Luke Learns to Listen
Acts 16:6-10 (The Message)
They went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas.
That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.
Paul stopped abruptly in the middle of the road. I was walking a few paces ahead with Silas and didn’t realize it until Timothy called to us, “Wait, he’s doing it again!”
We were headed north on the road to Bithynia. The hills around us were just greening with spring and the cyprus trees on the ridge we climbed were swaying in a stiff but pleasant breeze. It seemed to me a beautiful day to be walking through the countryside with such a purpose as ours. I had travelled a lot more than many men I knew but never with this pulsing sense of importance. Each step we took seemed like a dream. The days were long, and some of the hills quite steep, but my body flexed and stretched with joy to carry me and the hope I had in me to those who had never heard the name of Jesus. It felt good to be on the road with Paul and Silas, and now, with Timothy whom we had met in Derbe.
Timothy’s shout woke me from my pleasant body meditation. We turned around, walking some hundred paces back to where Paul was standing with his eyes closed as if carefully listening — straining to hear some delicate melody or whisper in the cyprus that meant something more than just the turn of the season.
We stood there in a small circle around him for a moment until Silas asked, “What is it Paul?”
“It’s not right,” he muttered. “This isn’t the way.”
I stifled the urge to say, “Of course it is, there is only one road to Bithynia.” I had learned from the last time he stopped in the road at the previous northward fork into the Province of Asia. He wasn’t listening to just any wind.
“Come on, we’re going back. We have to keep heading East.” Paul said as he suddenly about-faced and trotted back down the hill.
“I guess we’re heading to Troas, then?” Silas yelled his honest question after him.
“Maybe,” Paul yelled without turning around. I could tell by the way he said it that he was smiling. We hurried after him. Timothy hoisted the pack and brought up the rear. The Spirit of Jesus was leading us somewhere, but I had no idea where.
It was good not to know for a while. I had spent so much of my life discovering, deducing and deciding, that this life of surprises was exhilarating. Having no idea was a new experience for me and it felt good. Like my muscles on the road, I was using parts of me I didn’t know existed until then.
“Seems right to me, too.” Silas said, clapping my back, “Eastward it is!”
A couple weeks later we were in Troas where I had some decent connections to offer the party and the mission. I found us lodging and we set up for a few days in the atrium of the Neandria Gate. We had only just begun the work of spreading the Good News in the rich port city before it was time to leave again.
Paul came to us on our fourth morning in Troas advising us to pack our bags. “We have to go to Macedonia.” he said.
This time I didn’t stifle my objection, “But Paul, I’ve already paid our rent for the week. We still have three more days.”
“We’ll have to take the loss. I had a dream last night.”
Then he told us of the Macedonian man begging him to come across the sea to help them. It was further than I had expected to go, but something about the way he told the story of his dream compelled me to go along with them. It was so plain — matter of fact. The dream was not a fanciful fleeting thought of unconsciousness; it was a message. And Paul did not doubt it. So neither did we.
I actually managed to get a refund on the room and put the money towards our fare on a trade vessel slated to sail for Neapolis in Macedonia the very next morning. Timothy and Silas had never sailed before and I tried to settle their apprehension. Odd that none of us was afraid of following this almost wild man’s dreams and feelings on the road. We were growing accustomed to that, I guess.
It was a scramble to get everything ready that day, but we managed it so easily. In less than 24 hours after Paul told us about his dream, we were on a ship crossing the Aegean. After the bustle of the harbor we turned north across the wide water. I went to the stern of the boat and breathed the salty breeze. Steadying myself as the boat bounded over the dancing sea, I began to dream of who we would meet in Macedonia and wondered if I too would hear from God as Paul had. Nothing seemed impossible.