Last week, we talked briefly about how God may allow our path to be bumpy even if we choose to do the right thing (1 Peter). It seems counterintuitive that the “good, pleasing, and perfect Will of God” would include a wild ride. There are many reasons why God would include such a road on our path. Peter suggests that one of the reasons would be to display our belief that God is good, and that our surroundings don’t alter that trust, and would therefore “silence the ignorance of foolish people”. Paul says that crazy things happen because we live in a broken world with sinful people; yet, God uses those situations for our good by transforming us to be more like Christ (Romans 8).
The Bible is full of stories of people whose path wasn’t always pleasant. Sometimes, they were receiving the disciplining hand of God as they were disobeying His clearly stated commands (Deuteronomy 29:24-28). Sometimes, God was leading them into a wild ride because He knew they really weren’t ready for the alternative route (Exodus 13:17). Sometimes, God was weaving His plan to save His people with the events of this broken world (Genesis 50:20). And in a few cases, we see God allowing unpleasant experiences just so He could display His power and ultimate control (Job – lost everything to show Satan that Job loved God without the material blessings; John 9 – man born blind so Jesus could heal Him and show He was the Son of God). These last few cases are hard to accept if we’re honest.
The point is that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”. We can’t make decisions based upon the level of expected pleasantness. Jesus knew His path on earth lead to the destination of death on a cross. He knew the path would be filled with hatred, disbelief, and betrayal from even His own family and friends. Yet, He took the path for what laid at the end of it. The apostle Paul was willing to be tortured and ridiculed if it meant that another city was reached with the Gospel. The Holy Spirit was still guiding him to each region in his journey even though adversities awaited him. Often times, if a choice seems difficult or filled with too many unknown variables, we decide that perhaps it isn’t God’s Will. That isn’t a good way to discern His Will.
This plays out in one occasion in Paul’s journeys. As Paul was feeling compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome, he wasn’t sure what would happen when he got there other than the Spirit warned him of the hardships he would face wherever he went:
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. (Acts 20:22-23)
Not only did the Holy Spirit reveal that he would experience hardships, but the Spirit revealed that same information to others about what would happen if Paul went to Jerusalem:
… We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:3-4)
It would seem that Paul’s zeal to share the Gospel caused him to disobey the Spirit’s leading. However, the Spirit was merely telling Paul what would await him, not to stay away. Paul’s fellow believers used that information to urge Paul not to go because they didn’t want him to get beaten, imprisoned, or worse. If Paul would have stayed away from Jerusalem because of the warning, then he would have been disobeying God’s Will for him at that moment.
PAUSE AND PRAY
Take a few moments and think about a decision you’ve made or need to make. What were or are the risks involved? Did you make decisions in the past based upon avoiding the risk involved? How did that match up with the Holy Spirit’s leading? Spend some time in prayer, asking God to not only reveal what can happen in your choices, but also to know if the path that leads to unknown hardships is where you need to go.
This is part of a 4 week devotional plan for the series “Figuring Out God’s Will.” For complete details, see here.