Turn Left at Troas
Acts 16: 8-10
November 27, 2016
Drummondtown Baptist Church
When was the last time you made a bad decision?
Many years ago, while I was in high school, my mother was so excited. She had decided to dump her old classic 55 Chevy, a car I adored and hoped to inherit so I could drive to school and impress the girls. Mom wanted a new stylish, modern car. She never discussed this decision with me, her only son. She made it on her own. So I came home from high school one day and sitting in the driveway where the beautiful 55 Chevy had been sitting, the one with the silver jet ornament that sat on the hood pointing flamboyantly toward the horizon, sitting in that hallowed spot, where my 55 Chevy sat, the one with the huge metallic bumpers you could see your face in—in that very spot where the car of my dreams once rested sat the new car.
Now you all are good at guessing. So what could replace a classic Chevy? What did replace this classic Chevy?— A Gremlin! But wait. It gets worse. A Chartreuse Gremlin!! There was no jet ornament. No manly metallic bumper. No wide mouthed steel grill that draped the entire front of the car. Just a Gremlin, the ugliest car ever made. I’ve never been the same since that moment. Before that,, I was smooth and suave. After that, I drooled and walked into walls. I still do that. That was a bad decision!
Well in our Biblical story today we are going to watch the great Apostle Paul make a huge decision, one that could easily affect the rest of his life and perhaps history. Let’s hope he thinks clearly and finds his way. As we observe one of the great Christian leaders of the past make a monumental decision, we will try to learn how he did it, how approached it. After all, we all make decisions, good and bad, every day.
There is a bit of history in our text. Paul was an educated and intelligent man so I’m sure he was fully aware of these historical links. For Paul settles in at Troas on the western coast of Turkey. It was here in the year 1250 BC that ancient Troy sported one of the greatest battles ever, The Trojan War. **(And by the way, scholars used to think that this was all hoax, this Trojan war and a city called Troy But then a German archaeologist named Schliemann started digging and found it all to be true).
And just up the coast a little further Alexander the Great faced the Persians at the Granicus River in the year 354 BC. It was at the Granicus, not far from where Paul was struggling with a decision that would change his life, that Alexander made a critical battle decision.
He brought his troops up against the Persian army separated by tGranicuscus River. Alexander’s advisors told him there was no way he could charge into the river, up slippery slopes into the face of the Persians. It would be suicide they said. But young Alexander was bold and foolhardy and brimming with pride. He would have none of this hesitancy. And so he ordered his army to attack, to charge the river. And after a fierce struggle his forces made it up the riverbank and routed the Persian army.
It was his first battle and almost was his last. (He took a huge axe blow from a Persian noble and was stunned. He was about to be finished off when his attacker was killed by another soldier).
Paul too was in a battle of sorts. He had been fighting against the forces of Satan all along the first missionary journey. At town after town (Antioch, Iconium, Lystsra, and Derbe) he had planted small churches and won people to the Lord.
Now, as we begin Acts 16, Paul returned to these churches and then wanted to launch off into a second more extensive missionary journey. He had been traveling as an emissary of the home church in Jerusalem. He was delivering the decrees of the apostles and elders of the Jersualem church. His work was vital. He had to make good decisions. He couldn’t go everywhere. But where? Well, he would just have to trust God to lead him, to give him guidance, to supply his needs just as you do each day. This is where out text touches us. WE all have to make decisions every day. Small and large So how did Paul do it?
*Many years ago I remember making a critical decision at a VBS. On one particular night when I wandered into the science lab, the kids were mixing up pudding from scratch. That’s when the teachers grabbed me and told me of the pudding emergency. “We’re out of pudding,” they said to me their voices quivering with fear. You’ve got to go the store and get some pudding. You’ve only 15 minutes before our biggest class comes in. Now go. Take these boxes and get some pudding. Don’t come back without it!
It’s the first pudding emergency I’ve ever faced so I was really psyched up about it. I had a lot of decisions to make quickly and I needed divine guidance. And so I raced down the church hall, out into the parking lot, spun my wheels getting out and charged full speed ahead to Farm Fresh. When I got in the store, I got on the microphone at the store and ordered everyone out. “I am having a pudding emergency,” I screamed, “and I need to focus.” (Well, that part that didn’t happen). But I did find the pudding, raced back and the kids were all there waiting and soon the pudding machinery was whizzing again.
