GOD IS IN THE DETOURS TOO
A. HUMOR: DECISIONS
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.
I. NEW TESTAMENT DETOURS
A. SHIPS & SICKNESS
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.
B. STORM AT SEA
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.
C. DETOURS IN OUR LIVES
1. It’s the same with us. The Lord knows where you and I are going in 2015, but we don’t. I pray that 2015 will be all that you are praying, dreaming, and working for.
2. But don’t be surprised if somewhere during the next twelve months something totally unexpected happens. Our life itineraries are in God’s hands.
3. We can trust Him because He does all things well, and He is working for the good in every life situation.
4. If this year you find yourself in an unintended place, with unintended people, doing unintended ministry—know that this is what the Lord intends for you. And He will be right there with you, every step of the way.
D. A SIMPLE DIRECTIVE
1. When Campbell Morgan was leaving home, his father hugged him, shook his hand, and handed him a small folded piece of paper.
2. That paper held the sum of advice he bequeathed to his son: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
II. FIVE KEY WORDS
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” Prov. 3:5-6. This verse suggests how to find God’s will for your life, by 5 words.
1. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart.” The word “trust” in Hebrew means “to lean with the full body,” “to rest the full weight upon.”
2. In our thinking the word trust means to rely upon or to have confidence in. The Hebrew word means more than confidence in, it means to “rest your whole weight upon the Lord.
B. LEAN “Lean not on your own understanding.”
1. To “lean” means to rest upon something for partial support. Leaning is what you do when you walk with a cane or hold on to a walker because you’re unsteady.
2. You lean on something when you are not strong enough to stand alone.
“Lean not on your own understanding.”
1. “Understanding” refers to the mental processes by which you analyze a problem, break it down into its smaller parts, and then make a decision about what you are going to do.
2. Adding in concepts of trusting & leaning, and it means to “Use all your mental powers, but do not lean on them for total support.”
D. ACKNOWLEDGE “In all your ways acknowledge him.”
1. The Hebrew word means to know deeply and intimately, by personal experience. It means to know something through and through.
2. Now we know the President of the USA, but we don’t know him on a personal basis.
3. My wife and I know each other in a completely different way. After being together more than 30 years, strange things begin to happen. I’ll be sitting in the car thinking about a song–and she’ll start singing it. How does that happen? I don’t know.
4. Or I will be thinking about a question, and before I can ask it, she’ll blurt out the answer. How does she do that? I don’t know. Or I’ll start a sentence, and to my great consternation she will finish the sentence before I do.
5. When I say, “How can you do that?” she says with a smile, “I know what you are thinking even before you say it.”
6. Seen in that light, we might translate verse 5 this way: “In all your ways know God intimately … deeply … personally. When you know God that way in every area of your life, he will direct your paths.”
“He will make your paths straight.” ESV translation is a little better: “he will make straight your paths.”
1. Life’s journey is like a road. The road winds through the mountains and down into the swamps. It seems to have a thousand switchbacks. Some parts are washed out, others are filled with potholes or boulders, and still others seem to be dead ends. That’s the way life is.
2. Prov. 3:5-6 message is, “If you commune with God, He will take personal responsibility to make your way smooth and straight. He will remove the obstacles if they need to be removed. He will fill in the potholes if they need to be filled.
3. He will redirect the detour so that what seemed to be a dead-end turns out to be the shortest way to reach your destination.
1. True story. A man and his two children were coming back from Raleigh, North Carolina. As they approached the Dallas airport, the pilot came over the intercom, "There are storms over DFW airport and the airport has shut down. We've been rerouted to Abilene Texas."
2. When the plane arrived in Abilene, the man called for a flight attendant. He explained, "Since I've already reached my destination, may I and my children exit the plane?"
3. A few minutes later, the passenger and children got off the plane. Now this wasn't how they planned to get home; they had a connecting flight from Dallas to Abilene.
4. But the turbulence caused them to get to their intended destination quicker than they had expected.
5. God is good at that! He can use the turbulence in your life to get you where you need to go faster than you could if you hadn't had the turbulence.
6. It's never too late! God can take a mess and make a miracle! He can hit a bull's-eye with a crooked stick! [Tony Evans Bk. Of Illus., p. 324].
B. THE CALL
1. Prayer for those in detours.
2. Prayer for other needs.
3. Salvation call.
[This message combines thoughts by George Wood & Ray Pritchart]