Summary: I want more than my agenda and plan for my life.
Me (my dilemma or question)
One Sunday morning, an old cowboy entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt and boots that were worn and ragged. In his hand he carried a worn-out old hat and an equally worn, dog-eared Bible.
The church he entered was in a very upscale and exclusive part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful church the old cowboy had ever seen. The people of the congregation were all dressed with expensive clothes and fine jewelry. As the cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted, spoke to, or welcomed him. They were all appalled by his appearance and did not attempt to hide it.
As the old cowboy was leaving the church, the preacher approached him and asked the cowboy to do him a favor. "Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what he thinks would be appropriate attire for worship in church." The old cowboy assured the preacher he would.
The next Sunday, he showed back up for the services wearing the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once again he was completely shunned and ignored. The preacher approached the cowboy and said, "I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church."
"I did," replied the old cowboy.
"And what was his reply?" asked the preacher.
"Well, sir, God told me that he didn't have a clue what I should wear. He said he'd never been in this church."
Like me, have you ever wanted God to answer your questions that plainly?
We (our common ground on this)
I mean – Moses got a burning bush, where are our burning bushes? The boy named Samuel heard God’s voice calling his name late at night, where’s the voice calling our names? Isaiah saw the King of kings on his throne, where are our visions of God’s throne? Mary had a visit from an angel, where’s our angel visitor? Gideon got a sign from God, where are our signs from God? The people of Israel had a pillar of fire to lead them from Egypt to the Promised Land, where’s our pillar of fire?
Many of us think the people in the Bible had it easy knowing what God wanted them to do. We wish he answered our questions that plainly, don’t we?
I know some of us are glad we don’t have any of these experiences. They actually scare us a little. Voices in the night, angelic visitors, and pillars of fire – they all sound so weird.
But I dare say that even those of us who are scared of the clear directions God gave to people in the Bible want him to answer our questions that plainly. Wouldn’t you like God’s clear direction when you need to make a decision?
God (what the Bible says about this)
Let’s read the diary of a group of missionaries in the first century as they work to share Jesus’ love with those who did not know God.
Acts 16:6-10 (NIV) page 1094
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Now before we start wondering where our visions are, please notice that the Holy Spirit gave them directions twice without special effects. In verse 6, they were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching in the province of Asia. (By the way, Paul came back to this province later and spent 3 years in its capital, Ephesus.) In verse 7, the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to enter the area called Bithynia.
You (personal application of biblical principles)
There are several guesses about how the Spirit guided Paul and his party. We could also spend some time discussing why God sent them to Macedonia and not Asia, but I want you to see the practical side of this passage. Paul had to give up his agenda and plans for building God’s family in order to go where the Spirit led him.