February 9, 2009

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In Acts 20 Paul is meeting with many of the leaders from the church in Ephesus. He is kindling the flames of what God has done (and is doing) in their lives and letting them know it is now time for him to head to Jerusalem, where he is almost certain that "jail and suffering lie ahead". Then he informs them that "none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again". Ouch! Never?

Paul's friends are beside themselves. As they pray for him they cry, embrace, and are heavy-hearted. They are grieved at the thought of never seeing him again. But after all their goodbyes, Paul gets on a ship and heads toward Jerusalem. On this journey (recorded in Acts 21) they make several stops. It's interesting that at every location there is someone prophesying that "Paul should not go on to Jerusalem". A group of disciples, Philip's daughters, a prophet named Agabus - they all told Paul that he needed a change of plans, a different itinerary and destination. At this point most of us would have been driven to our knees to prayerfully wonder, "Should I stay...or should I go?" Not Paul. Finally he had to speak up. As they are weeping and begging him not to go, he says, "Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! For I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but also to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus. The will of the Lord be done." And the next thing we know (Acts 21:15) Luke tells us "...we packed our things and left for Jerusalem."

So the question that comes to me is, "Who's wrong?" Was Paul just being stubborn and pig-headed? I mean, person after person is saying the same thing to him. They're prophesying and saying, "You shouldn't go!" Is Paul too prideful to listen? Is he too ignorant to heed advice? Or is it that most of us - even prophets - can mistakenly equate danger and uncertainty as signs to run the other way? Think about it. Paul himself was the first to say that he was most likely going to be walking into trouble - "And now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead." Paul didn't need all these people telling him what was going to happen. He knew! But for some reason everyone else was seeing this as a reason to alter the plan of action. Everyone else seem to think this was God saying, "Don't go!" Paul saw it differently.

I guess this reminds us that we need to be careful as to how we decipher and discern what the Holy Spirit is telling us. It also brings to our attention that we may not always know what's best for someone else - especially those we love! Sometimes it's close to impossible for us to objectively understand what the Lord may call someone to do - someone we love. We're thinking about they're well-being and their safety. They're thinking about the Kingdom of God!

There will certainly be times when we are seeking the Lord's guidance over what we're to do, how we're to do it, and He will use others to speak to us. And God's voice may not always be the loudest. But make no mistake - He speaks clearly. Make sure the voice you're listening to the most is His. Make sure that as all the voices begin to rise in an all-knowing chorus of advisement and counsel...that you are listening to the One whose mind is always set on the Kingdom. 

1 comment:

Mark said...

When Paul wanted to go into Asia, the Spirit stopped him. When he wanted to go to Jerusalem, people tried to stop him, but the Spirit didn't.

It's so important when wrestling with this question to listen to counsel, but not be swayed by counsel. Sometimes the Spirit says "stay", sometimes He says "go". We just have to be listening to Him and not be distracted by the noise.