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God-Driven Decisions Take 3

God-Driven Decisions

July 10, 2018

I am often asked, “How do you know if you are following God’s will?” But the truer question is the one not vocalized:

What happens if the decision I make is not in line with God’s will for me?

Early in my twenties, I wrestled with a decision to move to Paris, France. I definitely felt God’s pull on my heart to work with a group of Christians and start a mission church there. But as the time drew near, I began to wonder if it truly was God’s will for me. I was not the only one in the group having doubts.

A young pastor and his fiancé had accepted the charge to lead our group to Paris. He addressed our concerns by leading us through a study of the apostle Paul’s life. From the very first time I heard it, this instrumental study has continually blessed my life. I am repeating it here to the best of my recollection.

In Acts 23:1 the apostle Paul makes a confident claim:

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (NIV)

At the time of this statement, Paul had been a faithful follower of Jesus for more than twenty years. But he claims to have lived his entire life with a clear conscience before God. So what was he like before he became a Christian?

In Acts 22:3-5 Paul gives us some insight:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted followers of the Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” (NIV)

Paul speaks of his zeal as a Jew prior to his conversion. In fact, in his zeal he persecuted Christians, even to the point of death! But could persecuting Christians be the will of God? If not, then how could Paul have believed it was?

The words of Jesus to his apostles can give us some insight:

“All of this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” John 16:1-3 (NIV)

Jesus actually prophesized there would be people who would believe persecuting Christians was a service to God. Paul, whole-heartedly devoted to his faith, fulfilled this prophecy with a completely clear conscience. Like Paul, any of us can be sincere and wrong at the same time.

This, then, is my fear: I will step out confidently in faith and pursue a path I believe the Lord has set-only to find out I am going against His will. To be honest, this can happen, just as it did with Paul.

What does God do when this happens? Let’s let Paul explain:

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
“ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
“ ‘What shall I do Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘ Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ “ Acts 23: 6-10 (NIV)

Following the story through Acts 23, we learn Ananias comes to see Paul in Damascus. Through his interaction with Ananias, Paul converts to Christianity and immediately begins to preach Jesus is the Son of God.

(Please note: Saul and Paul are the same person. Paul is the Greek form of the Jewish name Saul. Once Saul began preaching to the Gentiles, who primarily spoke Greek, he began to be referred to as Paul.)

What did God do when Paul was moving full force in the opposite direction of His will? He intervened and redirected Paul. And Paul, because of his passion to obey God, was open to the redirection.

Was Paul’s redirection a one and done deal? After his conversion did he always confidently know and follow God’s will? Let’s move forward a few years in his life and see.

Approximately sixteen years after his conversion, Paul embarks on his second missionary journey. Let’s pick up his story in Acts 16:

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. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 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. Acts 16:6-10 (NIV)

Here we see Paul continues to be redirected as he follows the Lord. Although he wants to go to Asia and Bithynia, the Spirit directs him to Macedonia. In Macedonia, Paul travels to Philippi where Lydia and the Philippian jailer are converted.

Two lessons emerge from this study of Paul’s life. First, he is never afraid to move forward with all of his heart as he follows God. Second, he is always open to God’s redirection.

The laws of Physics teach us it takes more force to move a ship from a standing position than it does to redirect one already in motion. When we apply this concept to our lives, it means it is easier for God to redirect us than it is for Him to get us moving in the first place. In fact, as we see in Paul’s case, if we are moving in the completely wrong direction, He needs to intervene quickly to get us back on track!

Back to my story, on that pivotal evening, I confessed my doubts about moving to Paris. The pastor and his fiancé encouraged me to head full force in the direction of Paris and to allow God to redirect me if He chose. After spending some time in prayer, I decided to follow their advice.

A few months later, I arrived in Paris with my one suitcase (yes, that is all I took with me), my savings account, a faithful spirit, and a heart full of dreams. The Lord allowed me to stay and work in Paris for five years. The people I met there and the lessons I learned framed my faith in ways I could never have expected or imagined.

Since then, I have followed this same advice whenever I am unsure of the direction I should take. I make the best decision I can, then pursue it with my whole heart. All the while, I continually pray to be redirected if I am not in line with God’s will.

Sometimes God has redirected me, other times He has continued to open the doors as I step out on faith.

My takeaways from this lesson from the life of Paul:

Fear and doubt should never dictate my steps.
God is faithful; He will redirect me, as I need it.
Steps of faith lead to unforeseen blessings.

As you continue on your journey, I pray you consider the life of Paul. When you face a crossroad, move forward in faith and watch as God directs your steps!

God-Driven Decisions

July 10, 2018

God-Driven Decisions Take 3

I am often asked, “How do you know if you are following God’s will?” But the truer question is the one not vocalized:

What happens if the decision I make is not in line with God’s will for me?

Early in my twenties, I wrestled with a decision to move to Paris, France. I definitely felt God’s pull on my heart to work with a group of Christians and start a mission church there. But as the time drew near, I began to wonder if it truly was God’s will for me. I was not the only one in the group having doubts.