Now I know this pudding crisis might seem silly in comparison to the monumental historical events of ancient Troas where Paul was waiting for guidance, but in reality all of the little dots along your life journey are important to God. He wants to be in your greatest moments and in your pudilng emergencies too. God wants to guide your life and lead you gently forward like a shepherd leads his sheep.
And in our text, Paul seemed lost for a little while. He was brimming with spiritual fervor and he wanted to save the world. But where should he go? He was confused. He thought it over for some time and then decided he would go through Asia toward Ephesus. But God said no!
That was puzzling. So he thought to himself, alright I’ll go north up to Bithynia on the Black Sea. But we read in Acts 16: 7 “that the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.” I can just see the apostle bumping into closed doors and getting frustrated. He wants to find the right way, but that way is hidden from him.
And doesn’t this happen to you from time to time? Should you take this job or that one? Should you join this team or that one? Should you send your child to this school or that one? Just how do we find and follow God’s will when can’t see the way clearly?
Now here are a few simple strategies I gleaned from studying Paul’s journey. Maybe they will help you and me discern God’s will for our lives.
- There is a time to wait for an answer. When Paul arrived at Troas, he didn’t know where to go. And so he checked into a hotel, put his bags in the corner and stood out on the veranda staring off at the blue Agean Sea and wondering. And still befuddled after sunset, he did what we have to do sometimes. He waited on the Lord. He just laid down on the hotel bed, said his prayer for guidance and trust, and then went to sleep. He waited.
*Here is a valuable text from the Psamist on this very subject. Ps 27:14. “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.
But silence can be frustrating. When we don’t hear anything from God we often think He doesn’t care about our problems. But God knows and God cares. And why can’t we see silence as a form of communication. The worst thing we can do is panic and head off boldly in the wrong direction.
*Who remembers Robert Frost? When I taught English I had my students memorize the poem The Road Not Taken.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood–
and sorry I could not travel both
and be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth,
then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear,
though as for that the passing there
had worn them really about the same…..And both that morning…
When Robert Frost was 20, he was penniless and out of work. His little book of poetry had been rejected by publishers, he was expelled from Dartmouth College, and his girlfriend Elinor White had dumped him. So he took a train down to Norfolk, and found the Dismal Swamp and at night walked for ten miles into the swamp. He tells about this in his poem Kitty Hawk, writen when he 80. (If he hadn’t accidentally come across a band of duck hunters, he might have never surfaced). This juant into the swamp was a bad decision. I think he just got tired of waiting–waiting for guidance and clarity.
Paul could have easily have said to himself and his entourage, “I’m not hearing anything clear from the Lord and I can’t wait around anymore. So let’s go. Let head on down to Ephesus.” But had he done that he would have missed a critical rendevous with Lydia the seller of purple fabrics standing at a small stream outside Philippi. Because he waited for the Lord, he was told to go Macedonia and there he met Lydia and won her to the Lord.
- And that lead into the next lesson on guidance: Listen. Learn to listen and discern the voice of the Spirit.
Paul went to bed that night unsure about the future about the direction he should go. But a dream came to him. And in the dream a Macedonian was standing and appealing to him. But how did Paul know that was from God? In 1 John 4:1 the early
Christians had to learn how to listen and discern the voice of God. For there were many voices in the air.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Today’s children hear so many voices. They have to learn to listen and discern. There are voices telling them to rebel, to try drugs, to join a gang, to get into trouble, to steal from a store, hate their parents. And that is why church is so important to children. Many of my public school students are heavily involved in their churches. One of my little girls wants to come and play her violin for you all so bad. I told to come. But it’s a long way. But church involvement lets them hear the voices of joy and hope and salvation. Let’s pray that our church will grow with many new children coming over the next years.
And the saint also has to learn how to listen and discern whether the voice in the night is from God or from the world. This takes prayer and intense communication with God. Paul heard the cry of the Macedonian and determined in his heart that this voice was genuine. He waited—He listened—And he went forth. And that leads us to the final thought.
And the final thing Paul was did was to act without delay. Once he knew the
will of God he acted. The Greek text says he IMMEDIATELY, eftheos, WE SOUGHT TO GO INTO MACEDONIA.
A good decision isn’t any good if you ignore it. When God speaks to you, act upon that decision. Paul did. And a whole new missionary field opened before him as he went west toward Athens, and then Corinth.
Conclusion: And so how do we discover God’s will and guidance?
Wait—Listen—Act. That was Paul’s prescription for making a good decision and finding God’s will. You can do the same thing daily as you seek to follow the Lord.