There’s Joy in the Journey

In Acts 21, Paul is on his way from Miletus to Jerusalem, a trip that likely took several weeks. I can imagine that Paul may have wished he could just skip the trip and end up at his destination, but then he would not have had the meaningful encounters had experienced along the way. The journey is just as important as the destination, and God travels every mile with us.

One stop along the way was in Tyre (Acts 21:3) where the ship unloaded its cargo. The missionaries looked up some disciples of Jesus and spent seven days with them (Acts 21:4). This church was planted during an earlier visit and they were a part of the great dispersion (Acts 11:19), believers being scattered away from Jerusalem with persecution. In this story we see the amazing gift of hospitality being exercised by the church, even though they were persecuted, they still had time and the courage to take people in who were in need.

I find it interesting that the Spirit had compelled Paul to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22) but here, Luke writes about the disciples in Tyre, “through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go” Acts 21:4). Contradiction in discerning the will of God? More than likely the Holy Spirit had burdened their hearts with an awareness of the trouble that lay ahead for Paul, therefore they concluded that he should then avoid Jerusalem. But to Paul’s credit, nothing could stop him once he was determined to follow God’s leading.

Paul’s second lengthy stop was in Caesarea where he stayed at the house of Philip (Acts 21:8, 6:5), who was a spirit-filled man, full of wisdom and also an evangelist (Acts 8:26-40). No wonder his daughters turned out the way they did (Acts 21:9). This story is similar to Timothy and his heritage (2 Timothy 1:5). Many people can point back to key individuals who shaped their faith: a youth pastors, Sunday school teacher, even a neighbor who took an interest in their spiritual life, but nothing can impact a child more than a believing parent.

These daughters were prophetesses (Acts 21:9). Paul was the first to recognize this gift in women, much to the surprise of those who believe Paul was anti-women with some of his culturally-based and church specific teachings (1 Corinthians 11:5, 6, 15, 14:34, 35, 1 Timothy 2:9, 11-12) but he was actually supportive of women in ministry. Had Paul been disapproving of Philip and his daughters, he would have said so.

The word for prophesying is propheteuo meaning “to declare truths through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to tell forth God’s message.” It is not so much foretelling the future as forth-telling God’s message. In essence, these women were some of the first Christian speakers or preachers. God was doing something old (prophecy) in a new way (with women).

At Philip’s house Paul finds an Ezekiel-like character named Agabus (Acts 21:10), who took his own belt and bound his hands and feet as a message to Paul (Acts 21:11). He enacted a parable much like we see in Ezekiel. This must have been more convincing that just the Phoenician disciples plea (Acts 21:4) because all the people urged Paul not to go (Acts 21:12). But Paul never wavered in his resolve; even when he was urged by the disciples in Tyre, the elders of Ephesus, Luke, Timothy and others. There was weeping and expressions of grief, but this was not just crying (which is not so manly for most of us) but it is one of the strongest expressions of grief, sobbing (Acts 21:13). Paul voiced his determination not only to be bound, but to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. I’m not sure this statement made anyone feel any better.

Application: What heritage are you passing to your children? What do you see as their calling or mission in the world (no matter what their chosen vocational goal)? Have they caught your passion for God, and His mission in the world? Are you even passionate about God, or just a believer? … Examine yourself to see where you fit on this one. Do you recognize that the journey is just as important as your destination? This life is preparation for the next. How have you prepared yourself to see God at work in the routine of your life’s journey, or to hear His voice in the midst of the all the noise we hear every day? When have you been so resolute to stand and not waiver on what you know to be true? Is God leading you toward something that may or may not make sense to others? In the everyday events of life, how can you become more aware of God’s involvement in your life? Do you have people around you who can speak truth into your life? Do you have other men who can strengthen and challenge you when you fall, or protect you when you are tempted? How can you know when God is speaking to you to do something extraordinary or when it is only a foolish impulse on your part? Remember that we all will leave a legacy, but the goal is to leave one that will make God smile and of which our children will be proud. There is joy in the journey, so become more aware of God’s presence in your life, and get involved in the lives of others.

