Scripture: Acts 16:6-10; Romans 8:28
Observation: The apostle Paul, along with his companion Silas, were traveling throughout the region, spreading the Good News about Jesus. However, they felt that the Holy Spirit prevented them from going into Asia, not once but twice. Therefore, they continued on, and Paul later had a vision that God was calling them to go to Macedonia, so that’s where they headed next.
Application: On a rainy summer day in 2007, I visited the University of Delaware for the very first time. It was hot and humid, and right before our tour began, the polo-clad tour guides handed us bright yellow ponchos to wear as we traipsed around campus. The day was far from beautiful, but as I walked on the brick paved walkways and explored every restaurant and shop on Main Street right behind campus, I fell in love. Instantly, I had a “gut feeling” that this was where I would spend the next four years of my life.
I pretended to be indecisive for a few months, weighing my options whether I wanted to become a Nittany Lion, a Terrapin, or a Blue Hen, but that gut feeling I had on that hazy July day never went away. I just “knew” I was going to be a Blue Hen.
After I started following Jesus, I started wondering when a “gut feeling” would become a “Holy Spirit prompting.” When is the moment that what you feel in your gut is really the Holy Spirit whispering truth and wisdom into your life? And, how do you really know it’s the Holy Spirit anyways? What if it’s just your humanly gut feeling fooling you into thinking it’s the leading of the spirit?
In Acts 16, Paul attempts to go to into Asia, but we read that “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there.” How did Paul know it was the Holy Spirit preventing him from going into Asia and not just a “gut feeling”?
To find the answer, we have to flip back a few chapters and see how Paul’s submission led to the Spirit of Jesus being his guide. After a dramatic transformation, turning from a life of persecuting Jesus to following him with relentless passion, Paul began to live for one reason: to spread the Good News. He prayed, he fasted, he denounced evil sorcerers, he invited people into a relationship with Jesus, he mentored new believers, he pushed through persecution, and he suffered to spread the Good News.
He made room for the Holy Spirit to work.
He didn’t ask the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom only in moments of desperation. He didn’t call on the name of Jesus only when he faced a perilous situation. Instead, he spent time with God everyday, seeking wisdom and asking for grace and praying for knowledge from the very one who gave him life. His courage and his security didn’t come from who he was; they came from whose he was.
The most courageous thing we can do is spend time in the presence of God.
Read the Bible. Pray. Serve others. Give generously. Invite God into your life, and he will create a beautiful story out of yours.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)
Be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. Let it whisper strength into your suffering, confidence into your questioning, peace into your present circumstances. Let it speak wisdom through a submitted friend. Let it push you to uncomfortable places where your purpose outweighs your problems and your faith outweighs your fear. Listen, cry out, hold on, and follow.
Prayer: God, I pray you’ll help me invite the Holy Spirit into my life. I pray you’ll help me listen and understand in new ways, that you’ll push me into my purpose by persevering through my problems. I pray I can listen, grow, call on your name, and live confidently in your presence. Amen.
Thank you all for following along with our Courageous study! This is been the most challenging to write but also the most fulfilling. If you've been reading along, I'd love for you to leave a short comment about what God is calling YOU to be courageous about -- I'll be praying for each one of those requests this weekend. I love hearing from you -- so if you have ideas for what book/study/topic we should tackle next, let me know!