All Paul wanted to do was preach the gospel, and what better place to do that than where the masses are? Though his intentions were noble and his sights were big, the Holy Spirit slammed the brakes on him, not just once but twice! Should you be asking why, I’m certain Paul had the same question. The answer came in a vision one night. Here’s how Dr. Luke relays the story:
“Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:6-10)
Never Lose Sight of The Individual
Paul saw only one man in his vision. This is significant and, in my humble estimation, reveals why the Spirit detoured him from highly populated areas such as Asia. It seems Paul was thinking in terms of multitudes. The Lord wanted him to think more in terms of individuals, just as Jesus did.
Without a doubt, Jesus attracted crowds everywhere He went. However, people were important to Him. He never lost sight of individuals. He took time for Nicodemus late one evening, explaining to this forlorn Pharisee the meaning of being “born again. He met up with a shady lady at Jacob’s Well, introducing her to the “Living Water.” He slipped away from the crowd to dine with a sticky-fingered tax collector, leading him to a life of clean hands. There are countless stories like this. Jesus had a thing for people. There was no getting lost in a crowd with Him around.
It grieves me when I hear of pastors who avoid the very ones they’re called to minister to. They love to hear themselves talk, but have no time for the flock. They just do their thing – preach a well-crafted message then bolt out door so they can’t be bothered. “What happened to Pastor Houdini?” everyone wonders.
I so appreciate the ministry of Jesus. Though He ministered to masses He remained on the lookout for that one person in need. Whoever they were, wherever they were, He’d find them. Lepers, losers, ladies of the night, it mattered not, Jesus was there for them. He didn’t have an escape plan or a hideout from those seeking Him.
We see this modeled in the Book of Acts and throughout the New Testament. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Timothy all had a heart for people. Oh yes, there were occasional slip-ups, but they always got back on track. Deep in their hearts they understood that ministry is about caring for souls, and for the sake of one, there are times you must leave the ninety-nine. Jesus taught them that.
I like to describe ministry as a three-legged stool. The three legs are these: a love for God, a love for His Word and a love for His people. Should you remove one of these legs the ministry won’t stand, not in the eyes of God anyway. You see, ministry takes more than brains. It takes heart – a lot of heart! Therefore, when Paul saw that one man in his vision he readily understood his calling. Without hesitation he concluded, “We must go to Macedonia and preach the gospel there.” He responded to one lone voice. May we have that same heart.
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Calvary Chapel of Austin Church
1601 Pecan St., Pflugerville, TX 78660