This is yet another message that teaches the essential basics of a Christian’s life. Today we find that following the leading of the Holy Spirit has a Scriptural pattern that can be applied to any situation. Are you looking for God’s will and direction, wisdom or even escape from a difficult circumstance? You’ll find His path by following these principles
Christian Basics: Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit
From Acts 16.4-15
We’ve talked about who you listen to, and we’ve talked about your identity not being what your resources are.
Now we’re going to another basic, finding and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
After our daughter Hannah had come home from China and we had a year or two for initial adjustments all around, we knew that we were going to bring another daughter home. So we started the process in early 1999. Yes, that’s the last century, for some of you teenagers. While we were in the middle of the renewed paperwork process, our adoption agency contacted us. Things had changed in China and certain kids were being left behind, so the Chinese department assigned to adoption contacted our agency and asked if there were any families that might adopt these children.
Accompanying that request were three rather sketchy descriptions of three separate Chinese children. Our agency asked us: was our 2nd daughter among those three? Well, you can imagine the quandary. How do you choose? We prayed. We sought counsel. A visiting prophet was consulted. Nothing. We wanted to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to the child of His choosing. So we kept asking. Until God sent word to us. Robin was on the phone with a friend, discussing the quandary, just talking, when out of the blue Robin heard from the Lord “The older one”. And that was it. We pursued the oldest of the three and long story short, we have Katie as a sister to Hannah and both our daughters.
So what is the process, if there is one, in following the leading of the Holy Spirit when it comes to answers, direction and wisdom?
“And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.”
Who were the “they”? The first few verses describe the discovery of Timothy by Paul in a place called Lystra. He was a young man whom Paul found out was called to the ministry and seemed suited for Paul’s work as an apprentice of sorts. So the “they” was at least Paul and Timothy.
What were they doing? They were visiting already established, Gentile filled churches. They were there to encourage them, but especially to complete an assignment from the apostles and elders the whole church, in Jerusalem. In other words, this was a known assignment. And so, here’s the first principle when looking to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
1. Do what you know you’re currently supposed to do and be faithful to it.
We all know what we’re supposed to do now. Go to work. Love your wife and family. Love your neighbor. Serve through a local church. If anything new is supposed to happen it’ll be on the platform of faithfulness to your current assignment.
2. Don’t discover or walk out the leading of the Holy Spirit alone.
Current assignment completed, they wanted to see what the Lord had for them next. They had some assumptions. But notice it was a “they” that became a “we.”
“6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
When you are seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit, you need to have more than just you considering the direction. That means a. You have a group or a team, including covering, like those in spiritual authority to confirm direction and b. A team itself to walk with you. Like Paul and Timothy and then a larger group.
You are in a vulnerable place when you try to discover or walk out the leading of the Holy Spirit alone. It’s easy to get off track, simply because what you feel or think isn’t always the Holy Spirit.
Years ago now, I had a young woman come to meet with me, with her boyfriend. She had been looking for God’s choice for a spouse, so it didn’t surprise me that she brought him along. In that meeting she told me, for sure, that this was the man she would marry. They both smiled and were very confident. I wasn’t. Sure enough, she is happily married to someone else. But her very confident leading wasn’t the Holy Spirit because she had isolated herself to come to that conclusion. Thank the Lord she eventually included others.
3. Start moving out in new directions and listen.
Paul and Timothy started down the road. They went in one direction. No. They went in another direction. No. Then it was “wait.” So they sat in Troas. And prayed and hung out. But they only got to Troas by moving ahead. And listening for the yes or no. Some people don’t get that they have to move in order for God to steer them. Granted, some are frantically grasping at new direction and are desperate. Not good. But moving is necessary!
4. The Holy Spirit speaks in His own way and that requires further prayer and confirmation.
The whole dream thing. Paul had a legitimate vision from God in a dream. Verse 10 says that they immediately sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called them to preach there. But that word, concluding, is interesting. It means thoughts coalescing to a conclusion. And now it’s a “we” thing. The rest of the team apparently joined them in Troas for the waiting. And once Paul had this night vision, they all had thoughts. Which they tested in prayer. Because their thoughts coalesced into a conclusion.
When you think you’ve heard from God, been directed by God, consult the team, pray together and separately, and hear the confirmation. It’ll come if it’s Him!
5. Look for others who are seeking God on the path.
“11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”
Those who were praying in Philippi, seeking God by the river, found Paul and the team as Paul and the team found them. There are always confirmations in the form of people placed along God’s path. Look for them, minister to them and let them minister to you.
One of the processes that you will go through all your Christian life is the process of discovering His leading. And this form is generally how it always happens! Be faithful. Join with others. Start moving. Pray when you think He’s speaking. And look for the people God has placed along the way. And new adventures in God will be yours.