In our human nature, most of us prefer to receive a complete set of instructions and then go carry out the task on our own until it is complete. However, this model in which we have control and independence is contrary to the way God’s kingdom works. I’m afraid God never promised not to interfere with our plans, even our Christian plans about how we will live for Him. He also has no interest in fostering independence from Himself, nor does He consider it loving to preserve our illusion that we are in control.
That is why He trains us to continually listen to His voice. After we have heard from the Lord, received instructions, and even become sure of the work God has given us to do, we do well to keep our ears and hearts open to divine redirection. The God with whom we walk is a living God, and therefore He is free to surprise us and reveal new purpose to us at any time. He also calls our relationship with Him a “walk.” This means there is a step-by-step following of the Lord as He leads us. Sometimes, while we are in the middle of obeying the call of God, the Holy Spirit will open to us a dimension of our calling which we had not yet seen or experienced.
Paul was called to go and strengthen the churches that he and his companions had planted (Acts 15:36). As they went, they saw success; “the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily” (16:5). The temptation could have been to turn back and say, “mission accomplished,” or to just replicate this same model in other cities and regions; after all, it was effective and edifying! Yet, right at this point, God’s hand redirects them into a different mission. They have some hopes for going to Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbids it (16:6). They set their eyes on Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus denies permission (16:7). Suddenly, God brings fresh leading and fresh vision, calling them to Macedonia. The gospel was about to reach a new people; Christ would be preached in Europe for the very first time.
We must be ready to yield to redirection. Imagine if Paul had said, “I had a strange vision last night about Macedonia, but it must not be from God, because I know my calling! We need to strengthen the churches.” Are we at risk of being stubborn toward the Spirit in this way? Is there room for God to show you new aspects of what He wishes to do in and through your life? Think of the souls and families and nations who are eternally grateful that Paul listened to divine redirection! I wonder if any souls, families, or even nations will be eternally grateful if you and I will keep our lives and our plans completely in God’s hands, with an open ear and an open heart.
This is not to suggest that we follow any “good idea fairy” that comes along, or entertain every wind that blows through our minds. We do not search around for fresh directions from God. But in the thing He has given us to do, we trust His providence. If your way becomes blocked while obeying God, begin to pray and ask Him for the clear way forward. We can be sure that, when God redirects us, our call becomes less about ourselves and what we will do and more about the true needs of others and how we will help them. “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).
The Rock Church