Acts 16:6-8 (NIV)
6 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.7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.
My brother tells a story about a time he was driving with a man who had a reputation as a prophet – they were going to the bank together. When they arrived they could not find a parking place. They drove around the building a few times and then the prophet said: “God doesn’t want us to go to the bank.” So they left.
I have no idea if the Lord was against personal banking that day or if there just weren’t any parking places (which I would attribute to the devil, not God). Regardless, each of us should strive to live lives in constant communication with the Spirit of God.
Twice in this passage we read that Paul and his team had their plans changed by the Lord. Each time the Spirit stopped them from going in one direction, he re-directed them to another place. Paul experienced fruitful ministry in these new places God sent him.
It reminds me of what Solomon said in Proverbs 16:9:In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
We don’t have to be like my prophet friend completely…sometimes there just aren’t any parking places. But we should be striving to hear from the Lord. As we make our plans, we should listen for the Lord’s direction in them. So here is a quick refresher course on hearing the Lord’s voice from the example of young Samuel (you can read it in 1 Sam. 3):
- Listen… “incline your ear” – God speaks all the time, we’re just too busy to listen. Make a conscious decision to listen.
- Respond – each time the Lord called Samuel he responded.
- Obey – do what he tells you to do.
So, if God steps in and changes your plans…whether he tells you to leave the bank, sign a deal (or NOT sign a deal), pray for a cashier, or share your testimony with a coworker…he will lead you to fruitful ministry.