by Wayne Barber
The most wonderful thing about Christianity is that it is not a religion but a relationship—a relationship with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. He lives in us to do through us what we could never do for Him. He has the plan and all we have to do is to learn to cooperate with Him by saying “yes” to Him and to His Word.
Years ago, I was fishing on Lake Jackson in Tallahassee, Florida. My partner and I were pretty good bass fishermen and we were going to do it our way. We plugged, and we wormed, and we threw, until our arms were tired. Yes, we caught a few fish, but not like we expected.
Finally we gave in and got a guide. He told us that if we were going to catch the big ones then we would have to do it his way. He handed each of us a cane pole with a hook and line tied to it. He took us where he wanted to, and there we used our cane poles and bait to catch “shiners.” Made no sense to us, but we followed orders.
Then our guide moved us to another place. We put the shiners on our hooks, using our bass rods, and cast them out to sink in the water. We had huge floats on and it all just seemed to be ridiculous. Suddenly my float went under and stayed under. The guide said “Count to about 25 before you set the hook.” Sounded like strange advice to me. But when I finally jerked the line tight, wow! I caught about an eight-pound bass. To make a long story short, we caught seven fish that day and the smallest was seven pounds.
Now I like this idea of a “guide.” He knows what I don’t know! It is so important to have a Guide in life! One who knows the path. One who will keep us from getting lost. In Romans 11:33-36, Paul says that God’s ways are unfathomable! God doesn’t have well-beaten paths! We must get in touch with Him, and then He will show us the way.
In the 16th chapter of Acts, Paul is about to learn this lesson. In the first part of the chapter, Paul and Silas are traveling through southern Galatia. This is Paul’s second visit to this region of Galatia.
What I want you to see is that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, our Eternal Guide, was completely in charge of their journey: “They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (16:6). The door slammed in their face over and over as they sought to follow their own plans. The Divine Guide was orchestrating their every move. On Paul’s first journey, he had been allowed to preach in all these areas but now he was being forbidden. What was going on?
That brings up our first lesson we must learn if we are going to allow God to be our Eternal Guide in life: We must realize that God’s ways are not our ways! “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Is. 55:8). In Acts 16:7, we see Paul discovering this truth: “and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.”
“Trying” is in the imperfect tense, thus referring to continuous action in the past. Paul kept trying and trying to force his way. He got a committee and said, “Bless God, we are going into Bithynia.” God said “No you aren’t.” “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9). What Paul was seeking to do was not bad, but God had a better idea!
Have you learned to allow God to change your plans? Have you learned to look at life’s disappointments as God’s divine guideposts? In our next article, we will follow the story and see what we can learn from Paul on allowing God to be our Guide and direct our paths in life.
Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.