Summary: Part 2 of 2 sermons on how the Holy Spirit guides us
A Guiding Presence, Part 2
Acts 16: 1-10
One thing is very clear in Scripture: God guides his people. In fact, as you read through the Scriptures, particularly the Book of Acts, it seems that guidance from God through the Holy Spirit is a normal and regular part of following Jesus. But sometimes we become so absorbed in our lives and so inundated by the noise around us (TV, radio, texting, email and a lack of margin), that we fail to hear when God speaks. So it helps to know how God can speak to us and that the amount of guidance we receive from God is dependent on how available we make ourselves to him. Spiritual guidance comes, not only for our own good but for the good of others, but ultimately for the good of God and His purposes. As we walk in God’s will, we are blessed but more importantly, the people around us are blessed as is God. When you pray for and seek God’s guidance, you acknowledge that God has the right to direct your life. God is sovereign, not only over all creation and history, but over you. The King of kings and Lord of Lords has every right to govern you because of who he is. But God never forces us us. Rather we must first submit to God and His will for our lives.
So how can God guide us? Last week, we learn about three means: first is through what John Wesley called reason. God has given us a mind to be used for his purposes. This is why we’re called to have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). Paul tells us in Romans 8:5-6, the Spirit of God can guide our thinking/ Second is through daily and systematic reading of Scripture. Third is through other people as they speak, minister and provide counsel to us.
Today, we’re going to look at four other means through which God guides us. First is through visions. Joel 2:28 says, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” In fact, visions are so important that Proverbs 19:18 says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Throughout Scripture, God communicates with his people through visions. In Gen. 15, the Lord speaks to Abraham in a vision reminding him that he was to be a father of many nations. (Gen 15:1). As a young boy, Samuel received a vision that God’s judgment was coming on Samuel’s mentor, Eli. (1 Samuel) In the New Testament, Zechariah had a vision that he was about to give birth to an important son, John the Baptist. In Acts 9, Annanias had a vision which sent him to minister to and care for Saul after Saul was blinded. In Acts 10, Peter had a vision that expanded the Gospel to Gentiles.
If we were to think that things like this happened only for biblical times, the promise of Joel would be wrong. God still speaks in visions today. I was driving home one Sunday from Trinity of Gentilly, where I was serving. I was on Napolean headed toward the river and had just passed Pascale Manales when I saw Covenant Presbyterian Church at the corner of St. Charles Ave. I then had a vision of younger families in the Uptown and Garden District area streaming into that church singing God’s praises. It was so powerful that I had to pull over by the old K&B there and stop the car. The following week, I made an appointment to speak with the DS and then the pastor of Rayne. Little did I know the elderly members of Covenant Presbyterian were discussing selling the church and relocating to Metairie. The DS didn’t respond to my vision by acting on it, reminding me that God’s people don’t always say yes to God. Today, there is the powerful ministry of Watson Memorial filling that church and transforming lives.
Second, God speaks through circumstances. In Acts 16, the Apostle Paul and Silas were in Philippi, where they shared the good news of Jesus with a man and his family (Acts 16:16-34). The whole household believed the message and all members were immediately baptized. How did Paul and Silas get to the home of this man and his family? Through circumstances, and rather odd circumstances at that. The man was a jailer who had been assigned to guard Paul and Silas. Around midnight, when they should have been bemoaning their fate, Paul and Silas were praying and praising God. All of a sudden, a great earthquake shook the prison, knocking the chains off the prisoners and opening the door to the jail cell. The poor jailer saw the open door and supposing that his prisoners had escaped was about to fall on his sword when Paul shouted: “Don’t do it! We are all here!” In that moment, Paul and Silas led this man to faith. He then took them to his home, where they proceeded to convert this jailer’s entire family. Given the whole tenor of the Book of Acts, we are surely meant to believe that their arrest was no mere coincidence and that the Holy Spirit was directing these circumstances. The Bible is full of stories in which God’s guidance comes, not by word or vision, but through circumstances. Even today, the Holy Spirit is speaking through circumstances to do His will.