Letting God Lead
"Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to." Acts 16:6-7
This passage in the Book of Acts is fascinating! It shows God intervening in Paul's plans and Paul's need to let God lead. What this passage highlights is the reality that God will at times change our course. Wise words found in Proverbs 16:9 explain it this way: “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”
God will lead us on paths we didn’t see coming, we will experience unexpected battles and challenges, and face obstacles--even as Christians. We may anticipate a certain trajectory for our lives, family, career, and churches. Yet there will be seasons, like Paul and his companions faced, that are marked by closed doors, re-routes, upsets, and apparent setbacks. As followers of Jesus, we can trust God has a purpose in allowing change, rerouting our plans, and closing one door to lead us down another path. God mercifully and lovingly works in these circumstances to show us His sovereignty and our need to depend on Him. In Isaiah 43:2, we find encouragement in this promise from God: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
A change of course or unexpected situation allows God to work in our hearts in three distinct ways by teaching us to let go, grow in humility, and deepen our trust in God.
The first, teaching us to let go. This can be painful work that takes listening, prayer, and Holy Spirit guidance, so that we can let go of our own plans and surrender to God’s work that needs to be done. Letting go of control, over-planning, and our faulty expectations helps us have open hands to God’s will and provision. We want to be ready to accept what God has for us. As Christians, we can ask ourselves: am I clinging to what I want and what I think is best, or am I letting the Spirit lead the way?
The second, teaching us to grow in humility. We read in the New Testament, that the Apostle Paul had to change his travel plans on a few occasions, which caused some to think he was unreliable. It must have been hard for Paul to hear of such criticism of his integrity. When God changes our course, when we find ourselves in situations that we weren’t expecting, it can put us on the defense, especially when others give unnecessary judgement. However, as believers, we can recognize these moments as lessons in humility. With open hearts to God’s plans, we can consider: how is God showing me a different way to accomplish the work He has for me?
And finally, teaching us to deepen our trust in God. When we face troubles, when a plan for your family or job didn’t go how you thought, it can be frustrating, even disheartening. We can imagine Paul and his companions feeling annoyed or discouraged when the Spirit of God led them another way. Moments like this present the chance to deepen our trust in God. In Psalm 37:5, the Psalmist invites us to: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and know he will act.”
As we learn to let go and humble ourselves, our trust in God will grow. We can trust Him in any season we go through. We can ask: how is God stretching my faith, and how can I trust Him through change and uncertainty?
When change, loss, or transition happens, we can open our hearts to what God is doing and let Him take the lead as we journey. Our response can be to listen, to learn, to be teachable, to surrender, and to let God do a new thing.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for your faithfulness. I am so grateful that you promise to be with me in all situations, especially the hard ones. I am so moved by your love and mercy toward me. I can trust that when I face changes or difficult situations, you are with me. I know that your plans are better than anything I can come up with. So, help me to let go, help me to have a humble heart, and help me to trust you. I love you, Lord, and pray all this in Jesus' name, amen.
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