“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:13-17).
This morning I was preparing for a trip South to enjoy the surf and sun and find a place for a family reunion. Well, I am writing now because we are not going as my wife came down with the Norovirus. We don’t know what God has in mind. My wife prayed that God would make clear to her if we were supposed to go or not. I still have a “?” next to the trip on my planning list. I can say that my in-laws were just where we were going to go and the traffic was awful and the weather too. So there is a reason not to go. But really I don’t know why the trip was called off other than that my wife was sick. Was it God telling us or giving us an answer to her prayer? And what was or is He saying? Is that how God works? Well, maybe He does.
God, through the Holy Spirit blocked the Apostle Paul from going to Asia as Acts 16 tells us. Then the Holy Spirit in a vision to Paul told him to go and preach in Macedonia. He obeyed and made incredible headway for the gospel around the Mediterranean. However, Paul underwent great persecution and suffering for the gospel. He was flogged, stoned, shipwrecked and beaten and jailed regularly. He was hated and sought after for assassination by the religious ones. This is what happened to Jesus as well, until they crucified Him.
I don’t know about you, but I have come to desire to obey the Holy Spirit. I know that the Spirit will not contradict God’s Word, the Bible. God does work through prayer, His word, and other godly people and circumstances His will for us as Henry Blackaby taught in Experiencing God. I have come to learn that when the Holy Spirit nudges you to action, you must do it right away or miss blessings. Perhaps the most dramatic such occasion for me was in 1999 when my mother was slowly dying of Alzheimer’s and its complications in a locked dementia unit. She had not spoken a word for two years the day the Spirit of God told me to go see her. I was an executive at a large health insurance company and on my way across campus to the President’s office for a meeting. I was prompted by the Spirit to go see my mother. I told Him that I had a meeting, which of course He already knew. He pressed me and I told my boss that I couldn’t go to the meeting. Fortunately he was a Christian and knew my heart for God.
I entered my mother’s room as she sat on her bed. She did not speak, as usual. So I told her my testimony and that I had received Jesus into my heart and would be going to heaven. She then spoke as clearly as I had ever heard and repeated my story. She asked that if she would accept Christ’s gift that she too would go to heaven and we would be together. I told her yes and we prayed. She received the gift of forgiveness and salvation as we rejoiced in tears and happiness. The nurses knew that she was changed. They asked what had happened and I told the story. My mother died at peace just a couple of days later from complications of pneumonia. I will see her again.
I don’t know how and when the Spirit works, but I do know that in Isaiah 55 we read, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
He works in ways we cannot see for our good and His glory. We will not always know what and how He is working. In fact we may not learn on this side of heaven. However, we need to obey and submit to His word and prodding when He speaks or guides us.