Preached by Mr. J. W. Tyier (Dicker Chapel) on Saturday, October 3rd. 1964.
on the settlement of Mr. S. A. Garnham as pastor of the Church at Abbey Chapel, Abingdon, Berkshire.
Acts 16, 9-10
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.”
In this book Luke continues the history of Christianity begun in the gospel bearing his name. In the Holy Gospel he tells us what Jesus began both to do and teach; in the Acts of Apostles, what Jesus continued to do and teach through His Holy Spirit poured out.
And so, I would briefly make this observation, dear friends, as we begin. You will find in the Gospels the Son of God revealing and exalting the Father, and in this book of the Acts you will find the Spirit of God revealing and exalting the Son of God. So there is very much throughout the whole of this book of the wonderful dispensation of the Spirit of God, that commenced when He was so mightily poured forth at the day of Pentecost, and of course it is a highly interesting chapter to us, for a specific reason, and I wonder whether this has already occurred to your minds, namely this, we have here an account of how the Gospel was first brought into Europe, so that it was getting closer to the British Isles. It is a highly
remarkable, wonderful and soul melting thing for us here on this Thanksgiving day in Abingdon, to consider, that into this once pagan island, according to the mercy and goodness of our God, He sent His Holy Gospel. Here then in this chapter is an account of how it commenced to flow into Europe, Lydia being the first convert. I do think it is highly desirable that we should consider these blessed details, because look how great the harvest is now. When you consider that from such a small beginning, the Lord has called so many thousands of souls in these islands, and, because He had this purpose, He has made known to us this wonderful gift of His in the ordinance of the ministry, because “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to call them that believe”, and so we believe that God will make known His blessing. I do not personally feel despondent about the future. I feel that God has given indications in His blessed Word that He is going to revive Zion and it is for this reason that He will favour Her when the set time is come. He will answer the prayers of His dear praying people, and all the while He is anointing ministers to preach the Gospel, it shows there will be a sphere of usefulness for them in the calling of His dear elect. I am thankful to be with you in this ancient place of Abingdon today and, of course, our main concern is to observe the work of the Holy Spirit and so this has occurred to my mind, that it might be a good basis for our meditation this afternoon and what is it that we see here? Well let us go a little into the subject. I think it is a very blessed thing to notice in the beginning that when Paul came to Derbe and Lystra, the very place where he suffered so severely, there he reaped some of the richest fruit of his ministry, namely in the case of Timotheus. And what a wonderful thing it is to observe, that wherever there is true spiritual labour, the Lord has given us to know that this cannot be without profit. You remember the word that He has left His church, which relates to the power of His resurrection. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord”. Let me give this very simple word to you. It is impossible for spiritual labour to be in vain. I sometimes hear prayers that are well-meaning and the sentence concerning the minister may be this: “Lord never let thy servant labour in vain.” It is impossible, my friends, impossible. No spiritual labour is in vain, it cannot be in vain. Just look at this then. He returns to the very place where he was stoned and thinking he was dead, they drew him out of the city, and here he reaps this precious fruit, because Timothy was more dear to him than any other. And then I want to notice the important point of worship here. As we take a summary of this section, I would think we should quote this text: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God”. If we are indwelt by the Holy GhostÂ—if our bodies are the temples of the Spirit of God, we shall be led by the Spirit of God and that is, of course, of tremendous importance to the Lord’s dear people. It will be your prayer to be led by the Spirit of God, not to be moved by any other influence, by the flesh or by the powers of darkness, but to be led by the dear Spirit of God. And you will
notice in this matter that something very remarkable took place, namely, you see Paul had with him Timothy and then when we come to our text, verse 10, you will notice that the word changes to ‘we’, which means that the inspired writer of The Acts joined them, so there was a trio, Paul, Timotheus, and Luke too; they were joined together in love, these three. Now here is a remarkable thing. There were doors closed, first of all. What do we read? “When they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.” Asia then was a closed door. I think of course that this may be very trying and distressing and desolating to a minister or a child of God to find a door closed, but, my friends, wait patiently for Him, wait at His feet. He will open the door. So the door into Asia was closed, and then “after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia;”, which word ‘assayed’ is very interesting to me. It means this, to make trial. You are not clear in your mind, you are not blessed with great light, but you venture forward. It is as though you put one foot forward to see if the Lord will prosper your way or whether He will show you that this is not the way. “They assayed”, but what happened? “The Spirit suffered them not.” I wonder, if I speak here a personal word, whether there are any in this congregation who may be in the experience of a closed door or doors. Now I would not have you really over-distressed about it, I can tell you why, and see from this very day whether this is not true. God is going to open another door for you, my friends, oh! yes He is. You may not know in what location of this land, but there is going to be another door opened for you. So this is a good word for youÂ—wait patiently at His dear feet and wait at the posts of His door and you will see Him mercifully make known His way to you. So it is according to the sovereignty of God that He does close doors. This very simple elementary rule I have sometimes delivered to my own flock, and will reiterate in your hearing. If you come to a closed door you must not try to open it, but you may knock. But when God makes His way plain. He sets before His people an open door. You have not got to open it yourself. He opens the door. Never endeavour to force a door that is closed; and it is amazing how the Lord works in the hearts of His dear people to make them willing in the day of His power. Well now, what purpose had the Lord for this holy Apostle of His?
