Ever been disappointed when your plans for the future had to be ditched? It's happened to all of us, and when those doors are slammed shut, we rarely receive it as a gift from God.
In fact, sometimes our disappointment sends us into an emotional tailspin. Today, on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll reminds us that, just like Paul and Silas in Acts 16, sometimes we need to look past our own frustration in order to embrace God's greater plan. This sermon comes from Chuck's brand new teaching series called Clinging to Hope, and we begin with prayer. It is true, Father, that our help is from You. There is no one who knows us like You do.
There is no other so trustworthy. Nevertheless, we cannot see You, nor do we audibly hear You, though we occasionally feel Your presence. There sometimes is mystery in Your leading, and we can't figure You out. And that's the way You want it, because You are our God, not simply a heavenly buddy. You're our God.
You're our Lord. We long for You to guide us and to make it clear where You would have us go and what You would have us do. And so we thank You for closed and open doors.
We simply need patience in dealing with the closed ones as we ultimately find our way through the open ones and look back realizing what a great plan You had in mind. So speak today in specific and direct ways to each of us, saying one thing to one person, something altogether different to someone else, so that this message would be tailor-made for each one of us as Your Spirit takes print from the page of the Scriptures and drills it into our lives. And our minds give us teachable spirits and hearts and then wills ready and anxious to obey, just like Paul and Silas, who at once left where they were to go to where You were sending them. Now these gifts we give today come from resources that we have You to thank for. Not only would we not only have our job, our occupation, we wouldn't have our help were it not for You.
We would not even be here with breath in our lungs and a beat in our hearts. And so wholly dependent upon You, we give out of Your resources that You've entrusted to us and we do so confidently that You will use these gifts in ways that would please You. Watch over them. May they be handled with great integrity and may they be spent with great wisdom. These things we ask in the name of Jesus, our Master, everyone said, Amen.
You're listening to Insight for Living. To study the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures Studies by going to insightworld.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck, which is based on a story in Acts chapter 16 titled When Doors Slam Shut. Paul has been on another journey earlier and it was met with wonderful success from one place to another and yet another and another before he returned to his home church in Antioch to give a report along with his traveling companion, Barnabas, as they told of what God did in that first journey. You could trace the journey as you go back to the 13th and 14th chapters of the book of Acts. There's an important council that was held in chapter 15 recorded there and then toward the end of that chapter plans are being made for a second journey that Paul would take. He had planned earlier to go with Barnabas. That door closed in an interesting set of events and then he chose Silas as his traveling companion and they decided they would go back to the places where Paul had been on that first journey and they would see how the churches are doing and they would see if God had been working in the lives of those that they had led to Christ on that original journey.
And sure enough, it was good news. You'll see it in verse five of Acts chapter 16. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day. What an exciting thing that busted man when Paul returned bringing along with him Silas and they realized that the Lord is using their earlier work to build the work there in these new places. Well naturally, because of that, Paul was anxious to go on into regions beyond and we read of that as we read in verse six. Next Paul and Silas travel through the area of Phrygia and Galatia. If you were to take the time and if I had the time to turn to the maps, you would see that that's right along the journey. They go up to move to the left of Phrygia or to the right, east and then west to get into Galatia.
But look at what this says. It says, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. See the word prevent, it means to clip or to snip or to cut off, it's the idea of an abrupt hindrance. Somehow the Spirit of God said, no, no, I realize there are people in Phrygia and there are people in Galatia who have not heard, don't go there, doors are closed. No explanation, just a preventing of entering into those areas of spiritual darkness.
Must have been tough to hear but you read nothing of an argument. Or Paul attempting to force his way there, no, he simply accepted that. And please notice they pressed on, you'll read of it as you read on verse seven. Then coming to the borders of Missia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia. If you again were to look at the map, you would see they're going up north and they get to Missia and then over to Bithynia or at least they attempt to go there. But again, the Spirit did not allow them to go there. Not only are the first two doors closed into Phrygia and Galatia, but now the doors are closed into Missia and Bithynia. And they must have thought, Lord, what exactly are you up to?
Our first journey was such a smooth journey in the sense that we moved from one place to another. Oh, there were trials, there were moments of persecution, but you used us and the doors were open and we had the opportunity to lead people to Christ and it was marvelous. But we can't go into these areas and there are needs there that need to be met and we have the truth, but you close the door. Please read on at the end of verse eight, they went on through, not into, but they went through Missia to the seaport of Troas. Now I understand these are unusual places, unusual names in ancient Turkey as we know it today, but in those days, these were provinces in this land of Asia, the continent of Asia or Asia Minor, to be specific, where these doors are closed. When they came to Troas, they were at the Aegean, there is no further land on that northwest coast of Asia.
