Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 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.
From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
The question that resonates in my mind as I read this and meditate on it is simple:
Am I paying attention?
Paul and his traveling companions had a plan. The first verse makes it clear that their plan was to roll into the province of Asia and preach there. This made a lot of sense as they wanted to continue the process of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. But, the text tells us that the Holy Spirit prohibited them from going there.
We don’t know. What we do know is that they were paying attention to the leading of the Spirit.
Then we learn that Paul had a dream and he pays attention to the dream. The dream that would lead them to Macedonia and the city of Philippi. By going here he meets Lydia and she follows Jesus. Lydia becomes a significant leader in the Church.
When I have dreams I rarely remember them or when I do, I chalk it up to eating late at night or something. Either way, I don’t pay attention to them.
What does it look like to listen to or pay attention to the Spirit?
I am learning that often this means trusting those little inclinations in me. You know what I mean, your gut. If I have the Sprit of God living in me, if I am an image bearer of God, if these things are true, it seems as though I can trust myself in some sense. For much of my Christian life I have been told that the “heart is deceitful above all things” and as a result I can’t trust it. That seemed logical. Until I started thinking about the fact that we teach and believe that when someone trusts Christ the Spirit lives in them and leads them into all truth. Then it became confusing. If I am united with Christ how do I distinguish between the Spirit and my “deceitful” heart?
As I sit here today, I think it comes down to attention. We can often tell the difference between that ugly voice in us and the beautiful voice in us. More often than not knowing the difference comes down to a question attention.
My knee jerk reflection on this little story from Acts 16: Do I pay attention?
How about you?