A young pastor and his fiancé had accepted the charge to lead our group to Paris. He addressed our concerns by leading us through a study of the apostle Paul’s life. From the very first time I heard it, this instrumental study has continually blessed my life. I am repeating it here to the best of my recollection.

In Acts 23:1 the apostle Paul makes a confident claim:

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (NIV)

At the time of this statement, Paul had been a faithful follower of Jesus for more than twenty years. But he claims to have lived his entire life with a clear conscience before God. So what was he like before he became a Christian?

In Acts 22:3-5 Paul gives us some insight:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted followers of the Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” (NIV)

Paul speaks of his zeal as a Jew prior to his conversion. In fact, in his zeal he persecuted Christians, even to the point of death! But could persecuting Christians be the will of God? If not, then how could Paul have believed it was?

The words of Jesus to his apostles can give us some insight:

“All of this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” John 16:1-3 (NIV)

Jesus actually prophesized there would be people who would believe persecuting Christians was a service to God. Paul, whole-heartedly devoted to his faith, fulfilled this prophecy with a completely clear conscience. Like Paul, any of us can be sincere and wrong at the same time.

This, then, is my fear: I will step out confidently in faith and pursue a path I believe the Lord has set-only to find out I am going against His will. To be honest, this can happen, just as it did with Paul.

What does God do when this happens? Let’s let Paul explain:

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
“ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
“ ‘What shall I do Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘ Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ “ Acts 23: 6-10 (NIV)

Following the story through Acts 23, we learn Ananias comes to see Paul in Damascus. Through his interaction with Ananias, Paul converts to Christianity and immediately begins to preach Jesus is the Son of God.

(Please note: Saul and Paul are the same person. Paul is the Greek form of the Jewish name Saul. Once Saul began preaching to the Gentiles, who primarily spoke Greek, he began to be referred to as Paul.)

What did God do when Paul was moving full force in the opposite direction of His will? He intervened and redirected Paul. And Paul, because of his passion to obey God, was open to the redirection.

Was Paul’s redirection a one and done deal? After his conversion did he always confidently know and follow God’s will? Let’s move forward a few years in his life and see.

Approximately sixteen years after his conversion, Paul embarks on his second missionary journey. Let’s pick up his story in Acts 16:

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. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 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. Acts 16:6-10 (NIV)

Here we see Paul continues to be redirected as he follows the Lord. Although he wants to go to Asia and Bithynia, the Spirit directs him to Macedonia. In Macedonia, Paul travels to Philippi where Lydia and the Philippian jailer are converted.

Two lessons emerge from this study of Paul’s life. First, he is never afraid to move forward with all of his heart as he follows God. Second, he is always open to God’s redirection.

The laws of Physics teach us it takes more force to move a ship from a standing position than it does to redirect one already in motion. When we apply this concept to our lives, it means it is easier for God to redirect us than it is for Him to get us moving in the first place. In fact, as we see in Paul’s case, if we are moving in the completely wrong direction, He needs to intervene quickly to get us back on track!

Back to my story, on that pivotal evening, I confessed my doubts about moving to Paris. The pastor and his fiancé encouraged me to head full force in the direction of Paris and to allow God to redirect me if He chose. After spending some time in prayer, I decided to follow their advice.

A few months later, I arrived in Paris with my one suitcase (yes, that is all I took with me), my savings account, a faithful spirit, and a heart full of dreams. The Lord allowed me to stay and work in Paris for five years. The people I met there and the lessons I learned framed my faith in ways I could never have expected or imagined.

Since then, I have followed this same advice whenever I am unsure of the direction I should take. I make the best decision I can, then pursue it with my whole heart. All the while, I continually pray to be redirected if I am not in line with God’s will.

Sometimes God has redirected me, other times He has continued to open the doors as I step out on faith.

My takeaways from this lesson from the life of Paul:

Fear and doubt should never dictate my steps.
God is faithful; He will redirect me, as I need it.
Steps of faith lead to unforeseen blessings.

As you continue on your journey, I pray you consider the life of Paul. When you face a crossroad, move forward in faith and watch as God directs your steps!

4 Comments

  1. Lisa Grable on July 11, 2018 at 4:18 PM

    I love this Shirley! Make the best decision you can and pursue it with your whole heart, while always staying open to God’s redirection. Thank you for sharing! Xo

    • Shirley Jackson on August 5, 2018 at 8:04 PM

      Thank you Lisa!

  2. Laurence on November 11, 2019 at 5:12 AM

    Dear Shirley, Many thanks for this sharing. I am at a life crossroad and it encourages me to keep on moving fwd with faith and peace knowing that God’s Spirit will guide my steps towards his plan for me. And actually I realise he did it already throughout many situations in my life and never forsake me (Isaiah 42:16)

    • Shirley Desmond Jackson on November 11, 2019 at 12:29 PM

      Thank you, Laurence. I am glad the post encouraged you. Thank you so much for sharing!

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