Summary: The message looks at the question, “How do I know what God wants me to do?” The key to answering that question is the Holy Spirit. The actual word that Jesus uses to describe the Spirit is Counselor.
Knowing What God Wants Us to Do
Acts 16: 1-10
One of the biggest questions of life is, “Why am I here?” There are many Scriptures which remind us that we are created with a purpose. Isaiah 49:1 says, “Before I was born, the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb, he has spoken my name.” Jeremiah says, “I know the plans that I have for you.” John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit.” God’s word makes it very clear that we are not just here but are designed and born with a purpose in mind. Just as God sent Jesus to earth for a very specific purpose, to accomplish God’s plan of the salvation of the world, so we who follow Jesus have been created to participate in and accomplish the purposes of God, the salvation of the world and the building of the kingdom of God. Like Jesus, I want to be able to say at the end of my life, “Father, I have finished the work you sent me to do.” John 17:4
So today, we’re going to look at the question, “How do I know what God wants me to do?” The key to answering that question is the Holy Spirit. The actual word that Jesus uses to describe the Spirit is Counselor. (John 14:26) A counselor is one who guides, directs and gives advice to another. That’s one of the Holy Spirit’s principle roles in the Book of Acts. Our Scripture today says Paul attempted to go to the region of Phrygia and Galatia, as well as Mysia, but the Spirit did not allow them. So they went to Macedonia under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Book of Acts, it is not the Apostles who decide what they do and where they are to go but rather the Holy Spirit. So if we are to discover what God wants us to do, then we have to listen for the direction of the Holy Spirit. What are the keys to doing that?
First, to hear the counsel of the Holy Spirit, I must actively participate in a community of faith. Paul takes Timothy with him on this missionary journey. In the Book of Acts when the Spirit moves, we repeatedly see the word “together” describing the believers. Acts 1 says, “So when they had come together.” 1:6 Acts 2 says, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” 2:1 The Holy Spirit speaks in the midst of community of faith as they are gather. And in Revelation 3:22 it says, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Spirit speaks in the midst of community. This is why if we are committed to hearing the voice of God and want to seek our purpose in life, then we must be in community with other believers. It’s never enough to believe in Jesus alone. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. You cannot know God’s specific call upon your life apart from participation in the body of Christ.
Second, focus on the work of the kingdom. In the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit always directed Paul and the Apostles where to go to do God’s work among His people. It’s never about us and always about how we can join in and participate in God’s work of salvation. In a culture like ours which focuses everything about me and what I want, it’s easy to bring those same expectations to God. We can begin to think that God’s vision is personal and about us. In reality, God’s purpose for our lives is never about us and always about God and His purpose. So when the Spirit speaks, it’s about the work and mission of God. The word church in Greek is ‘ecclesia’, which was a secular word referring to community leaders, like a city council, who are called out of the community to conduct city business. Luke uses this word ‘ecclesia’ because the church is called out of the world to conduct the business of the Father to transform the world. The Spirit speaks in the midst of community for the sole purpose of transacting the work and purposes of God. It’s not about us and all about God and His purpose.
Third, you have to nurture your Spirit to hear the promptings of the Spirit. In Revelation 1, John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying…” Now the Lord’s Day is the Sabbath or the day of worship. So John is in worship and while there, he was in the Spirit. In other words, he was ready to hear what God had to say that day and had attuned his heart and mind to the voice of God. He spiritually prepared himself for worship before he even walked into worship. That’s a whole lot different from most of us on Sunday morning. We sleep in, get our coffee and breakfast, get the kids dressed, fed and ready and then rush to get to worship on time, usually stressed and running. And when we walk in the doors, we haven’t done anything to prepare to meet or hear God. But John, the author of Revelation, has prepared himself for worship, attuning his spirit to hear the voice or promptings of the Spirit in community. He goes on to say, “I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying…” By using this analogy, John is saying he not only heard God but he heard God loud and clear. It’s not just about preparing for worship on Sunday morning, you have to work on your spiritual hearing all week long. It’s absolutely essential. How? Through daily prayer, Scripture reading, meditation and creating margins in our life on a daily basis. Most of us rush from one thing to the next all week long and we never have any break or down time to hear the Spirit. The problem is we’re too rushed and there’s too much noise in our lives. When God spoke to Elijah, he said you have to go out to the mountain of God, Mt Horeb. The key wasn’t the geographical place as much as it was pulling away from the rush and pressures of the world and all of its noise so you can hear what God says. When Elijah was on the mountain, God didn’t speak to Elijah in the fire, the earthquake or the deafening wind that passed by, he spoke in the silence. Too many of us are too rushed and have too much noise and too many other voices trying to speak into our lives that it literally drowns out the voice of God. You have to withdraw on a daily basis, like Jesus, to hear the Spirit speak to you.