That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there. [Acts 16:9-10 (NLT)]
I can’t say that I’ve ever had a dream or vision as clear cut as was Paul’s. If I ever did, I’m not sure I’d be as quick as he and his companions were to trust it. In Paul’s case, however, the dream helped him understand why the Holy Spirit previously prevented the men from preaching in the provinces of Asia and Bithynia (modern day Turkey). After hearing the Macedonian man’s plea, Paul finally had a clear sense of God’s direction. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke headed west to Troas, set sail across the Aegean Sea, and made their way to Philippi in the Roman province of Macedonia (northern Greece). Paul’s obedience to that call took the gospel west toward Europe and changed Western civilization forever!
Nearly 300 years later, Irish history was changed when the man we know of as St. Patrick had a similar dream. Born Maewyn Succat around 387 in Roman Britain (Scotland), Patrick was kidnapped by Irish marauders at the age of sixteen. Taken to Ireland, the boy was sold into slavery and labored at herding and tending sheep. According to his memoirs, as Patrick prayed several times a day during his captivity, his faith grew and he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. After six years of enslavement, he had a dream in which God told him, “Your ship is ready.” The young man escaped, walked 200 miles to the coast, and found some sailors who took him back to Britain. Once home, Patrick had another dream in which he was given a letter titled “The Voice of the Irish.” Upon opening it, he heard the voices of the people who’d once enslaved him calling, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” Initially reluctant to answer the call because of his lack of education, Patrick began religious training. He returned to Ireland about 15 years after his dream and the man known for explaining the Trinity with the three-leaved single stalk shamrock evangelized all over the land for the next thirty plus years. Patrick is said to have converted over 135,000 people, established 300 churches, and consecrated 350 bishops.
While we’re not likely to have such vivid dreams as Paul and Patrick, we should listen for the “Voice of the Irish” and be looking for a “man from Macedonia” in the people who cross our paths every day. They’ll probably look and sound much like everyone else and yet they’ll have a pressing need to know Jesus. May we respond as readily as did Paul and Patrick. We probably won’t change the world as did they, but we surely can change the world for someone.
God’s plan for enlarging his kingdom is so simple – one person telling another about the savior. Yet we’re busy and full of excuses. Just remember, someone’s eternal destiny is at stake. The joy you’ll have when you meet that person in heaven will far exceed any discomfort you felt in sharing the gospel. [Charles Stanley]