A Clear Sense of Direction

I love helping people to discern the will of God. It’s not an easy task. Many times they are looking for it in their own lives, but I have a different perspective. I figure if we can find God’s will, purpose and mission in the world, all we have to do is align our lives with that, and we can’t be far off target. God has given us certain principles to live by and we have a wide range of freedom to live within those guidelines. He sets up these guidelines not to punish or restrict us, but to protect us and provide the best.

“There is always time enough in a day to do God’s will.” —Roy Lessin

My pastor, Skip Wallace, gave this message on 14 October 2007, from Isaiah 30:19-21. Here are a few notes…

“Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it”—Isaiah 30:21

The Holy Spirit is our Guide
The Bible is our map
What is our Compass?


  1. Constancy – “Speak for your servant is listening” – 1 Samuel 3:10
  2. Others – “I constantly remember you in my prayers” – 2 Timothy 1:3
  3. Motive – “Search my heart, and see if there be any wicked way in me” – Psalm 139:23
  4. Passions – “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” – Philippians 2:13
  5. Aptitudes – “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people” – 1 Corinthians 12:7, (The Message)
  6. Seasoning – “…though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you…” – Hebrews 5:12
  7. Sensible Decision-making – Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that… Galatians 6:4, (The Message)

Father, what do you want me to do for Your Kingdom?

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Giftedness and Talents

We are called to love God and serve others, but many people don’t know where to begin to find out what they’re good at. We tend to discount our abilities believing that God can’t use us; ministry is for the one who received a special calling from God. But we can do various ministries with a certain ease and effectiveness if we would only discover our spiritual gift and seek to actively employ it in service to the Christ.

Besides these suggestion below, make sure to discover your spiritual gifts by using this free online spiritual gifts inventory:

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Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. — Gil Bailie

There is nothing with which every person is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much they are capable of doing and becoming. — Soren Kierkegaard

Top 10 Ways to Activate Your Gifts:

  1. Consider classes or seminars to develop your natural gifts.
  2. Take a spiritual gifts inventory to discover your strengths.
  3. Ask your friends and close family members what gifts they see in you.
  4. Tell God you eagerly desire your gift (1 Corinthians 14:1) and see what He does.
  5. Talk to your pastor about outlets for your gift.
  6. Experiment with your spiritual gifts in a small group.
  7. Spend time with someone who is spiritually mature in the areas of your giftedness.
  8. Read a book on spiritual gifts, or use the online inventory.
  9. Go to conferences and learn more about giftedness.
  10. Look for practical ways to use spiritual gifts in your school or workplace.

Discerning God’s Will

One of the foundational desires for a new believer is to discover God’s will, but the question posed is generally something like, “What is God’s will for my life?” I submit that we often ask the wrong question. We should rather ask, “What is God’s will?'” and then realign our lives in that direction. I don’t buy that God has a specific will all drawn out for each person. He has set into place a series of principles for us to follow and it is up to us to discover how to follow Him in obedience. (I can write a whole lot more on the topic, but will save that for another time).


Shine. Make ’em wonder what you’ve got. Make ’em wish that they were not on the outside looking bored. — Steve Taylor, Newsboys

Your career should be true to your inner wiring, your set of gifts and abilities, your passions. Otherwise, it’s just a job. — The New Rebellion

We serve God by serving others. The world defines greatness in terms of of power, possessions, prestige, and position. If you can demand services from others, you’ve arrived. In our self-serving culture with its me-first mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept. — Rick Warren

The Top 10 Tools for Discerning God’s Will:

  1. Prayer – bring your concerns and confusion to God.
  2. Listening – tune in to the responses from His heart.
  3. Community – hear God’s perspectives from those who know you best.
  4. Counsel – receive illumination from your spiritual authorities.
  5. Scriptures – look for God’s direction from His reveled Word.
  6. Passion – recognize the deep longings God has planted in you.
  7. Gifting – release the unique abilities God placed within you.
  8. Opportunity – consider the natural doors God opens supernaturally.
  9. Joy – welcome the Spirit’s confirming presence upon right choices.
  10. Confirmation – find where the above tools converge.

