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4. Week Four: Paced By The Spirit

Soul Food

And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.

Describing Paul and his companions in Acts 16:7 ESV

Although I have absolutely no experience with long distance races myself, I do have a daughter who has run in two marathons and several half marathons, which gives me some experience by osmosis or something. I do know that it’s wise to run with a group progressing at the same pace. If a runner starts too fast, she grows so tired that she may not complete the race. If she runs too slowly, her time won’t be her best. As I watched my daughter run the Chicago marathon, I noticed certain runners holding signs with a pace time so that anyone wishing to run at that speed could run with them.

As one running in God’s race, Paul was paced by the Spirit. We, too, must learn to listen and follow the leading of the Spirit in our lives so that we complete the race well without burning out or failing to finish the unique work God has given each of us.

After the Jerusalem Council ended, Paul returned to Antioch from where he soon left on a second missionary journey, which likely occurred about A.D. 50-52. You’ll find a chart of the second journey at the end of this lesson to make notes on his travels as you read.

As we follow this part of Paul’s journeys, keep in mind our focus this week—to consider how God’s Spirit paced and led him.

Part One Study

Before reading about Paul’s second trip, let’s look at how God led the first trip. Luke doesn’t provide a lot of information about what Paul and his companions were thinking or praying as they moved from city to city, but let’s use the information we have to at least consider God’s pacing.

Review Paul’s First Journey (Last Week’s Lesson), Either Using The Chart On P. 30 Or With A Quick Review Of Acts 13:4-14:28, Focusing On What Caused Them To Move From Place To Place. Keep These In Mind As You Read Today’s Stories.

Now we’ll turn to Paul’s second journey. Here’s a free map of this second journey1 to help. Record your insights into this second journey on the chart at the end of this week’s study on p. 36 as you go.

As You Read Acts 15:36–16:5, Journal Your Thoughts On The Following Questions In Light Of Your Review Of The First Journey As Well As This Part Of The Second. (We’re Saving The Paul/Barnabas Dispute For Another Lesson.)

  • What events, etc. do you note that pushed Paul and his companions on from city to city? Look for the big picture, i.e. patterns. What would you say is God’s part in this?

Acts 15:36 says that Paul suggested this second trip as a follow-up visit to the churches that he and Barnabas had planted on the previous trip, and Paul and his new mission partner Silas did return to Syria, Cilicia and southern Galatia, strengthening the disciples, as planned. Meanwhile Barnabas and Mark visited the churches in Cyprus, which was Barnabas’s home.

Now where?

Read Acts 16:6-12.

In two short verses (Acts 16:6–7), Luke describes why Paul’s travels may have felt aimless after they left the church plants in southern Galatia. The scriptures suggest that no ministry took place during that time (Acts 16:5-12).

A trip which takes us only a few seconds to read, involved hundreds of miles of travel from southern Galatia and an unknown amount of time before Paul and his companions arrived in Troas (the area of ancient Troy)2 on the coast of the Hellespont, the four-mile-wide waterway separating Europe and Asia, where the travelers finally received direction about their next destination.

A possibility to consider: “Paul left the familiar region . . . , crossing the Aegean Sea, only after a vision from God (Acts16:9-10). Perhaps it was never Paul’s intention to take the gospel beyond . . . Asia Minor. This seems implied by Acts 16:6-7.”3

Write Down Your Thoughts On These Questions In Light Of The Verses And Information:

  • What do you understand about the importance of discerning the voice of the Spirit from these verses?
  • Describe the ways God has guided you. In light of that, which of Paul’s stories do you most relate to and why?
  • What is God saying to you through Acts today?

*** Read from additional sources about what you’ve read today.

Part Two Study

In your reading in Part One you may have noticed that in Acts 16:10, where the travelers booked their trip to Macedonia, the northern area of Greece, the pronouns change from “they” to “we.” Most scholars see this as an indication that Luke, author of Acts, joined Paul and his party at this point. As you read the rest of Acts, look for Luke’s presence by noting his pronouns.

As you read the stories that comprise the rest of the second journey, keep noting how often Paul faced persecution and opposition. (You may want to highlight every place he met that kind of trouble on the chart at the end of the lesson.)

As You Read Acts 16:11-18:22, The Rest Of The Second Journey, Make Notes On The Chart On P. 36, And Record Your Thoughts On The Questions Below The Note:

Note: In Philippi we see the first record of Paul spending time in prison. N.T. Wright helps us understand what that involved: “In Paul’s world, unlike ours, prison was not a ‘sentence’ in itself. It was where magistrates put people while they decide what to do with them. No provision was made for the prisoner’s welfare. They had to rely on friends or family to bring them food and other necessities.”4

  • What do these stories reveal about God in general and his guidance specifically?
  • Meditate on the opposition and persecution that Paul endured throughout this second journey. What do you learn from Paul’s attitude?
  • What is God saying to you today?

*** Our reading in Acts introduces a couple of great Christian women, Lydia and Priscilla. In BOW’s series of three free videos/podcasts, “You ARE On God’s Team,”5 Claudia McGuire encourages Christian women through both of their stories: Lydia’s story: “God Uses Your Availability”6 and Priscilla’s story: “God Uses Your Gifts.”7 Watch the series or one or both of the individual stories, and journal about how God is speaking to you.

