Following God's Lead - Part 2 of 5

I started this series of posts by describing the big idea that comes out in Acts 16: that following God is not about getting him to bless what I’m doing, but getting me to do what God is blessing. This idea is like an umbrella over this series of posts, and I got it from three observations in Acts 16. In the next three posts I want to relate those observations, which can help show what "getting me to do what God is blessing" looks like in real, everyday life.

The first idea is that "getting me to do what God is blessing" means that my goals must be his goals. I think it’s worth noting that the powerful leading Paul & his companions received from God in Acts 16:6-10 took place while they were serving as missionaries. In other words, every hour of their lives during this missionary journey was oriented toward the spread of the gospel. Now, I don’t think that means I have to be a missionary before I will experience God’s leading. But there is a lesson here, and I think that lesson is the more focused my life is on God’s goals, the more I can expect him to lead.

Many of us have experienced the truth of this first-hand. For example, I’ve listened to perhaps hundreds of people who have returned from short-term missions trips or service projects. The most common thing I hear them talk about is how much more aware of God’s leading they were during the trip than they normally are at home, and how much more they depended on that leading. This is usually followed by the person wondering out loud why they aren’t experiencing the same thing now that they’re home again.

Perhaps the reason is that in our "normal" life we’re not as focused on pursuing God’s agenda as we are when we're on a mission trip. When you’re on such a trip, everything is about doing ministry. You’re in a strange place where you often don’t know what to expect, and so any illusion of being in control goes out the window. Every waking moment is focused on serving, evangelizing, and building biblical community with teammates – sounds a lot like God’s agenda! I think that's why we're more aware of his leading: for those few weeks we’ve moved closer to the mainstream of what he wants from his followers all the time.

I can relate to this personally. In fact I’ve had two intense, earth-shaking, direction-altering encounters with God in my life - times when his leading was dramatic, and I followed it. The first took place in Budapest, Hungary during my senior year at Cal. I had prayed for years about what God wanted me to do with my life after college. Then I went on a 6-week mission trip in central Europe, which ended with a few days in Budapest at a hotel called the Citadella (pictured right). It was there while I was alone one night that God hit me almost physically and convinced me to pursue a career in ministry.

But this doesn't only happen on mission trips. My second such experience occurred in the family room of my old house in Fairview, Oregon. I had finished seminary, and for a few years I’d been praying about whether God wanted me to stay at the church where I was or move elsewhere. Then one morning, alone and quite unexpected, he again hit me as strongly as he had done 15 years earlier in Budapest, and impressed upon me that I was to move to the church where I now serve.

Both experiences were the culmination of years of asking big questions about what God wanted me to do with my life. In other words, at those times I was intensely seeking God’s goals in my life. Neither event happened during a ho-hum time of life where I was mostly doing my own thing.

Are my goals God’s goals? If we start aggressively pursuing that question, watch out: he may just rock our world. However if we stay safe in the simple life of "getting ahead" and being comfortable that American culture throws at us, we may never know what it’s like to have God show up powerfully. And we may never know what it’s like to move ahead with the conviction that he is in control of our course and destiny.

Have you ever had an experienced that caused you to be more aware of God’s leading than usual? What was different about that experience vs. your normal life?


Carol Shafer said...

About 10 years ago the Women's Bible Study at Harvest was studying "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby. We were challenged to "see where God is working and join Him". At the time there were a couple of women in my neighborhood that wanted to study the Bible. They needed a teacher. I joined God where He was working. Since that time God has produced much fruit including 6 salvations, ministry to a neighbor with cancer, a marriage (vs living togther) as a direct result of studing God's Word. Several women and their families have found church homes. Some are involved in leadership and ministry. Recently, one of the women has taken over my role as teacher and I have moved into a mentoring role. It has been quite a ride!

Ken said...

I can't say that I've ever had a moment like that. You are right - you hear people during missionary trips become very aware of God's presence. A very dear friend went on a mission and tells some similar stories.

Part of me wants to say that I haven't experienced this because I am too engrossed in every day life. However, I have put my faith in God in several times of trial and with his help (and now my wife's) I've gotten through. Be it unemployment, the death of a loved one or really bad medical news, trusting God and submitting to his will has been of comfort.

Not sure if that answers your question, but it was the best I could relate.

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