Paul could not be idle. He had tremendous energy, graciously given, to serve the Lord, and he sought to use this to the glory of his God. And what was the issue? In a supernatural and remarkable manner did the Lord make known His pleasure and purpose and will to the apostle. It was by a vision appearing to him in the night. I do not know whether any of you people would volunteer a statement to say that the Lord has appeared to you in this form. I think I could
perhaps embark a little on that. I believe twice in my life the Lord has used that method of making known to me His purpose. It seems to me that we may think of it as the suspension of mortal powers and the activating of spiritual powers so that there should be contact between God and your spirit thus sensitized, and thus something is made doubly clear to you, whilst all nature sleeps. I think that may be a true definition, but in any case, a vision means the unfolding, synonymous with revelation, the plain and clear unfolding of something that erstwhile was hidden. You know nothing of it. You had no inkling of it, and then one day this secret thing was made clear to you, was discovered to you. It was something that God had decreed. His eternal purpose, settled in heaven, and you know nothing about it until He discovered it to you and laid it out in front of your astonished sight. A vision therefore is a method of communication from God in heaven to you on earth. Everything that God has decreed in heaven concerning His dear people has to be discovered to them. How do you know what God has settled in heaven for you? I look on it this way, that God has a master plan, and all is settled, every item, down to the finest detail. Well how do we know what these things are until they are revealed to us? So herein is a wonderful thing. What happened here was this. In the night something took place that altered the whole course of the ministry and usefulness of the apostle. He must go a distance, I should think something like three hundred miles, into Macedonia, the northern part of Greece, to minister there and plant a church there, a church that was most fruitful, and a source of the greatest joy and comfort to him later, ministering to his wants. Wonderful thing, and it all hinged providentially upon that one revelation to him in the night. And it must have been very powerful and clear because there was not a scrap of any doubt about it in his mind. “Assuredly gathering.” You see, an assurance concerning this matter that into Macedonia they must go. Well now, look at this thing which I would call over with you. Everything that God has decreed concerning His dear servants and people. He makes known to them by promise, by the light of His truth, by revelation, by a vision, by a blessed persuasion; the thing discovered to them is in their heart, at first a secret, and who knows it, but the one to whom it is revealed? And yet when it concerns a pastor and people or two of the Lord’s people, it may be revealed to two people simultaneously or to a number of people in the same period of time. The thing is shown to them. Now, as it is revealed to us, there will be an exercise of soul concerning it. You will spread it before the Lord, you will pray about it, you will ask for confirmation, you will want to see the Lord appearing for you, and then the thing that was decreed, and is revealed, and is promised, is fulfilled. And the thing fulfilled is fruitful and the praise redounds to God. And so, it is a complete cycle of divine power and mercy and goodness, you see. Let us examine this and probably our friends here, and our brother, will know how this has applied to them in what is celebrated this day in thanksgiving. “There stood a man of MacedoniaÂ—and prayed him.” He must have seen, in this vision, a man, a praying man, a man who was very earnest and full
of desire and longing. A man who was very hungry, a man who was thirsty, and I think he saw a man who knew the truth of this, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me”. I think he saw a man who knew that, who had been saying that to his God and it was not an insipid, lame, half-hearted sort of utterance that Paul heard. There was a man of Macedonia there in real earnest, living earnest, and he was praying, and he said “Come over”. Of course, it is significant; “Come over” because of what I have mentioned to you. I have not measured the distance exactly but I should think it was something like two to three hundred miles. He says now “Come over into Macedonia and help us”. Well this was the vision. What am I going to say about it?