The book of Acts, in some ways, seems like a spiritual free-for-all that is the sequel of the ministry of Jesus on this earth. Jesus was really intentional about giving guidelines for the “what’s” of life and ministry, but not always the “how’s.” So we see the apostles learning as they go and gradually discovering the “how’s” of God’s will. Then, with the indispensable help of the Holy Spirit, they eventually lay the foundation for what has become the church. It now has maybe a couple billion disciples in hundreds of nations across the globe. This devotional is intended to make you consider the action you are responsible for in the uncertainty of a life lived for Christ, and to better put into perspective the discovery of God’s individual will for your life.
An event in Paul’s second missionary journey gives a good representation of the idea of taking action in uncertainty:
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. – Acts 16:6-10 (ESV)
This is a good representation that seeking out God’s individual will for our lives – as opposed to His moral will, which are the clear-cut things we find in scripture – is often quite messy. Discerning God’s will for the steps on his second missionary journey – a hugely momentous step in the proliferation of God’s kingdom on this earth – was not something that happened for Paul as he sat on the top of a mountain in a yoga pose, humming as he waited for some divine revelation. No, he went out not knowing what would be next, trusting God to fill in the blanks for him. And in the process, the Holy Spirit closed doors and opened others. Put in other terms, there was failure involved in discovering God’s will in the midst of uncertainty on the journey, but ultimately success.
We must take action when life is uncertain. This is a key component of faith. God does not lay it all out for us before we take a step; we have to go and find it. And we will veer off the wrong way on rabbit-trails, but we can trust God as “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). It is comforting to know that whatever we do, even when it does not appear that we are producing results, God can bring it about for His glory and our good.
Is there a huge question mark in your life? In finding answers, there is a place and a time for quiet meditation and contemplation of the future. There also comes a time to simply jump and let the ever-present Holy Spirit – who dwells inside you – use your failures and learning experiences to lead you down the right path. We cannot be so afraid of failure and taking risky steps that will hinder us from discovering some amazing things God would have for us. Trusting God often involves walking out on the water, like Peter, even when you do not know what you are doing. So take the step out of the boat. It may not look pretty when you are taking your first steps. He doesn’t call us to prettiness but to faithfulness.
Devotional Author: Jeff Oleson