascribed title, “chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15).”
Meanwhile, somewhere in Spain, there was a group of people wondering if God would ever send someone who could really teach them the Word of God. Paul wanted to go there, too. We do not know if he ever made that desired journey. History does not bring us to an affirmative conclusion. We also might wonder if the folks up on the shore of the Black Sea ever got a man of God to come to them.
When Peter wrote his epistles, he made us privy to his audience, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen (2 Pet 1:1).” Somebody brought the Word to the scattered flocks of central Asia Minor. The apostle Peter wrote to them. Later, some of the most important early church fathers were native to this region, including: Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, along with Gregory of Nazianzus.
God is good, and God is faithful. There is nothing any local church should want more than a man of God, who is willing and able to come to them and open the Scriptures in the power of the Holy Spirit. The man of God may have set his heart to go and encourage the brethren, but he just may end up without permission. It is not rejection. God has another place prepared for him. That is to say, he may be denied by the Spirit of Jesus, but he is likely en route to Troas. That is where Paul received the “Macedonian call” for help (Acts 16:9). God did not forsake Paul, and He did not forsake the churches Paul was trying to reach with the love of Christ.
Glory be to God for His love and His grace for all true ministers of the Word and for the faithful local churches scattered across the face of the earth. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to raise up more men of God like Paul, Silas, Barnabas, John Mark, Titus, Luke, and Timothy, who rightly divide the Word of truth.
Ironically, the Word of God, the Bible, is timeless truth. Every generation has read that encouragement for harvest prayer in Luke 10:2. Every generation in the future will read the same words. Thus, the situation will always be one of need for local churches, hungry for the Word preached. It also means the supply of faithful ministers will always be wanting. This, too, is God’s design, and we can be glad in it, even if we do not fully understand it, either.
With this challenge of supply and demand, if you have one of those limited supply editions, appreciate him all you can, while you can. Pastors are identified as “angels” in the right hand of the glorified Christ in the book of Revelation (1:20), and as messengers sent out by Him, they may only pass by places like Mysia on rare occasion. Beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News. If you find a famine for the Word of God in your local church (Amos 8:11), pray for God to direct His messenger’s steps to you, and for God to permit him to open his mouth with Gospel truth, boldness, power, love, and a demonstration of the Spirit.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 31, 2021