Acts 15:36–16:10 (NKJV)
36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.Acts 15:36-41
Paul and Barnabus were ready, it seemed, to begin their second missionary journey, but a contention arose between them concerning John Mark. As the passage reminds us, he had left Paul and Barnabus on their first journey to go home. Paul saw this as a sign of weakness or a lack of usefulness. Barnabus saw something valuable in the young man. The two could not resolve the difference of opinion, so Paul took Silas, who had been preaching and teaching in Antioch with them, and sent on to Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabus and John Mark went to Cyprus. This division may have seemed like a failure at reaching unity, but it was not necessarily a rift as much as a difference in philosophy that probably allowed the gospel to travel twice as quickly or twice as far. This second team was a blessing to the kingdom in many ways. When two Christians feel as if their direction is not the same, they should not part ways with anger or division, but rather support each other as they go.
1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.Acts 16:1-5
The appearance of Timothy into this story is first seen here. Timothy would eventually become like a spiritual son to Paul. In these passages, we find that the leaders of the church took young people into their ministries in order to disciple and raise up another generation to perpetuate the gospel when the current leadership passed on. This portion of Paul’s journey was in reverse order to the first journey, as he ended in Derbe on the first, and began with Derbe on the second. They went to Lystra and Iconium, sites of additional churches founded on the previous visit to encourage them.
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.Acts 16:6-10
Paul, Silas, and Timothy turned toward Asia, but the Lord restrained them. They looked to preach in Misia, but again were told not to go their by the Holy Spirit. Finally, Paul had a vision of a man calling them to Macedonia, so they immediately looked for a way to get there, for God had called them to deliver the gospel in Macedonia.
These stories show us the path to following the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Paul stuck by what he felt was right concerning John Mark, and the missionary team doubled its efforts. Paul felt compelled to “adopt” Timothy, and he became a leader in the church, and a missionary. Finally, Paul listened when God spoke in a dream, and they found a new, fertile missionary field. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in all that you do. When He speaks, listen. When He gives instructions, follow them. Never let your ego or stubbornness get in the way of obeying God completely. Let Him lead, for He leads well!
Artwork from http://bibleencyclopedia.com/pictures/Acts_16_Paul%27s_call_to_Macedonia.htm and Logos Bible Software Atlas