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#carmelprays – Acts 16:1-15

Opening Song: Come Thou Fount

Read Scripture: Acts 16:1-15

Let God lead
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”, so said one Forrest Gump on a movie screen sometime in 1994.

This much was true for Paul at the start of Acts 16. After a successful first missionary journey, he was now ready to embark on the next. However, things got off to a rocky start when Paul parted ways with his usual partner, Barnabas, after a sharp disagreement over whether to take Mark with them (Acts 15:36-41). In addition, Paul’s plan to reach out to the Gentiles in the province of Asia was repeatedly blocked by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:7). The Spirit just did not let him go where he wanted to go.

Paul must have felt pretty low at this point. He had every good intention to preach God’s Word into the lives of those who needed to hear it, and yet the Holy Spirit actually forbade Paul from doing so. Paul just had to accept the Spirit’s assertion that he was not the right person at the right time to bring the gospel to that region.

How do we respond when the Spirit says ‘no’ to our hearts’ desires and points us in a different direction?

When Paul discerned God’s leading toward Macedonia instead (v9-10), Paul did not skip a beat and immediately got ready to cross over to Europe (Macedonia). He ‘sailed straight’ for Samothrace and reached Philippi in two days. This is noteworthy, as it not only illustrates the urgency with which he executed God’s command, but also demonstrates that the wind was at their backs (this is in contrast to the return journey that took five days (Acts 20:6)). God was affirming Paul’s obedience by providing the perfect wind conditions for smooth passage in the right direction.

Meanwhile, God was also preparing Lydia for her upcoming encounter with Paul. Lydia was a cloth dealer who was, at that time, travelling for business. However, despite her busy travelling schedule, she still made time to observe the Sabbath and stopped trading on that day to gather with God’s people. Though she was a dutiful worshipper of God, she had heard, but had not understood (Isa 6:9). How marvellous it was on that Sabbath day when the apostles arrived at the river, and God opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message (v14-15). How wonderful it was that God orchestrated both Lydia’s and Paul’s journeys, to converge at a small prayer meeting by the river, fulfilling Paul’s desire to change lives and changing Lydia’s life forever. When God is for us, who can be against us?

Life may be like a box of chocolates, filled with bitter, sweet, nutty, sometimes even downright hard pieces, but we as Christians have the joy and privilege of knowing the Giver of that box, and He is Good!

Are we prayerfully letting God speak to us when we make decisions in life? Or do we make plans based on what we personally think is best, and then ask God to bless our decision after-the-fact? How do we react when the Holy Spirit sometimes blocks our path and prevents us from getting what we want?

Pray in Response

Dear Heavenly Father, You are our Almighty God – all-powerful, all-knowing, the beginning and the end. Please forgive us when we sometimes forget this truth, and in our decision-making, prioritise our desires over Your commands.

Thank You for giving us Your Word and the Holy Spirit, that is a precious roadmap and compass, revealing Your perfect character and perfect plan for this world. Guide us Lord, as we discern how and where we fit into Your plan for the redemption of souls, and help us to walk close to You daily, so that we may stay alert and sensitive to Your promptings. May we seek to glorify You in all that we do, and not be distracted by the noise and glitter that the world presents.

Though we can’t always see a clear path ahead, we know that we are in Your loving hands. So take the wheel Lord, and we will follow You, with courage and full confidence that Your ways are good. In Jesus’ most precious name, Amen!

Response Song: I Will Follow

By Dawn Ho

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