Troas is this remote little seaport town and I would love to have been a bug on the side of the cave where they had supper that evening or maybe at the shore where they chose to sit and eat a little bit of food they had brought with them and they talked over what on earth is happening. What is God up to, which is exactly where some of you are right now. It is precisely where you are. You haven't been disobedient, as a matter of fact, you've been very sensitive to what the Lord would have you do or where he would have you go. It may be in the realm of your business.
It may be as it relates to your schooling. You may be in ministry and it looks like the doors are closing at that church and there's all the evidence that God's spirit is leading somewhere else and not here. So you can't stay, but you don't know where to go and God at times like that can be silent.
At the end of the word troas is a period. Our tendency is to move quickly beyond the period and that little space onto that next ninth verse, but I'm not going to let you go there yet. When they went to sleep that night, it was at a period and silence. Just the space of silence. They saw the stars in that cloudless night above troas.
They could hear the water of the Aegean splashing along the shoreline, not sure what the next move was. Now look at the next two words, at least in this version, that night. Now let me quickly add, we would love it if God always came through that very time. Sometime he adds you in a holding pattern for weeks, occasionally for months, but in this case they are there only hours if that, and that night Paul had a vision. Stop right there, because I'm hearing some of you think that is what I need.
I need a vision. Remember in those days there was not a completed Bible. In fact, the New Testament was just now being compiled in a rather crude manner and incomplete manner.
The letters of Paul have not been written, the works of others in the New Testament. We have a complete Bible. When you haven't a complete Bible, you need visions to know which way to go. But when you have a completed Bible, may I say that until you exhaust the source, the written source of truth, I'd suggest you not look for dreams and visions and faces of Jesus and a taco, okay?
You don't need sky writing, you don't need scratches on the window, you don't need sounds in the middle of the night, you don't need voices. You need the word of God and a bended knee and a willingness to wait. Speak Lord, like Samuel said, your servant is listening. In this case, because they didn't have a Bible in the way God spoke to people in the days of an unfinished scriptures, a vision came. And there was a man from Macedon, we do not know who he was, we never know, not through the rest of the Bible, are we ever given a name? We don't know exactly where he is standing. He was standing there, he's a man from northern Greece in the region of Macedonia on another continent. There in Asia, he is representing Europe.
May I add this to make it even more interesting? Our forefathers have their roots in Europe, most likely, for most of us. He represents that continent, that culture that's unfamiliar to Paul and Silas, those languages that they have not been around, a group of people they did not know, in an area they had not been in, all of it was new, all of it was unfamiliar, and it could have been foreboding had they not known for sure that it was the spirit of God speaking through the man from Macedonia. And what is he saying?
He's not just saying, he's pleading. Come over to Macedonia and help us, you're not to be in Phrygia or Galatia or Mysia or Bithynia or other parts along the way in the province of Asia. Now that you have come to Troas, take the next boat and come over to Europe.
I love the response. So we decided to leave from Macedonia, oh wait a minute before we sail with them. Look at the little pronoun. For the first time, Luke comes into the picture. This begins what is known as the we sections or section of the book of Acts.
This begins the we. Every time you see the we, or most often, you will include Luke. So the we would be, somewhere along the way in their journey, that second journey, they have picked up a companion, Dr. Luke is traveling with them now, so he who writes the book of Acts includes himself, and he says, so we decided.
So it's Paul and Silas, and now Dr. Luke, and they together talk it over. And having concluded that God was calling us, I love that, to preach the good news there, I've left out very important words. We decided to leave from Macedonia at once, at once, door open, let's go. Marvelous, marvelous response. It seems almost innocuous to us who are familiar with the Bible and with the story, but I want you to read it as if for the first time and realize what that meant, they were going to a continent they had never visited before to reach a people they'd never known before. In a culture they'd never been experienced in before, dealing with opposition they'd never faced before, and on and on I could go, the unknown, and they don't hesitate.
Why? Because it was clear God had opened that door. Revelation 3, 7 states, this is the message from the Lord, the one who is holy and true, what he opens no one can close, and what he closes no one can open.
