Even when you know where you’re headed, it doesn’t mean the way will be clear or easy. I followed what I felt was the right thing for me to do this past spring by getting my real estate license. I really like design, decorating, and seeing old things made new. Because I live near a small town with many small, run-down houses, I thought I could buy them, fix them up and resell them to a small family. Sounded like a good plan and looks pretty easy on HGTV, right? However, the more I looked at these rundown houses, researched, read, and talked to contractors, it appeared to be much harder than I thought.
I couldn’t understand why I was hitting road blocks. Why weren’t things going smoother for me. Why did God lead me this way, if it didn’t seem to be the right way? While I was reading a story in the book of Acts, I found some answers.
I have always thought of Paul as the rock-star of Christians in the New Testament. From our perspective 2,000 years later, Paul seems to be the supreme example of a man of God. However, I’m pretty sure he didn’t feel that way in Acts 16:6-15. God had given Paul a clear mission statement (Ephesians 3:8-9), and a ministry team, Luke & Silas. He was passionate and willing to go anywhere to share the gospel of Christ and endure hardships. And then God did this to him.
. . . “having been prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message” (v. 6)
“but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this (v.7) . . .”
When I read those verses, these words just popped off the page like crickets jumping into my lap. What was Paul prevented from doing? Preaching the good news of Christ BY GOD HIMSELF! I’m sure this didn’t make any sense to Paul. He must have wondered why and perhaps was even a little frustrated with God, questioning what he was doing walking around from city to city with no apparent success.
Then God gave him direction through a vision and he took off towards Macedonia and ended up in Philippi. This was a Roman colony and Paul was not led to a synagogue to teach the men, but outside the city gate where he found some women praying by the river. He began speaking to these women and it says Paul had ONE convert, a WOMAN, named Lydia and later baptized her household. I capitalized those words to emphasize the meager results and also that his convert was female. God sent Paul and his companions all that way to talk to women, not men!
God loved Lydia and sent Paul and company to find her and tell her about Jesus. He would use her and many other women in that time period to start the first home churches. I love that God choose what society then considered to be second class citizens – women. She was Paul’s first convert in the area.
Our culture criticizes the treatment of women during bible times, but these verses show just how much God cared for them. This was a humble beginning for Paul, but God didn’t care about Paul’s success. He cared about Lydia finding hope in Christ and Paul’s obedience. God also wasn’t upset with Paul for not establishing a major church there in Philippi. Paul started small.
In this age of hustle and pressure to go and be and do, I think God calls us to just be obedient to the next step he gives us. He doesn’t give us the full plan, and we don’t always see the significance of our faithful work, but He does. We don’t know whose life might be changed or better because we lived in obedience to God. All we have to do is be faithful to what He has given us to do, be obedient to what we already know, and rest.
Lydia could never imagine how her story would touch our lives today. Paul didn’t know how his obedience and his words would one day be compiled into a sacred book read by millions. They were just faithful to do what they thought was the next right step and that’s all we need to do too.
We aren’t responsible for the results, just our obedience.
This morning I took my two dogs on a walk down our country road. The weather was cool and foggy with the sun coming up. As I looked down the road, I couldn’t see very far because of the fog, but it was beautiful and made me want to keep walking that direction. I wondered why I wanted to keep walking toward fog on a walk, but in my own life when I couldn’t see the way ahead, I would get frustrated or question my direction. I want a clear path, a straight line, easy results, not fog.
Recently I wrote in my journal that sometimes bravery means sitting with the questions and not knowing the answers. It means looking like a fool instead of confident. It means waiting and listening to God, instead of rushing ahead. Being brave means not caring what others think, but getting my worth and direction from God. It means taking a step forward, knocking, changing directions, not seeing a path.
Bravery means walking toward the fog.
The fog I saw on the road as I walked my dogs drew me to it. I wanted to see where it led, what was on the other side. I had to walk towards it to see further ahead. Maybe we don’t need to be afraid of the fog, the unknowns in our lives, the questions we can’t answer. Maybe God wants us to walk towards them, even when we only see fog ahead and trust that He is in the fog and all will be made clear in time.
(If you’ve never seen Charlie’s artwork, check it out on Instagram. He’s one of my favorites!)
I still don’t see very far ahead on my path, but I am learning that I don’t need to. I just need to keep taking the next step and trusting that the fog will lift eventually. Just like God showed Paul the path he wanted him on, he will show us the right way too. It might not be the direction we thought or the results we imagined, but all that matters is our obedience.
woman: Photo by Nicola Fioravanti
do not enter: Photo by Kyle Glenn
foggy road: Photo by Annie Spratt