Â—” I have set before thee an open door, Â—no man can shut it”. Do you know, I am going to pause here for a moment to say this. I believe I have got someone here, maybe more than one, who has seen doors closed and you are soon to see a door opened, and to me it is like speaking a word of prophecy to you. You are going to hear the man of Macedonia. You are not going, of course, to the north of GreeceÂ—I would be surprised if you did. But never mind, go where God calls you. I don’t mind where it is. He said to them “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature”. Go where God sends you, that is the point. I am not interested so much in the geography of it. There is the world; the world is our parish, of course it is, in preaching the Gospel. It is not limited to a few square miles in one land, the world is our territory. This is true, isn’t it? So go where God sends you. If you go where God sends you. He will prosper you. And He sets before them an open door. So you can be now waiting to see how God is opening up His way before you. Well I want to dwell on this for a few moments. I said here is then the leading of the Spirit of God. Why does He lead us? Because we are so ignorant, so blind, so unworthy, so unskilled that we do not know the way unless He leads us. Should any man be left to himself, would you say “Oh I can direct my way”? Of course you cannot. Who knows the right way unless the Lord guides? In any case. God’s way is not the way the flesh wants. You would not go in His way were it left to you. God’s way is usually a difficult one. It is a way the flesh often objects to. So the Spirit of God kindly leads, and, of course, in the leading does many things. Not only shows the way, but makes you willing to walk in it and gives you grace to enable you to fulfil the will of God in it. “My grace is sufficient for thee”. I was only thinking a few days ago how wonderfully signposted this country is, and, I judge most of the civilised lands of the world now are. You only have to go a few hundred yards and there is another signpost. And I was thinking, in connection with that of course, of the six cities of refuge in the Holy Land, and how they were all so clearly signposted, so that any poor soul that was fleeing, who had unwittingly shed blood, knew the way, could see the way. Well now, my friends, the Lord shows us the way and, if we are His ministers, we are taught by the Spirit to show you the road, for the Gospel points to heaven and shows the road. Now what about this leading? Well I am going to mention three things to you about the leading of the
Spirit of God and the first is this, that He leads His servants and His people by the holy light, the diffusion of heavenly light of His eternal truth. He guides you by His own word. Where is there a gracious person who dare take a step without the word of the Lord? I admire that person who says “I cannot give a decision. I must wait upon the Lord. I want a word from Him”. And probably you will desire to have more than one word. You may desire that there shall be a double or treble confirmation. But you cannot move, you cannot see the way without the light of His eternal truth. It has been given in testimony by our brother and this church at Abingdon, concerning this light of His truth, that they believe this light has led them in this important matter. I have heard the testimony myself. What else shall I name to you? It is the light of His eternal truth that will lead you and then it is the internal, powerful, sweet, blessed influence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God dwelling in you, as I have already mentioned, makes you willing. You know the revelation of the Lord’s will in Scripture where He says nothing is acceptable to Him unless it is done willingly. And even the force of the revelation of the light of nature would reveal the truth of that to you. Could you accept anything or feel that it was at all valuable if a person did that for you unwillingly? Of course not, but if it is done willingly, it is something that does you good, it has value in it. So the Spirit of God revealing the way makes you willing. Willingness obliterates, causes to flow down, every sort of mountain, every obstacle, every hindrance. The way is plain to you; you are willing. You follow your blessed Lord. He was willing to come, willing to suffer, willing to die. His death was voluntary. Oh this willingness, dear friends! So the sweet influence of His blessed Spirit makes you willing. And then there is another thing in this divine leading. What is it? These three things synchronize. The third thing is the open door of His holy providence. And the three are one. The Word of our God, the light of His truth. His word for it, the Spirit’s influence in your soul to constrain you, to equip you, to qualify you for this path, and the door that is opened, opened by God in His holy superintendence of all things. This is how He leads.