That verse could be written across these verses. He has now closed those doors and opened this one, go to Macedonia. This is the epical moment in the story, and they didn't see it coming and no one expected it. All of a sudden the mystery is solved. The closed doors are now explaining themselves and they're on their way.
I read in the next verse, we boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace and the next day we headed to Neapolis and from there we reached Philippi, and there they begin their ministry in Macedonia. I want to close my message with four principles that are practical, having to do with doors, and then also with a true story that is unforgettable. First the principles. Principle number one, since God is sovereign, he is in full control of all the doors in our lives. Since God is sovereign, he is in full control of all the doors in our lives. The implication here is obvious, you and I are not.
There's great comfort in knowing that God is God and we are not. If he's in charge of the doors, we are not. He is in full control of opening and closing doors. Here's the second principle, being in full control, God takes full responsibility for those he closes and those he opens. It's not your responsibility.
It's his. So I would say to you who tend to be really creative in your disobedience, give up prying closed doors. Stop banging on them. Stop trying to bargain with God. After all these years of walking with you, you would think at least you let me go and do what I'm always going to be doing, Lord, what are you up to, none of that, please. Don't throw a pity party.
No one will come. Leave it with God. If the door is closed, accept the closed door, stop lamenting it, it's closed. He's taking full responsibility.
He doesn't, by the way, even explain what his plan is for Macedonia. Just says, get over there. So that's that second, being in full control, God takes full responsibility for the doors he closes and those he opens. Here's the third and here's where it can get a little complicated.
Listen very closely. When a door of something good in our plan closes, when a door of something good in our plan closes, it often leads us to an open door of something better in his plan. It often leads to an open door of something even better in his plan. Who would have ever guessed the ministry in Europe would have taken the turn it took or that God would use them as effectively as he did? How magnificent was the rest of this journey. Rather than weeping over what they weren't able to do remaining in Asia, they now took on the challenges of Europe through that open door, thanks to the vision that came. Now here's the fourth, not until we walk through the door God opens will we realize the necessity of the ones he closed.
Get that down, at least in your mind. Not until we walk through the door of the one God opens will we realize the necessity of the ones he closed. I hope you are ready for, if you are at that closed door, I hope you are ready for a surprising open door.
God's full of those surprises. Chuck Swindoll is talking about clinging to hope when doors slam shut. You're midway through this message and keep listening because Chuck will share a colorful illustration that brings to life this biblical wisdom.
You're listening to Insight for Living. We've been enjoying a brand new 12-part study from Chuck that's titled Clinging to Hope. To learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. If you've had good intentions about requesting the companion book from Chuck, now is the time to reach out. It's also called Clinging to Hope and the subtitle gives you a good idea of what this book is about, what scripture says about weathering times of trouble, chaos, and calamity. To purchase a copy right now, go directly to insight.org slash hope or to speak with one of our friendly ministry reps you can call us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. When you also include a donation to support the Ministry of Insight for Living, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're helping people who need hope. I just saw a note from California that said this, Dear Pastor Chuck, for over 30 years my wife and I have been blessed by your program as we face losing loved ones, enduring sickness, going through personal trials, and the burden of dealing with dysfunctional family issues. We especially appreciate your theological insight, humility, and a terrific sense of humor. May our Lord continue to expand your ministry. Well it's your partnership that empowers us to reach men and women here in North America and all around the globe. Thank you so much for giving generously toward the ambitious goal of reaching all 195 countries of the world, a mission we're calling Vision 195. To give a contribution, call us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Or you can give online at Insight.org slash donate. In March 2023, Insight for Living Ministries is hosting an unforgettable journey to Israel. Carefully plan to deepen your understanding of the Bible and draw you closer to God.
Here's Chuck Swindoll. For thousands of years, no place has been more meaningful to God's children than the land of Israel. The rugged landscape reminds us to find refuge in God alone. The fertile valleys invite us to follow our shepherd. Jerusalem's position at the very center of the world announces the good news of Christ to every nation. And now you can see Israel with Chuck Swindoll and Insight for Living Ministries, March 5 through the 16th, 2023. Every time I visited the Holy Land, I've returned home with a refreshed heart for God and a renewed vision for the world.
Really, I mean it every time. And so I want you to have the same life-changing experience. To learn more, go to Insight.org slash events or call this number 1-888-447-0444. Insight for Living Ministries Tour to Israel is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us again when Chuck Swindoll continues to describe what to do when doors slam shut, Tuesday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, When Doors Slam Shut, was copyrighted in 2019 and 2022, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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