Acts 16:9-15

Chris Thurman’s book, Truths We Must Believe, he relates the story
of the great college football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, and his gifted
Alabama team losing a football game to a smaller school with a much less talented
squad. After the game, Coach Bryant had to answer the inevitable questions about
how the Crimson Tide could suffer an embarrassing loss.

reporter asked, “So how does it feel to lose a game you should have won?”
to which the great coach replied, “What should have happened did.”
Not catching his drift, the reporter followed up with a request for an explanation.
Bear Bryant clarified, “The team that should have won, won. The team that
hits the hardest should win. The team that makes the blocks consistently should
win. The team that completes passes and executes plays should win. So what ‘should’
have happened, did.”

sixteenth chapter of Acts is a great explanation of that maxim at work in the
life of a believer.

God’s Will is Greater than Our Intentions

the earlier part of the chapter, Paul and his missionary entourage had planned
to go into Asia to preach the gospel there, but the Holy Spirit somehow prevented
them from doing so. Then they attempted to go to Bithynia, but again, the Spirit
would not allow them.

in the text indicates that Paul’s desire was misplaced or contrary to anything
God had previously told him. Paul’s desire was good, reasonable, and even
laudable, but it was not God’s will.

and godly desires alone are not necessarily the will of God. George Mueller
said that in order for him to discern the will of God he first got his heart
into “such a state that it has no will of its own.” Only then can
we distinguish between God’s will and ours.

God’s Will is Greater than Our Comfort

often attempt to interpret the will of God by the ease with which they can carry
it out. If the road gets difficult, they often doubt their understanding of
God’s will and question whether they did the right thing.

church planter who has a hard time getting a new congregation going wants to
relocate. The recently married couple wonders if a marriage that requires so
much work could really have been the will of God. The seminary student who cannot
find a job feels the temptation to go back home and drop out of ministry.

we think, “if this were the will of God, I would have success. Doors would
open. It would be, well . . . easier!”

trip to Philippi is an excellent reminder that even when we are perfectly in
God’s will, even when we are living for Him and surrendered to His plan,
we have no promise of ease or exemption from suffering and difficulty. God doesn’t
provide “Minister of the Month” parking places in the Kingdom of God.

common Jewish tradition was that a city had to have at least ten Jewish males
to have a local synagogue, so all Paul found in Philippi was a place where the
few Jewish citizens could go to pray. Worse still, he was later arrested and
beaten. If Paul had gauged God’s will by “open doors of opportunity,”
he might have gone elsewhere, but his conviction that this was the will of God
made him persevere.

God’s Will is Greater than Our Expectations

no synagogue, no ready-made audience to whom he could preach, Paul just faithfully
shared the gospel with Lydia and her household. It may not have had the power
of Pentecost, or the drama of Athens, but she was God’s intended audience,
because “the Lord opened her heart.”
Lydia and her household became the nucleus of the church that later received
one of Paul’s prison letters, the epistle to the Philippians. God did a
work in Philippi that was greater than even Paul could have imagined in those
first difficult days.

we are completely surrendered to God’s will, we live with the assurance
that what should happen, will happen.



brief provided by: Hershael York, Lester Associate Professor
of Christian Preaching, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

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