Following God’s Leadership

All of us at one time or another have probably asked the question of God, “What do you want from me?” It’s interesting that a few times in the Bible He gives a point blank answer:

  1. The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
  2. For this is the will of God, your sanctification… (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
  3. Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Acts 16 brings us to a passage where the Spirit of Jesus prevented our missionaries from going a certain direction. The immediate question would be, “Does God still operate this way?” Can we know for sure the direction we ought to go? No matter how close we are to God, life can bring on twists and turns; which are from the Lord and which are obstacles set up by the enemy?

The Christian life is not just about meeting the Lord and seeing Him one day; it ids about walking with Him every day on a winding road. One day Paul and his group intended to preach the gospel throughout the region of Galatia and beyond, but the Spirit kept them from going into Asia (Acts 16:6). Also in this chapter, we have an addition to the missionary team (Acts 16:10). Notice the writing moves from third person to first person (“they” to “we”). Since Luke is the writer of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, it is likely here that he joins Paul, Timothy and Silas.

Paul describes Luke as a dear friend and a doctor (Colossians 4:14). There are verses in the Bible that indicate that Paul may have had a physical illness of some sort; perhaps poor eyesight (Galatians 6:11) or maybe a physical or spiritual “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7, 8, 9).

Sometimes the most noble plans of anointed servants differ from the plans of God. They wanted to spread the gospel in another area but the Spirit of Jesus prevented them from going in that direction (Acts 16:7). One reason may have been timing because God eventually opened a door of great opportunity in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9). Another reason may have been that God wanted Peter to go to Bithynia, who had some level of access to that area (1 Peter 1:1).

How could they have misread the direction God had for them? As with Paul, it takes a lot of courage to admit that we have made a mistake in discerning God’s direction in our lives. Once the direction is more clear, we must make sure to pursue it just as passionately as before. How did Paul know? Perhaps it was an inner tugging of the Spirit, rather than just personal feelings or instincts (Jude 1:10). Since the Spirit resides in each believer (Romans 8:9) what can we do practically to better understand God’s will or direction?

  1. Study God’s Word: He will never lead us contrary to His revealed Word.
  2. Yield to the Spirit’s control: This will keep us flexible, pliable and available when there is a change of plans.
  3. Pray for clear leadership: David’s approach is a good example (Psalm 27:11). He asked God to teach him His ways and to lead him in a straight path.
  4. Pray for wisdom and discernment: God desires to give these to us (Ephesians 1:17).
  5. Make plans, but hold them loosely: They were not supposed to just wander around the countryside, but they made plans. Paul was a smart guy, he probably had an itinerary all charted out but God had a different idea.
  6. Learn to recognize God’s peace: This is a tricky one. We like to believe that peace is a good indicator of following God’s direction and being in His will, but not always. It is not always safe to be in God’s will (I interviewed and approved many missionaries going into places around the world that we not safe). Consider this: Jonah was totally at peace in the bottom of the boat, running from God, totally out of God’s will (Jonah 1:4, 5, 6); while Jesus was totally in God’s will yet in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41, 42, 43-44).

Application: Let’s be willing to change our plans if we sense the Spirit leading in another direction. The key to missionary work overseas was always flexibility. Paul and the team did not have to wait long for redirection, but sometimes we feel like we are in a deep, dark hole waiting for God to show us His way. Paul received a vision, a dream, about where to go next, Macedonia (Acts 16:9, 10) and the first person he finds is Lydia whom the Lord had prepared to hear the message (Acts 16:14). She was the first convert in Europe.

So, how familiar are you with the Bible? How is your prayer life? In what ways do you seek guidance from God? How do you evaluate your walk with Christ? Do you have a set time each day to seek His direction, read His Word, or ask Him for opportunities where you can be a servant of Christ each day? How does your knowledge of Christ affect your marriage and relationships? One great thing about the church, the “church” is all of us; we are in this together. That is a strength that we can use in our favor.