Don’t you wish God would just pick up the telephone and tell you what to do? We wouldn’t have to go through the grueling process of trying to hear his Voice. When I’m trying to decide what novel to pitch for my next project, it would be nice to hear the God-phone ring: “Hello, Mesu. I’d like you to write this book next.” How cool would that be? Alas, no 1-800-GOD direct line to heaven. Instead, we’re called to seek Him and promised that He’ll be found by us (Jer. 29:13). I can testify that this seeking-finding system also works. When our girls were little, and Roy came home from work saying he believed God had called him into vocational ministry, I told him he was nuts—actually, my words weren’t that kind. I thought he was trying to escape a job he didn’t like, and I told God I needed proof before we uprooted our children and left the church I loved. Ugh. That sort of qualifies as seeking God, right? A few days later, Roy came home after work, hesitancy written all over his face. “I was offered another job today. Twice the pay with a larger company…but I turned it down because God has called me to full-time ministry. We’re going to seminary.”
Instead of the rant he expected, the 1-800-GOD phone rang in my heart. I’d accused Roy of using seminary as an escape from his current job. The Lord provided another escape, but my husband didn’t take it. It was the proof I needed from the Lord that Roy was truly called. Within three weeks, we’d moved from a four-bedroom farmhouse to a 2-bedroom, third-story apartment. Many of our friends thought we were nuts. My dad cried when I told him. He’d been a pastor’s kid and didn’t want his grandkids to endure it. But I had my proof, and nothing could dissuade us. Have you ever been THAT sure…when others are THAT adamantly against it?
Acts 21:1-6 – “After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.” (emphasis added)
What do you suppose Paul did for those seven days he visited the folks at Tyre? Probably what he did everywhere he visited—prayed, encouraged, taught. Though he was a teacher and evangelist, above all he was a lover of Jesus Christ and had a personal, intimate relationship with his Savior. Paul undoubtedly sensed an end to his “normal” ministry. The Lord was calling him to an unknown hardship, and the Spirit confirmed the hardship through those around him. The urging not to go was a compassionate, human response of those who loved him. However, Paul remained obedient to his personal revelation, not allowing others’ emotional interpretation of God’s message to sway him.
Acts 21:7-11 – “We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”’” (emphasis added)
Luke tells us Philip the evangelist had four daughters that prophesied, but he never says they prophesied to Paul. Why? Agabus came all the way from Judea to prophesy. So why did Philip’s daughters—those closest in proximity to Paul—remain silent while God sent a man from Judea—Jerusalem’s province—to “warn” Paul of hardship? I first thought Agabus a very convincing sign that Paul should NOT got to Jerusalem—vivid imagery, sent from the very province where the arrest would occur. But what if the words of Agabus became a sealed confirmation of God’s direction to Jerusalem, not a warning to stay away? Notice Agabus adds the detailed foretelling of Paul’s arrest by Jews and then delivering into Gentile hands. We have no indication that Paul knew anything about what awaited him in Jerusalem until Agabus gave him these few details. Others may have seen Agabus’s words as a convincing argument to avoid Jerusalem, while Paul undoubtedly felt the strengthening of his commitment to obey.
Acts 21:12-16 – “When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’ After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.” (emphasis added)
Paul didn’t know exactly WHAT would happen in Jerusalem, but he sensed that jail and possibly death awaited him. In truth, he had no idea the long road he would travel—four to five years of imprisonment and trials, rumored acquittal, further missionary journeys, and then re-arrest and execution (67 A.D.) in Rome. The point is…he didn’t need to know WHAT. Knowing the mind of God is never as important as knowing the heart of God. Because we are finite beings in relationship with an infinite God, we’ll seldom (if ever) be absolutely certain of a calling or direction. But when we resolutely walk in rhythm with His heartbeat, refusing to be dissuaded from what the Spirit has confirmed in our hearts, those friends that are also seeking God’s heart will ultimately walk with us, saying, “The Lord’s will be done.”
- Lord, my focus must be to hear Your voice, to remain close to Your heart, to discern Your will—no matter who agrees or follows with me. Help me to give appropriate weight to godly counsel, seek wisdom through Your Word and prayer. And then, with all my heart, give me the courage to move forward in the power of Your Spirit—showing love as I move in rhythm to Your heartbeat—trusting You to work in the hearts and minds of those around me.