I have a propensity to get lost. I am, & I admit this freely & without hesitation, terrible with directions. It is not uncommon for me to get lost or miss a turn. In fact, it’s almost a daily experience for me.
Hey, we can’t all be good at everything!
One way I try to make sure I’m going the right direction is that I like to follow someone who knows where we’re going. It’s not uncommon for me to try to follow someone who knows where we’re going.
However, this is not a fail safe plan. The problem is, I’ve discovered, there are a lot of cars on the road that look alike. And there’s nothing worse than realizing 10, 20, 30 minutes later that I’ve been following the wrong car!
Jesus Made a Left Turn
Here’s what I think is true…
What happens for so many of us is that we spend our lives following after the wrong car.
We think we’re following Jesus. We show up at church week in & week out. We give of our means. We tell our kids about God. We think we’re doing all the right things.
But one day we wake up & we don’t understand what went wrong. We’re not living a joy filled life. We’re not experiencing peace. We can’t remember the last time we felt the presence of God.
Why? Why is that?
Some of us even grew up singing the song about the fruits of the Spirit. It’s the song that’s taken from scripture about what life is supposed to be like following Jesus. It’s a life of love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self control.
That all sounds wonderful. But that does NOT describe our lives.
Our lives are better described as stressed out, worn out, over worked, under paid, over stretched, over extended, looking for love in all the wrong places, trying to keep all the plates spinning, just want to binge watch another show to escape my present reality & oh, if I could just get away for a few days…
What’s happened to us?
We call ourselves Christian, Christ followers… but maybe just maybe we’ve been following the wrong car.
We thought we were following the right car. But as it turns out, Jesus made a left turn when we weren’t looking & we kept going straight & now, we don’t know where we are or which way to go or even, really, how to find him.
What does a life look like that is following Jesus?
In the story of Acts 16, Paul & Silas are getting ready to head out on a mission trip to carry the good news of Jesus to others. Here’s what happens as they try to figure out directions…
Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.
Now I don’t want you to miss this. Paul & Silas are trying to do exactly what they thought they were supposed to do. They are trying to carry the message of Jesus to people who may have never heard the message of Jesus. But what happens… the Holy Spirit, literally… the Luke says, “the Spirit of Jesus,” PREVENTS them!
I don’t know about you, but this is a powerful truth for me. That sometimes what we want, even if it’s a good thing, may not be what THE HOLY SPIRIT wants. That sometimes we have our plans BUT God has different plans.
Let me ask it this way, How many times do we pray about what we want & then do what we want & make the assumption that what we want is the same thing that God wants?
Here’s what I think happens so often in our lives… we want what we want & because of our privilege we get what we want. When that happens, we give God lip service, we praise Him for it even though, truth be told, we did it all on our own. When what we want doesn’t work out, we get angry & upset with God!
Truth is, we more concerned with what we want than what God wants. If we’re more concerned with our dreams than God’s dreams, why do we need the Holy Spirit?
I want us to keep reading because I think we see in the life of Paul & Silas what life looks like when you’re following Jesus, when your attentive to the Holy Spirit, when you’re keeping your eyes on the RIGHT CAR in front of you that’s leading you.
The Power of Deciding Together
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.
So Paul has a vision of a man in Europe, a place that the message of Jesus has not gone yet, begging him to come & help them.
And then, did you notice what Luke says next? He tells us in verse 10 that “WE DECIDED.”
Paul’s vision & Paul’s personal interpretation of the vision wasn’t enough to convince him that he & his mission team needed to head in a different direction.
Paul apparently shares his vision with the group & together they discern that this is a vision from God & what the Holy Spirit of of God wants them to do is to literally change direction, change their plans, change their minds about what they thought they were going to do & instead, head in a different direction!
Here’s what I want you to see…
Discerning the will of the Holy Spirit is often done best in community.
If you discern the Holy Spirit in community & find that it lines up with with the heart & mission of God then you’re probably right on track. And… if it is different than what you would have chosen, take that as confirmation that you’ve discerned what the Holy Spirit is directing you to do!
Paul, Silas & their companions were more interested in God’s direction than their preconceived travel plans.
So you know what they did, they put down their plans & picked up God’s plans. They changed direction. They re-programed the GPS & put in a NEW DESTINATION that sent them in a NEW DIRECTION.
We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.
On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there.
You mean to tell me that Paul, Silas & Luke traveled all this way, gave up the opportunity to go to preach to the masses about the message of Jesus to meet with a few people meeting for prayer by a riverbank?
That’s exactly what happened.
The Holy Spirit led them to a place & to a people who had not yet heard the good news about Jesus, to attend a prayer meeting by the river, to meet with the Tuesday morning ladies class!
Isn’t this the way God works more often than not?
Doesn’t it seem like the Holy Spirit often moves us to do things that at the time seem small, insignificant & unimportant. We want to do the things that bring us a lot of acclaim, glory & fame. But the Spirit of Jesus leads us to meet with small groups by riverbanks.
Because the Spirit of Jesus led them to this riverbank to meet with people who had yet to hear about Jesus, & because Paul & his friends were attentive to the Spirit & obedient to the Spirit even though it meant changing their direction & their plans… this is what happened next…
One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying.
What was Paul talking about? Paul was talking about what Paul always talked about. Jesus! And because Paul was talking about Jesus by a riverbank to a few women who had gathered there to pray…
She and her household were baptized…
Never underestimate what God is doing through you in those riverbank moments with only a few.
Because they followed the Holy Spirit to the riverbank in Europe, Lydia & her entire household were baptized! And because Lydia & her household were baptized, a church was started in that city.
Their work in Philippi MADE A DIFFERENCE! A church was started.
You never know who hangs in the balance of your decision to be obedient to the Holy Spirit of God moving in your life.
So what about you?
Are you following the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life?
When’s the last time you changed your direction & your destination because you felt the Holy Spirit prompting you to go a different way?
It seems to me that for most of us, our lives are comfortable. And following the leading of the Holy Spirit more often then not will make us uncomfortable. Following the prompting of the Holy Spirit will disrupt our lives. The Spirit of Jesus will call us to do things that will complicate our lives, make us change direction & alter our plans.
But here’s what I know is true…
Difference Makers are obedient to & directed by the Spirit of Jesus.
If we’re going to be Difference Makers in the Kingdom of God we too have to be attentive to following the Holy Spirit of God.
Learning to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit is something we’ll spend all our lives trying to understand. But at the same time, there are times when we know that the Spirit of God is prompting us to do something. To be bold. To be brave.
It’s normally a hard thing. It’s often outside of our comfort zone. But if we will have the courage to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit God can & will do incredible things in & through us.
What is the Holy Spirit prompting you to do? Will you do it?
Maybe you just need to pray, Holy Spirit, disrupt my comfort. Show me what to do & give me the courage to do it!
I serve as the Preaching Minister at Riverside Church of Christ in Coppell, TX. I enjoy sports, running, fishing & life with the family. I’ve been in ministry since 1999. My wife Alisha & I have three amazing children, Will, Ella Grace & Emma Love. Thanks for stopping by my blog.