Following God’s Lead - Part 3 of 5

Continuation from my last post...

The second idea that came out of my recent study of Acts 16 is that in order for me to “do what God is blessing,” my plans must be revisable. If I’m to successfully follow God’s lead I have to be willing to let him change my direction.

That’s certainly what Paul did on this second missionary journey. The place names in verses 6-10 can get a little bewildering (a map really helps me here), but the gist of what happened is this: they leave central Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and head for the west coast. But God says no, and that’s good enough for them. So they turn around and head for the north coast up by the Black Sea. But again God says no, and again that’s good enough for them. Finally, Paul receives a vision from God calling them to Macedonia (modern Greece). You guessed it: that’s good enough for them, and so off they go.

Reads pretty easy, doesn’t it? In fact that sounds pretty simple and perhaps even obvious at first. God redirected Paul a few times - great! What‘s the big deal? Well, it may read easy but in my experience it lives hard.

How revisable are my plans? I think we usually believe our plans are more revisable than they actually are. In fact it’s often not until he tries to redirect us that we discover just how tightly we‘re holding on to our own plans. That was my certainly my experience several years ago.

In my last post I related how God called me to a career in overseas missions. Pretty neat huh? Strong calling from God, all positive and nice, a great story. Well… not really, because that call isn’t the end of the story.

After my Budapest experience Amy and I got married and moved to Portland so I could attend Western Seminary. I arrived in the Pacific Northwest with a well-thought-out plan for getting through school and embarking on a missions career within 5 years. I had covered all the bases, and since I was following God’s call I was convinced that this plan was his, not mine... until it changed.

Things started to not work out almost immediately after we moved. A series of unanticipated circumstances, over which we had very little control, threw up roadblocks at almost every turn. We began revising our 5-year plan, changing it twice a year on average, pushing it out to 6 years and then to 7. Eventually it no longer bore any resemblance at all to the plan I had first arrived in Portland with.

One of the casualties of these revisions was my schooling. I took a full load of classes my first semester of seminary, a half-load the second, and even less for my whole second year. Then by my third year of seminary (1996-97) I had to withdraw from school completely and begin working full time.

It’s difficult for me to describe how hard that was to swallow. I could handle other bumps in the road here and there, but school was different. You see, the whole reason we had come to Portland in the first place was to get me through seminary. Now there I was working a dead-end, low level secular job just to put food on the table, and not taking any classes at all. And I had no guarantee that I could resume classes the following year.

The “why” question was impossible to ignore. How could God let this happen? This was his idea - I was following his lead. Wasn’t I?

Was I?

I learned that year just how revisable my plans weren’t. It wasn’t until three years of prying at my fingers had finally made me let go of my 5-year plan that I realized just how tightly I had been holding on to it all along.

At that point I learned a valuable lesson about following God’s lead. It’s a lesson that gives me a whole new appreciation of Paul, Silas and Timothy’s willingness to let God revise the plan that made the most sense to them at the time. It’s a lesson that centers around a very important word: trust. And that lesson will be the subject of my next post on following God’s lead.


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