Now here is this man of Macedonia. Of course, the prominent thing was that in this place, in Macedonia, there was much prayer. It was a legal meeting place for them, that is they were legally entitled to meet, but there was no synagogue there. And the significant thing was this, there was a pouring out of the Spirit of God upon them in prayer and this always precedes God’s blessings and gifts. God pours upon you the spirit of united prayer, wrestling, prevailing prayer, then you will see an answer; blessed answer. There was much prayer, but there was no ordinance of the ministry; they needed something. How often these days do we look around and feel this
“they are as sheep without a shepherd”. It seems sad, souls (sheep) but no shepherd. If you could wander round on the Downs and see the sheep, and you came to many sheep, but, alas there was no shepherd, you would say “I pity the poor sheep”. And it is so with us now in these days. Oh how they need something, they need a shepherd, so that the scattered flock might be collected and the Lord open wide to them the gospel door. Well they knew their need of this ministry, so this man made an appeal. Now I think I should stop here for a moment and say this to you. Do the people pray for God’s gift, a precious gift of pastors according to His heart, to feed with knowledge and understanding? Do the people pray for that? Is that in their heart to seek Him for, or are they preferring deacon-craft? Pardon that expression, I am not suggesting that godly deacons here are left in that, but it is sometimes a proverbial saying and undoubtedly true in some cases. There are some deacons who do not want a pastor. Don’t go away and think I am making any personal reference; I am not. I have come to love and highly esteem many good deacons but I am, at the same time, disposed to think that there are those who love power and so they would rather continue as they are, than have a pastor. Well what a mercy it is when we see God’s order, and the desire that it should be so, that this gift should be bestowed. So this man pleaded. He said now ‘Come’. I think, you know, there are some of you here this afternoon who may be very much wondering as to where God will place you. He has a place, and at the same time, if I might drop just a word here, there may be some of you who are deeply exercised concerning a pastor and as yet you know not the man. You do not know who this man is, and I can give you a good prayer framework, and it is this. Do not say to the Lord “Send us that man” and insist on that man, but ask Him to send the man of His choice. That is it. Say “Lord, thou dost know, prepare us a man after Thine own heart to be our pastor, to feed us with knowledge and understanding”, So “come over into Macedonia and help us”. Now there is a very beautiful part to this. He says you know, “help us, we need help”. It seems to me that he would touch the sympathetic, loving heart of the man that has a pastor’s heart. “Help us”; of course you would. A pastor has a father’s heart and that means to say he has a very loving and sympathetic and feeling heart, so if you can get hold of that, my friends, by divine appointment, I believe the man is coming over to Macedonia to help you. If you can get hold of his heart in the gospel, if you can win his heart as it were, because it is love isn’t it? It is really a conjugal matter as between the pastor and people, so if you can win his heart you have won him. And that of course is in the Lord. “Help us; we are a few poor sheep now, come and help us”. What was the response? I am interested in responses. After he had seen the visionÂ—’he had’ mark youÂ—then ‘we’.They were united and that was one thing I wanted just to name to you. I think it is so blessed to see this. Paul, Timotheus, his own son in the faith, and Luke and they are one in the Lord, they are one in this gospel. I do love that unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This is something that we need to pray for and to thank God
as we enjoy it. You cannot produce it but God can give it to you. I must not allow myself to say too much, but in the providence of God, in the concerns of one little flock in SussexÂ—not of course my own mother church, but a tributaryÂ—the Lord has brought three of us. His ministers, into this unity in a most blessed way, and in caring for that little flock, the three of us are absolutely one, and it is a beautiful thing. We have never known the slightest lack of harmony, never a word, never a deed that has broken into that sweet unity of the Spirit. And to me it is a most blissful thing. I cannot tell you how I appreciate it. BlessednessÂ—so they were one. Oh that the Lord would grant this blessing in His church. May this prayer be abundantly answered, “Each to each unite, endear. Come and spread Thy banner here”, so that the trials and sorrows and tribulations, and the joys only tend to make the union closer in the Lord. So “after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia”, It must have been such a settled thing, so powerful, so overwhelming. There was not to be any delay at all, but “immediately we endeavoured”. Endeavoured, means every power concentrated to fulfil this, to obey, to do the will of God. “Immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia”, with an assurance. What was it? “That the Lord had called us for to preach the Gospel unto them”. Now this is my hope concerning our brother and this people that it may prove to be a blessed parallel to the account before us, so that pastor and people may be united and that there may be a measure of the same fruitfulness as attended the holy Apostle Paul’s ministry in Macedonia. Then, my friends, I drop a word to you in confidence, because it is here, “assuredly gathering”. There was a blessed confidence there in the apostle’s soul, and do you know what spiritual confidence signifies? It means first of all to have a ground of trust, and that ground of trust is the Lord and His blessed word. And then it means to have a firm trust in Him. Firmly trust Him and His word. And then it means an assurance of favour and blessing that you will be helped and blessed and strengthened and brought through. You have an assurance of it. Now may the Lord give this confidence to His dear servant and to us.