Part Three Study

We saw in the scriptures in Part Two that after Paul arrived in Macedonia, he visited Philippi before heading to Thessalonica, where he spent only a short few weeks (Acts 17:1-10). Paul went on from there to Berea, Athens and then Corinth. It was during his time in Corinth when Paul likely wrote his two letters to the Thessalonians, saying, “But when we were separated from you, brothers and sisters, for a short time (in presence, not in affection) we became all the more fervent in our great desire to see you in person. For we wanted to come to you (I, Paul, in fact tried again and again) but Satan thwarted us” (1 Thess. 2:17-18).

Even though Paul recognized that Satan was at work preventing him from returning where he wanted to go, he didn’t let it stop him from doing the work that was in front of him, from doing what he could do. Satan’s efforts didn’t dissuade him or depress him. In fact, Satan is rarely mentioned in Paul’s letters and is never his focus.

Some Christians credit Satan whenever things go wrong. After all, it couldn’t possibly be God’s will or plan for his work to fail or circumstances to be difficult, or could it?

Consider these first two journeys. Yes, Satan stopped Paul’s plans at times, but so did the Spirit. We don’t always know who’s behind a closed door, but we do know that God is in control, even when it’s Satan, and so Paul kept doing God’s work, not allowing Satan to stop him completely. Since God is in charge, we accept Satan’s attempts to stop us as God’s opportunities for us to keep trusting and serving where we can. Often, Satan’s real target is our faith. He wants to make us depressed, question God’s presence or quit the race. We must be alert to what he’s trying to do in us and entrust the closed door to God.

As You Consider God’s Sovereignty Over Paul’s Travels, Read These Verses And Write Your Thoughts On The Questions: 1 Samuel 2:4-10 (Hannah’s Prayer); Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Dan. 4:17, 34-35.

  • What do these verses reveal about God’s rule and Satan’s power?
  • How do you generally respond when good ideas and good works don’t work out? Why?
  • Read Genesis 50:19-21, Joseph’s words to his brothers who sold him into slavery. Note your thoughts about how Paul’s story involves the same principle.

*** Read John 19:6-11, and note the last conversation between Pilate and Jesus. Write down your insights into Jesus’ words in v. 11 and the opposition and persecution we’ve seen in Paul’s story.

I love this prayer from John Baillie:

Thank you for every indication of your Spirit leading me, and for the things that seem like chance or coincidence at the time, but later appear to me as part of your gracious plan for my spiritual growth. Help me to follow where you lead and never quench this light that you have ignited within me, rather let me grow daily in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus my Lord.8

Sometimes it’s hard to see what God is doing when circumstances change and we face difficulties. Although unable to understand at the time, Ann can now look back at hurtful circumstances and recognize that God was at work for her good.

A Runner’s Story: Ann

I am from a small town in Texas and grew up with the notion that you graduated from high school and maybe went to college. Then you got married. I had dated the same guy all through high school and for two years in college, so I assumed that we would get married eventually. I was deeply hurt when he announced after our sophomore year that we should date other people over the summer. He had gotten a job in the city where we attended college, and I was going back to our home town. I was still hoping that after the summer, we would get back together. After all, we had dated for six years.

In late July I received a “Dear Ann” letter stating that he had met someone else and that they would be getting married in August! To say the least, I was devastated. I returned all of his personal items that I still had and burned his pictures, but my heart was truly broken. How could God have allowed this to happen? He had completely closed the door on that relationship.

I returned to college that fall and tried to get on with my life. I dated several people and eventually met a special person. We dated for two years and were married. Eventually we moved to Dallas for his job and to raise our family. Shortly after moving to Dallas, I was invited by an acquaintance to a Christian Women’s Luncheon where women shared their testimonies about how trusting Christ as their Savior had changed their lives. One of those who gave her testimony was the wife of my husband’s cousin. My acquaintance soon became my friend and mentor who led me to the Lord. We signed our children up for five day clubs and vacation Bible schools at several churches the next summer. We signed the kids up for Five-Day Clubs and vacation Bible schools. Our children trusted Christ, and eventually our husbands joined the family of God. Though our paths seldom cross now, she was one of the tools God used to lead me to Christ.

It has been many years since God intervened and put me on the path that eventually led me to Him through his son, Jesus Christ. He knew all along what his plans for me were, and what it would take to get me where he wanted me to be. I am thankful that He changed the direction of my life so many years ago.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (Link To Map)9

Place Visited

Acts

Notes

Syria & Cilicia (regions), Derbe & Lystra

15:41-16:5

 

Phrygia (area in Galatia) & Galatia

16:6

 

Mysia (region)

16:7-8

 

Troas

16:8-11

 

Philippi

16:12-40

 

Thessalonica

17:1-10a

 

Berea

17:10-14

 

Athens

17:15-34

 

Corinth

18:1-18

Likely writes 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Cenchrea

18:18

 

Ephesus

18:19-21

 

Caesarea & Jerusalem (church was “up in” Jerusalem)

18:22

 

Antioch

18:22

 

 


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