Psalm 18-19 Acts 20:17-38
“But now I must obey the Holy Spirit and go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there. I know only that in every city the Holy Spirit tells me that troubles and even jail wait for me. I don’t care about my own life. The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me—to tell people the Good News about God’s grace.” (Acts 20:22-24 NCV)
Paul knew what a “stop sign” from God was. Earlier in the book of Acts we saw that Paul didn’t go into certain countries because the Holy Spirit prevented them from entering. God had a different plan that Paul and his team weren’t onto at that point in time. As Paul obeyed the Holy Spirit and returned to Jerusalem, that command came with warnings: Paul was going to face troubles and maybe even jail. Perhaps that explains Paul’s urgency and long-windedness in Troas. Perhaps that explains Paul’s urgency in talking to the leaders of the Ephesian church here. He commissioned them to take the gospel of grace to those around them. He warned them about those who would subvert the message. Meanwhile, he gave them an example of obedience to the Holy Spirit even when he knew that his obedience would be accompanied by great hardships.
Today’s church has some people teaching that if you face obstacles or hardships as you seek to follow God, that must be God’s way of telling you, “No.” After all, if He wants you to do something, He’ll clear the way. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Will God protect you as you follow Him. Generally. I guess it depends on what you mean by protection. If by “protection” you mean “keep from all harm,” then why do we admire those who’ve died in proclaiming the faith? How is God going to protect me when I’m doing His will? He’s going to protect my spirit. He’s going to give me strength to face the obstacles. He’s going to remind me of His presence in what many on earth might call the worst of times. God will keep me faithful to Him as I follow Him. I gain strength by fellowshipping with Him as I read His word, meditate on His grace, and pray. Perhaps the greatest confirmation that you’re doing what God wants is the opposition you face. It’s been said that the devil won’t bother you if you’re not bothering him. If you’re doing what God wants, you’ll be bothering the devil and he’s going to fight you every step of the way. Take heart, though, God is in control. God wins. The devil’s fighting a losing battle when he goes against God’s people. Don’t run from the troubles you face when following God, embrace God and let Him fight those battles while you keep doing what He’s called you to do.
Oh Lord, I would love it if following You meant that everything would go smoothly. I’m grateful that You continue to be with me when I face opposition or run into trouble. Thank You for Your presence even when trouble comes because of my mistakes.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved