When God Says No – May 31, 2018

As they came to the edge of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not let them. So they passed by Mysia and traveled down to Troas. In the night a vision appeared to Paul—a man of Macedonia was standing and pleading with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:7-9).

On Thursday, May 17, I gathered with some participants of our Golden Hearts ministry at 118 S. Person Street. Tabernacle veterans will, of course, recognize that address as our church’s former downtown location. Believe it or not, a thriving congregation filled with young professionals and college students has been meeting in the building since 2015. It’s called Vintage Church, and they offer three worship services on Sundays. We were all encouraged to see how God is working in and through Vintage Church.
Still, we might wonder, “I thought part of the reason Tabernacle moved to Leesville Road was because downtown Raleigh was suffering from a declining population, but clearly this church is flourishing now that downtown is being revitalized. Did God move Tabernacle out of the way to make room for Vintage Church?” Maybe. But in light of Acts 16:6-10, I want to share another perspective on what has transpired (a perspective I offered during our worship service in Tabernacle’s old building): God uses human setbacks to multiply gospel impact.

Acts 16 is written with the benefit of inspired hindsight. In the moment, Paul and his missionary companions no doubt viewed their setbacks as failures and disappointments. Looking back, however, they could see how God was saying “no” to Asia and Mysia in order to say “yes” to spreading the gospel in Philippi. And look at what came from those setbacks—the Philippian church was formed, Paul’s “joy and crown”! (cf. Phil. 4:1) Consequently, let’s remember these truths as we face setbacks of various kinds.

1. Never use God’s “no” as an excuse to give up on gospel faithfulness; instead, keep working diligently. God directs our paths and gives growth. Our part is to remain unwavering in carrying out our mission.

2. Prioritize the lost. When setbacks send us back to the drawing board, watch for opportunities to share the Good News with those who, like “the man of Macedonia,” need our help. Look for the lost, the hurting, and the forgotten—both near and far.

3. Learn to appreciate that the Holy Spirit’s agenda is sovereign enough to encompass more than we can imagine. Because the Holy Spirit said “no” to Tabernacle downtown, the Lordship of Jesus is being proclaimed at both 118 S. Person Street and 8304 Leesville Road! To God be the glory forever and ever!

Your Pastor,