Following God's Lead - Part 4 of 5

Continuing from my last post...

Trust is a big word when it comes to learning how to follow God’s lead. It’s important because when we let God drive, so to speak, we discover that he often chooses rough roads.

That’s what Paul and Silas discovered in Acts 16. They chose to “let God drive” by following his lead to Philippi when they hadn’t originally planned to go anywhere near the place. And what did they get for such faith, such awesome obedience?

They got the tar beat out of them. Literally. They were falsely accused, physically assaulted by the authorities, and unjustly imprisoned (verses 19-24). This was a heinous violation of both their rights and their dignity – a total breach of justice by an impassioned mob.

And please don’t skip ahead to the miraculous jail break! At the time their bruised, bloody carcasses and their wounded egos were summarily tossed into the pit they had no idea God was going to free them. At that moment all they knew was that following God’s lead had gotten them one thing: violated. Put yourself in their place. I can imagine the temptation to ask God “why!?” was overwhelming.

Now, my previously-related experience with revising my 5-year plan was obviously nowhere near that intense. But I can relate to the feeling that all I got from following God was a dead end.

One sunny day during the year I was out of school I had an errand at the seminary. I’ll never forget sitting in the parking lot that day and looking out my window across the lawn at Buermann Hall where most of the classes take place. I knew there were classes happening right then – classes I wanted to be in; should be in. But rather than starting a class and learning to parse Hebrew, I started the car and drove home.

At those moments the temptation to seize control is strong. It’s difficult to refrain from saying, “OK God, I did it your way and look what it got me!” It’s hard not to seize the wheel again and relegate God to the back seat.

But Paul and Silas didn’t. They refused to get mad at God and question his goodness. Instead... they sang. SANG! In the midst of terrible pain and shame, and not knowing how or even if they would escape their circumstances, they found enough perspective to sing praises to God.

This is profound trust. Even when life gives me every reason not to, even when all sensible people take my view of things, and even when they tell me I’ve certainly lived through more than my fair share of suffering (how do they determine what my “fair share” is, I wonder…) -- even then I choose to continue to trust. That was the faith of Paul, and that was the most profound thing that hit me in this chapter of the Bible.

In my case I chose to keep following his lead, and looking back I can see how he has used it for great good. But that’s easier to say in retrospect than it was to do at the time. Sometimes those dark moments, when we don’t know how it’s going to turn out and our trust is put to the test -- those are the best times to drive a stake of commitment into the ground. That’s what Paul did soon after his experience in Philippi, which I’ll write about in my final post in this series.

What has helped you maintain trust in God in dark times?


Judith said...

I loved this post, Matthew. Your thoughts are helpful - indeed, what is our "fair share"? And I agree with you that trusting is usually easier in retrospect - that's why I enjoy seeing good movies more than once!

As you well know, one of the things that has helped me trust God is getting to know his character. I learn about that, of course, in scripture - Bible studies, sermons, etc. but also through testimony of other believers (as what you have written here). About a year ago I began keeping a tablet next to my reading chair to jot down significant insights of an author I'm reading along with the title of the book and the page where the quote can be found. (Never know when one will need that!) Several times a week I include in my quiet time at least a partial reading through that ever growing tablet and am blessed all over again by the testimony of what God is up to in the life of another believer. Of course, the more we know the Father, the easier it is to trust him and we get to know him by how he interacts with others as well as ourselves.

Looking forward to the stake in the ground with your next post!

Matt Guerino said...

I like the notepad idea. I think it reinforces God's character, which as you've said is really what's needed if we're to learn to trust him. If I am convinced of his goodness and his control, I'll have a much easier time of trusting. But how can I trust someone I don't know?

Thanks for sharing your good insights! I wonder if they're genetic? ;)

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