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Chuck McKnight, AiG–U.S., discusses how the Spirit led Paul and his companions in Acts and makes application for us today.
They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them. (Acts 16:6–7 (NASB))
Today’s big question: how can we follow the Spirit?
Our passage for today may seem a bit strange at first. The Holy Spirit actually forbade Paul and his companions to speak in certain locations. How could this be? Isn’t sharing God’s Word a good thing? Why would God not want them to speak in these places?
The answer to these questions is found in the subsequent verses. At that time, the Spirit specifically wanted these men in Macedonia. Yes, preaching to the lost in Asia or Bithynia would generally have been a good thing to do, but it was not God’s specific direction for them.
That raises an important question. How can we determine where He is leading us? For the most part, God has not chosen to speak to us audibly in this age. He does, however, speak to us in other ways, if we are willing to listen.
First, we should already be living our lives with a desire to please God. Whether or not we currently know the specific directions He has for us, we do know the universal commands He has given in His Word. We know what pleases Him, and we know what grieves Him. If we are not already obeying God’s universal commands, we should not wonder why He has not shown us our specific directions.
Second, we should actually ask God what He would have us to do. He has given us the wonderful privilege of coming before Him in prayer. Why not use that gift to ask for His guidance? Instead, we so often make our own plans, and then we ask Him to bless them. That isn’t how it’s supposed to work.
Third, we should not expect God to immediately reveal the whole course of our lives to us. He wants us to come to Him every day and every hour. I have found that God always gives directions when I’m obedient and ask Him, but He often waits until the very moment He wants me to follow those directions.
Finally, we should constantly watch for His leading and be ready to obey as soon as we are directed. This leading can come in any number of forms. Sometimes it is a need placed before you that you know you could fulfill. It could be a brother who asks for help. Perhaps it is simply a burden that God places on your heart. And sometimes it is a closed door you may have planned to enter.
Today’s big idea: seek the Spirit’s guidance, and be ready to obey.
What to pray: ask God to reveal His plan for you in His timing.