I shall come, as we close, to take just a glance at the outcome of all this. When the apostle came, as he was guided, without the city to this river side, and he spake unto these dear women, I think he must have felt that he and they were lying down in the green pastures, and this beside the waters of quietness, peace, sweet peace. What rich blessing of God attended his ministry, and this first convert in Europe, Lydia, was baptised, and her household, “whose heart the Lord opened to attend unto the things spoken by Paul”. But, my friends, this step confirmed by blessing, by holy peace, was confirmed in suffering too. It was confirmed in the furnace as well
as lying in the green pastures, and a step that is taken in the fear of God, is confirmed both ways. He will be with you in blessing, in peace, in comfort, and He will be with you in the furnace of affliction and trial. You know the issue, the casting into prison, their backs like a ploughed field, being scourged. I wonder how their poor bodies looked after the scourging. The ploughers had made their long furrows, and into the inner prison they go with their feet fast in the stocks, but the Lord was with them. This was God’s way. He had led them there and He was with them there, and they could pray and sing praises at midnight. The Lord was with them. God is with us in this way. His way. And see how remarkable it was. The prisoners heard this and the Lord sent the great earthquake and here the apostle and his co-labourers are still reaping fruit. “Assuredly gathering that the Lord had sent us for to preach the gospel unto them”. The stout jailer, the type of man appointed to be a jailerÂ—you can almost see himÂ—square jaw, powerful physique, and now he is trembling, and God helps Paul to preach to him. And he and his house, they are blessed, they are baptised. And so the church at Philippi is formed. Now see how God is with His servants in this path of divine direction. Well beloved friends, it is a great mercy to have a little counterpart to this in our own souls, to look back and see how God has led us. In September of 1936 I was in agony of soul. The pastor at Dicker was dying and I knew it. I was on my way to Brighton by train, changed at Polegate Junction, went to the end of the platform and sat down. And if ever my soul was in agony and distress, it was that midday. As I sat down on that seat. God came with the church at the Dicker and just put it straight into my heart and hands. It was done in a moment. I was the pastor from that moment and I had not even preached. He just put it straight into my hands. So I know what I am speaking about. That was done in the twinkling of an eye and that was done with such assurance and such power that I never doubted it. I could not doubt it, it was impossible to doubt it. On the next morning the dear man died. I was with him. That was Wednesday. The next day, Thursday, we met for prayer and in deep sorrow. When I stood in prayer in my own chapel the Spirit anointed me. I never told anyone but they saw it, they knew. I waited from that evening until DecemberÂ—that was three months. Immediately after Christmas Day, my soul was in deep travail. I could not go through the day. And at the church meeting the matter was named and the Lord commenced to perform His word. Now my friend, that path that God calls you to is a blessed one, it is following your precious Saviour, that He will honour you and prosper you in it. You will have sorrows and trials in it, afflictions and deaths, but He will be with you and “each seeming loss will improve your gain”, and each trouble will comfort bring, and the very things that seem sometimes to be against you, are for you. He will be with you, my friend. This is the path that God has led you in and shown you. So fear not but go over into Macedonia and help them, because you may assuredly gather that the Lord has called you to preach the gospel unto them. Amen.