Summary: Draws principles for discerning God’s guidance from the life of Paul at the beginning of the second missionary journey.
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 23
“Discerning God’s Guiding Hand”
Acts 15:36 – 16:10
Wouldn’t it be nice to have direct daily divine direction. You know something like Israel had in the wilderness, they had a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, that what I want! You never have to wonder if you have it right. If the cloud moved you moved, no question about it.
I believe that every true believer wants to be guided by God’s will. But often, we have a difficult time discerning what God’s will is. Sometimes the decisions we make have very little to do with God’s will. “A preacher received a call from a church that offered him a salary four times what he was getting at his present church. Since he was a very devout and spiritual man, he spent much time in prayer trying to determine what God wanted him to do. One day a friend was talking to the preacher’s son and asked him, ‘Do you know what your father is going to do?’ ‘Well,’ replied the youngster, ‘Dad is praying but MOM IS PACKING.” Unfortunately for some people sometimes money speaks louder than God.
Every Christian should want to know God’s will for their lives. To be in the center of God’s will is always the best place to be. It’s the place to be blessed by God, cared for by God, protected by God and provided for by God.
Let look at the four ways in which God gave guidance to Paul in the beginning of the second missionary journey.
I. Direction from Failure and Conflict (15:36-41)
“Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” (37) Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. (38) But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. (39) Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; (40) but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. (41) And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (NKJV)
You will no doubt remember that Paul and Barnabas have just returned from Jerusalem, where they have defended the gospel against those who would have forced Gentile Christians to first become Jews, adding circumcision as a necessity of salvation.
Paul wanted to make another journey (the beginning of the second missionary journey) to visit the churches that had been established on their first missionary trip. Barnabas, great encourager that he was, wanted to take along John Mark who abandoned the team on their first trip. Paul said, “No Way Hosea.” Barnabas was just as insistent that his cousin John Mark be given another chance. Both men kept insisting vehemently that they were right and such angry feeling arose that they finally parted company. So who was right? Scripture does not tell us. What does this tell us about Paul and Barnabas? Simply that they were human. John Mark is ultimately restored and even Paul recognized such when he asked Timothy to bring Mark with him because “he was useful for ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:11).
But for now Barnabas and Paul parted ways. Barnabas took Mark and left for Cyprus, while Paul took Silas and began his second missionary journey. Silas was well suited for work with Paul, he was a prophet, a member of the Jerusalem church, a Jew and a Roman citizen.
This split between Paul and Barnabas seemed to be on the surface tragic but God in his infinite wisdom, produced a miracle of grace out of this conflict. For now rather than one missionary team there were two. Sometimes the workmen change but the work goes right on.
II. Direction from the Addition Of New Workers
“Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. (2)He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. (3) Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. (4) And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. (5) So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.”