God Guides A Moving Ship

In Acts 15:36, Paul decided to revisit the churches he helped establish on his first missionary trip. The churches were being strengthened and increasing in numbers (Acts 16:5). Suddenly the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching in Asia (vs. 6), and the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to keep going the same direction (vs.7). Then Paul received a vision to go to Macedonia (vs. 9). If God wanted Paul to go to Macedonia in the first place, why didn’t He guide Paul on a more direct path to Macedonia? Because God wanted Paul to start his second missionary trip by strengthening the Churches in Asia.

This mid-course correction underscores an important concept of divine guidance. God can only guide a moving ship. A rudder doesn’t work if the ship isn’t moving. Guidance comes when you are actively doing God’s will. We are not empowered to do our will. A ship without power is helpless at sea. The helmsman can’t do anything because the rudder only works if the ship is under way. Life is a journey that takes us through many bends in a river. Like a good river pilot, God guides us around obstacles and away from troubled waters. If we are actively serving God, there will be many mid-course corrections. We may not know in advance where God is leading us, but we will never get there if we are not actively underway.

We also need to bloom where we are planted. Rattling doors to find an open one is not God’s way. We ought to be content where we are and prove ourselves faithful in what God has already assigned us to do. He will open the doors of opportunity at the right time. If we aren’t bearing fruit now, it is unlikely that we will be fruitful in another time and place.

Isaiah wrote, “The Lord will guide you always” (58:11). In the context prior to that verse, the Israelites were seeking God’s leading by fasting (vs. 2). But God revealed that their fasting was a farce that ended in strife (vs. 4). Then he shares what a real spiritual fast should be, if you are intent on discerning God’s will. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the captive free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn” (vss. 6-8). In other words, Why are you fasting to know my ways when you have clearly not been faithful to do what I have already commanded you to do? If you will minister to your people the way I have instructed, then your next step will be clear.

Dr. Neil

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