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How Should Christians Respond to Unexpected Blessings?

God’s plan for our Christian lives is always bigger than we can possibly imagine. To this end, the Holy Spirit may close doors in our journey, or lead us along a path that we would never expect. Contributing Writer
May 26, 2022
How Should Christians Respond to Unexpected Blessings?

For three years, I was a children’s magician. I performed at birthday parties and celebratory events, in restaurants, parks, and magic festivals. My favorite was what is known as the “magician in trouble” premise.

In this ruse, something seemingly goes wrong for the magician; the trick doesn’t go as expected or as planned.

Of course, the climax occurs when it is revealed that all the unexpected twists and turns serve a larger plan. Behind the scenes, unbeknownst to all, a deeper work was being done. It makes for a very good trick.

While this is a fun premise for magic tricks and children’s parties, it can cause a certain amount of frustration to our faith. It can feel upsetting and discouraging when life does not go as we have planned.

After all, we like to think that we are in control. We like to think that every part of our life will run smoothly and as expected.

Furthermore, as Christian people, we sometimes think that our Christian lives, or our Christian ministries, will be straightforward and clear. This, however, is rarely the case.

The Apostle Paul knew this truth; he had this very experience. As reported in Acts 16, Paul set out on a missionary endeavor, with a clear vision of preaching in the province of Asia (modern-day Turkey).

He desired to travel into Mysia and Bithynia, regions in the northern part of the province. Scripture records that Paul made several attempts to bring this about.

The Spirit, however, had other plans. Scripture reports that “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to preach in Asia” (Acts 16:7). Although Paul and his companions desired to go north, the Spirit pushed them west.

The unexpected direction of Paul’s missionary journey unlocks numerous blessings and serves to advance the gospel in profound ways. Thus, Paul’s experience in Acts 16 is instructive for us as it illuminates how the Spirit works in our lives.

When God pushes us beyond our own comforts and controls, we often find ourselves immersed in the work of the Kingdom. It is when we are stretched beyond our own expectations that God’s blessings are fully revealed.

The Unexpected Blessing of Troas

Having been restrained from going north, Paul and his companions find themselves in Troas (16:8). Here, Paul receives a divine vision: “During the night, Paul had a vision of man from Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “come over to Macedonia and help us!” (16:9).

This is an important moment for Paul’s ministry, as it directs the next leg of his missionary journey. Paul’s time in Troas, however, holds a deeper significance. The Holy Spirit is working on a larger plan.

The full blessing of Paul’s time in Troas is related to his encounter with Luke. While we do not read about this meeting, it is indicated by the change in language of the biblical text. Prior to Paul’s time in Troas, the scripture is written in the third person.

We read, “Paul did this,” and “Paul did that.” Paul’s time in Troas marks a significant change. Instead of the third person, we now read of events in the first person.

Scripture records “we put out to sea” (16:11), “we traveled outside the city gate” (16:13), and “Lydia invited us into her house” (16:15). This change in grammatical tense occurs because Troas is the place where Paul invites Luke to join the missionary journey.

We cannot skip over the significance of this event. Paul is instrumental in Luke’s conversion. This chance meeting in Troas becomes the very means through which Luke accepts the gospel.

This impacts the future of Luke’s life and ministry. Luke will eventually go on to write the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

In preventing Paul from going north, therefore, God ensured that Paul and Luke were brought together, and ensured the future witness of Luke’s gospel.

The Unexpected Blessing of Lydia

The blessings found in the Spirit’s interruption of Paul’s well-laid plans continue. Paul accepts the divine vision and concludes that God had called him to preach in Philippi.

Interestingly, however, while Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia, Paul ends up meeting a group of women gathered at the river for prayer. The Spirit, again, does the unexpected.

The primary woman that Paul encounters is Lydia, a dealer of purple cloth. Lydia is clearly a formidable woman. She owns a business, has a household, and is a devout follower of God. The most intriguing thing about her, however, is that she is from the area of Thyatira.

Where is Thyatira, you might ask? Thyatira is in the northern part of modern Turkey. In an unexpected turn of events, Paul meets someone from exactly the area where he wanted to proclaim the gospel in the first place!

It gets better. The Book of Revelation testifies that a church is eventually established in Thyatira (2:18). Paul, however, never traveled to this region, nor did Peter, Silas, or Timothy.

While the history of the Thyatiran church is unclear, scholars posit that it was likely Lydia who established this church. At some point in her life, Lydia returns to her home country and preaches the good news of Jesus Christ.

Again, the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes to further God’s kingdom. The Spirit knows that preaching the gospel in northern Asia is not Paul’s ministry to perform, but Lydia’s.

Thus, the Spirit of Jesus restrains Paul from going north, but directs him to the precise place, at the precise time, to meet the precise person through whom the Lord’s will would be accomplished.

The Unexpected Blessing of Future Cities

Paul’s missionary journey did not conclude in Philippi. Following his stay, Paul traveled down to Thessalonica, over to Corinth, and then into Ephesus. These stops coincide with Acts chapters 17, 18, and 19.

What is important to know, however, is that after each of these visits, Paul writes a letter to the community he just visited. These letters are known today as the Epistles of Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians.

These epistles are a blessing to Christians today precisely because the Holy Spirit interrupted Paul’s plans. From Luke to Lydia, from Philippi to Ephesus, the Spirit was at work in ways that no one could possibly predict.

Unexpected Blessings in Our Lives

God’s plan for our Christian lives is always bigger than we can possibly imagine. To this end, the Holy Spirit may close doors in our journey, or lead us along a path that we would never expect.

Such experiences, while frustrating at the time, testify to the Holy Spirit’s work in us and through us. This means that if we wish to embrace God’s will, we must also embrace those places where God moves us to the unexpected and unforeseen.

God’s will for our lives, or our ministries, can sometimes only be viewed in hindsight. It is when we look backward that we see the intricate tapestry the Lord weaves in our lives.

So, if you find yourself struggling with feeling restrained, or if you are in a place of waiting, be patient, and hopeful.

The Lord is working out a divine plan in a grander fashion than you can ever dream of. God is also weaving others in and out of your own journey, in ways that further the work of the Kingdom.

You may not be aware of all the ins and outs, and the blessings to be found, but this does not deny their reality. As the Lord continues to work with you and through you, who knows what unexpected blessings you will encounter along the way.

For further reading:

Why Did Jesus Take Our Condemnation to Bless Us?

How Can I Pray When Life Becomes Unexpected?

Why Do We Say, ‘Life Is a Journey Not a Destination’?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/PeopleImages

SWN authorThe Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada.  He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at,, Renovare Canada, and many others.  He also maintains his own blog  He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.

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