Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let Him Lead


Let Him Lead

 

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.  After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.” – Acts 16:6-7

Paul and Silas had quite a preaching circuit!  They had travelled from Derbe to Lystra to Iconium to Phrygia and wanted to go to Asia and preach the news of Jesus Christ as well. But the Holy Spirit would not allow them to enter Asia.  So they travelled on to Mysia, and wanted to go into Bithynia…but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let them.  So they went on to Troas, and there, in a dream, they saw a man in Macedonia begging them to come to them.  Then they understood that His Holy Spirit was guiding them, closing paths along the way, to get them to where He needed them to go.  It was in Macedonia that they met Lydia, a seller of purple fabric, and she was saved after hearing them preach the gospel of Jesus.
But that wasn’t the only thing God had planned for them in Macedonia.  There was a greater work to be done, and it would come through pain.

She was a young girl, taken into slavery by those that made a living out of her sad condition.  A spirit of divination had possessed her and given her the ability to tell fortunes.  Make no mistake - this was not a spirit from God, but an evil spirit.  And when Paul and Silas passed by her, just as the word says that “even the demons believe – and tremble” (James 2:19), the trembling started! 
In Acts 16:17 we read that she followed Paul and Silas and cried out after them “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” She followed day after day with the same cry.  The evil spirit in her could do nothing more than proclaim Jesus Christ!  That doesn’t sound like something that should bother Paul and Silas, now does it?  But it annoyed Paul because it was continuous, like nagging.  It was the sound of the evil spirit in her speaking the name of Jesus.  It was the evil spirit proclaiming their calling in Christ.  Even the demon knew these two were a problem for his father satan, and could find no rest while they were around!

So Paul turned to her, and speaking not to her, but the evil spirit within her, commanded he come out “in the name of Jesus Christ.”  What’s an evil spirit to do when faced with the power of the name of Jesus but to obey?  That very hour, the girl was healed.  Paul later wrote in Phillipians 2:10 “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth”, which God had shown him that day.
As powerful as Christ is, and as loving as God is, not all will welcome Him.  There are those that simply prefer to live in darkness, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).  The men who had made the slave girl their income were not happy that their money maker was now broken.  They dragged Paul and Silas into court, and claimed they were teaching things that were not lawful for Romans to do or see.  They had them beaten with rods until their backs were striped. And then, Paul and Silas, servants of the Most High God, were thrown into prison.

The ways of God can sometimes feel like defeat when you don’t understand them.  Who would have guessed that God had a purpose for throwing two of His finest into prison?  Who would have thought that their bearing the pain of a beating would have been for God’s purpose?  But God’s greater plan was to use their sacrifice of pain to bring another soul into salvation.
In the middle of the night, Paul and Silas aren’t sleeping.  They’re singing songs to God.  Can’t you just see them, sitting in the dark, rattling their chains to create a rhythm, and Paul saying “Silas, do you know this one? Sing with me!” as he starts to sing another hymn.  Truly Paul had learned to be content in whatever state he was in!

Then God shakes the earth with a mighty earthquake.  The walls around them stand, protecting them from being covered in rubble, while the doors swing wide open!   At this point most of us would take on the legs of a thoroughbred horse and run like we’re in the derby away from that prison!  But Paul and Silas did not.  They called out to the guard not to be afraid for they were all there.  Had they escaped, it would have cost the guard his life.  Paul and Silas knew that the loss of his life, a roman soldier, would most likely mean a soul in hell.  They stayed because God had other plans.
The guard apparently had felt the Holy Spirit that was in Paul and Silas.  He craved what they had.  Coming to them, he had just one question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” That very hour the guard and all his family were saved and baptized.

Our circumstances can be so very misleading.  Mission trips with lost luggage seem like disasters while we’re going through them, but having to borrow clothes from someone else humbles us to the point God can use us.  Being put in jail can seem like punishment, until God uses that experience to provide a rich prison ministry. Broken down cars and being stranded on the side of the road can show us how much we depend on Him for everything, and turn us to Him in prayer.  The pain of losing a friend can open the door for another to fill that empty spot.  Our little window of time that we see is nothing compared to what God sees. 
Proverbs 3:5-6 challenges us to one of the most difficult ways to follow Christ.  It challenges us to trust Him with our day, trust Him to lead the way, even when we must do it blindly.  It challenges us to just give Christ the reins and let Him lead. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”
The Holy Spirit had a reason for not allowing Paul and Silas into Asia.  There was another work to be done, a work that would lead to the salvation and healing of many.  Understanding when the Holy Spirit blocks a path is as important as understanding when He leads you down another.

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