What do you do when God’s will doesn’t seem to make sense? Do you start to doubt God’s character or God’s plans? Do you stop listening and just wander back to whatever plans keep you in control of your life?
Acts 16: 13-15 gives us an example of how God’s will sometimes looks like an unexpected detour or a closed door. And how we respond to these unexpected moments says a lot about our trust in God and our surrender to God’s will.
In the earlier chapters of Acts, Paul and his companions had been doing great missionary throughout the Roman Empire. They had been preaching the message of Jesus, teaching in the synagogues, healing the sick and performing miracles. So in Acts 15, they left the region of Galatia, with plans to head east to spread the word of God throughout Asia. They had a plan: God was with them, what could possibly go wrong?
But it says in Acts 16 that no matter how much Paul and Silas and Timothy wanted to go to Asia, the Spirit of Jesus would not let them.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever lined up a perfect plan for your life, your job, or your family, or your future---and God said no?
Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, once wrote that when she faced a difficult situation or a closed door, she didn’t ask God, “Why?” It doesn’t do any good to ask why. Isaiah 55: 8-9 reads, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Instead, she asked, “What are you trying to teach me through this?” And she would pay close attention, because she knew that God was still working in any circumstance, no matter how strange or painful it may seem at the moment.
So how did Paul and the others react to this unexpected detour? They trusted God would send them another plan, and He did. Paul had a dream that a man from Macedonia was begging them for help. So they headed straight to the region of Macedonia, and landed in one of its most prominent cities, Philippi. And they set out to find a group of Jewish men to share Jesus’ message with. But all Paul and his men found was a small group of women gathered by a river, praying. Judging by human standards, this didn’t look like a major ministry opportunity.
The disciples’ faith allowed them to see apparent obstacles as opportunities. Once we submit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus, every moment of our lives becomes an opportunity to serve God and witness to His truth. Paul and the others saw every moment as an opportunity to live for Jesus, so they gave their absolute best to every moment, even if it didn’t look like a great return on investment. First Peter 3: 15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
So they sat down and began teaching the women. And the Bible says God opened Lydia’s heart, and she immediately believed in Jesus as her Savior, and she and her whole household were baptized that day. Lydia started a small Christian church in her house, the first Christian church in the Western world. And it was from this small outpost in Philippi that the message of Jesus spread throughout Europe, and eventually to the U.S., and to us today.
Romans 8: 28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.” Is there an area of your life where you are having trouble discerning God’s will or trusting God’s plan for your life? You are not alone. Please remember the many instances in the Bible, and in your own life, when God’s will seemed difficult to understand at the time, but became clearer in hindsight. And remember that God is working for the good of those who love Him.
Your sister in Christ,