Summary: Life is full of surprises. With observation, we see that the Holy Spirit is as much in the detours as He is in the plans we carefully map out. Two passages in the New Testament & one in the Old demonstrate the truth of this insight.

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Prov. 3:5



1. Harry and Kitty are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

2. Max and Betty said, “You must let us in on your secret - how have you managed to stay married for so long?"

3. Harry turns to Kitty and asks, "OK for me to reply to this?" Kitty replies, "Yes dear."

4. "Well," continues Harry, "our secret is quite simple. On the very day we got married, Kitty and I came to an agreement which we’ve stuck to all these years.”

5. “We decided that I would make all the major decisions and Kitty would make all the minor decisions. And I can truthfully say that over the 60 years of our marriage, I’ve never needed to make a major decision."


We’re still at the beginning of the new year. I’ve become more mindful than ever that life is full of surprises. The Holy Spirit, I’ve come to see, is as much in the detours as He is in the plans we’ve carefully mapped out. Two passages in the New Testament demonstrate the truth of this insight.



1. The first is Acts 13, which records the beginning of Barnabas and Saul’s first missionary journey. Even though I’ve studied the passage, I’d never seen that their journey was a detour until I observed a map of the ancient harbor of Seleucia, from which Barnabas and Saul set sail.

2. Looking out to sea from Seleucia, I realized that those two didn’t sail toward the Anatolian plateau where the majority of their first missionary labors occurred.

3. It would’ve been a more direct route for them to head northwest to Perga than to go southwest to Cyprus.

Why did they take an unexpected route?

4. I suspect they didn’t have a planned itinerary. They just caught whatever ship was sailing, and the next one was going to Cyprus.

5. Effectively, it was a detour; but because of it, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus came to Christ.

6. Ultimately they made it to what is now the Turkish mainland, and headed up from the coast to the highlands.

7. Their itinerary evidently was directed by illness, for Paul later says, “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you” (Gal. 4:13).

8. None of us make a resolution that we will be directed by illness this new year; but illness can take us—like Paul—to unintended places where we minister to people we never intended to.


1. The second incident is in Mark 4, the storm at sea. I also didn’t see the unintended nature of that trip until I was surveying the geography with my own eyes.

2. Jesus had been at the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee when He said, “Let us go over to the other side” (Mark 4:35). It’s reasonable to assume the disciples thought “the other side” meant Bethsaida, on the northeast corner of the sea, which was home to five of the disciples.

3. Never would they have thought of heading the boat toward Gentile territory to meet a demon-possessed man! But the storm blew them to an unintended place. The Lord knew where they were going, but they did not.

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