There’s this one little passage in the Book of Acts that really messes with me; I’ve been sitting with it for about a week now, but it REALLY seems like it applies to most of my life over the past four months (at least).
Here’s the way it reads in the Common English Bible:
“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the regions of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from speaking the word in the province of Asia. When they approached the province of Mysia, they tried to enter the province of Bithynia, but the SPIRIT OF JESUS WOULDN’T LET THEM.”Acts, Chapter 16
If you’ve ever studied Paul’s journeys, it’s very easy to see that Paul was pretty organized. His trips around the Mediterranean make sense and are planned well (while simultaneously being “Spirit-led”). So when the story says that he and his companions were trying to go Asia and the province of Bithynia, it’s because (a) they were confident that’s where God wanted them to go, and also (b) it made a lot of SENSE to go there.
But then Jesus shows up.
And says, “Nope.”
It makes me think about my reaction when something seems to go wrong that I believe is (a) where God wants me to go/what God wants me to do and (b) makes a lot of sense.
I tend to think that if something doesn’t work out the way I’d planned my reactions are some combination of:
- Human brokenness is to blame. We were too prideful, or whatever.
- There is some kind of opposition—call it the devil, or Satan, or whatever—that is opposing “God’s work.”
But here the Scripture clearly indicates that it was JESUS that was saying no.
And if Jesus is present in the “NO”, that means that everything that tends to come with Jesus—peace, love, compassion, joy, etc.—can be present in that NO as well.
So I can settle down just a bit, and say, “Okay, Jesus: what are you trying to tell me or teach me right now?”
(“Don’t go to Bithynia.”)
Next time your plans seem to blow up, and nothing makes sense or lines up with what you thought God wanted you to do, consider:
… Maybe it’s NOT a result of your (or others’) brokenness.
… Maybe it’s NOT some kind of spiritual opposition.
…Maybe it’s actually Jesus, which means there can be GIFTS inside the “No,” and all you really have to do to find them is to ACCEPT the reality of the NO and then ask with an open heart, “God what are you trying to show and teach me right now?”
Most likely, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the answer.