May 9, 2010
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 16:9-15

“When He had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them” (Acts 16:10).

That must have been a thrilling day for Paul, Luke, Silas and Timothy. They had talked it over and all agreed: This was the will of God for them. The KJV puts it “assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us…” How does a person come to that confident assurance? There are in this passage five principles for finding God’s will.

I. Commitment. In general, God leads those who are committed to follow. Some people look for God’s direction about like Lord Nelson looking at the signal flags on the Admiral’s ship at the Battle of Copenhagen. He put the telescope to his blind eye. He knew the admiral would be signaling him to come out of action. He had no intention of doing so.

Sometimes God persuades a reluctant Jonah to accept His will, but that is rare. God prefers to bring a soul to trusting readiness before He shows the path. When Abraham’s servant went at his master’s bidding to find a bride for Isaac, he found God leading. Then he “praised the Lord…who had led him on the right road (Genesis 24:48). God’s leading is for those who are on the journey as were these missionaries at Troas.

II. Communication. God makes known His will to those who are in touch with Him. Prayer is the main way we speak to God. The Bible is God’s primary way of speaking to us. God made His will known to Cornelius in his time of prayer. He told him to send a delegation to Joppa for Peter. As they approached, God made His will known to Peter also in a time of prayer. If you want to know God’s will, ask Him.

III. Counsel. God uses the advice and counsel of others to help us understand His will.

Notice the nouns and pronouns: “After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10). Paul heard the voice of God and had his vision to cross the Aegean and take the gospel to a new continent; but as strong-willed as the apostle could be, it seems here, he brought his companions into the decision. “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.

IV. Circumstances. At times, God opens and closes doors as a part of His pattern of leading. Paul wanted to preach in Asia, but he felt forbidden by the Holy Spirit in those plans. Then they started to go into Spain (Bithynia), “but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them” (Acts 16:7). How did the Spirit forbid them? We are not told explicitly, but perhaps it was a vision such as described in the next verse. Perhaps the border was closed somehow. At any rate, the closing of those doors pointed them to the open door of God’s choosing.

Circumstances alone must not determine our lives, of course. We are not straws drifting on the currents of blind fate; but many times, what seems to be a mere happen-so, turns out to be God’s arranging our destiny. E. Stanley Jones, tells in the preface of The Christ of Every Road how he came to write that classic book about Pentecost. He had determined not to write another book for a few years; but on an ocean voyage, he said, “this book in outline, if not in essence, came to me. When I returned to the United States, the very first request I received was from the publishers asking me to write a book on Pentecost.” He understood this joining of circumstances to be an indication of God’s will.

V. Conscience. The Holy Spirit prompts the sensitive conscience to disturb when we are about to go astray and to give peace as we tread the proper path. Like the appeal to circumstances, conscience alone is not an infallible guide. One may be dead sure about a direction and dead wrong about God’s will; but in the whole pattern of God’s leading, conscience has a part to play. Thus, Paul and his party set sail “convinced that God had called us” (Acts 16:10).

When George Beverly Shea was a young man, he auditioned for the Lynn Murray Singers, a famous singing group. Mr. Murray gave him “The Song of the Vagabonds” from The Vagabond King to learn. Bev did so and impressed the judges, but there was one line in the song that bothered him: “and to hell with Burgundy.” He prayed about it, and when the call came for him to join the group, he had decided not to accept the offer. The next summer, he sang in a service at Pinebrook School. Dr. Will Haughton, president of Moody Bible Institute, speaker at the event, spoke to Bev about an opening at WMBI Radio. When that door opened, he was ready to step through. There he met a young evangelist named Billy Graham and went on to the ministry that has blessed millions around the world. Thus did his conscience combine with circumstances, wise counsel, communication and commitment to God to direct his life.

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