A few months ago, I got into a heated discussion with a friend over the best way to follow God’s direction. Personally, I like the idea of waiting and praying until God speaks, and then obeying His words. My friend, on the other hand, prefers action and moving forward, all the time adjusting course as God speaks during the journey.
As I thought more about the subject, I was reminded of a story from the book of Acts:
“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch…” (Acts 8:26-27 NIV).
We don’t know what Philip was doing at the moment he received this instruction from the Lord. Was he in prayer? Working? Ministering? Just living his normal life? All we know is what Philip did in response to God’s voice. He obeyed and went. He didn’t complain about the vagueness of the command. He didn’t demand to know the outcome of his obedience. He simply went. And what he found was an Ethiopian official riding home with his entourage from Jerusalem. Little did Philip know that this official in his chariot was actually reading a portion of the Scriptures at that very moment. (8:27-28 NIV).
But the Holy Spirit knew. 🙂
“The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to the chariot and stay near it'” (Acts 8:29 NIV).
Philip’s obedience led to a discussion with the Ethiopian official about Jesus that ultimately resulted in the man’s salvation and baptism.
So let’s apply this to today. A few weeks ago I went for a walk on a gorgeous fall day that felt more like summer than autumn. At the end of my walk, as I turned back into my driveway, I noticed my neighbor heading out to her car with an armload of clothes.
Now, this neighbor had been a former coworker of mine when I was a teenager. She’d moved into my neighborhood a few houses down from me, but what with work and travel we hardly ever saw each other. Recently, I’d noticed a “For Sale” sign in her front yard. It had quickly turned into a “Sold” sign, and then had disappeared altogether. As I saw her coming out to her car, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me, “Go talk to her.”
My response? “No, Lord. I have other things to do right now.”
I climbed the front steps and opened the door. Again I felt His nudge, “Go talk to her.”
“Lord, she’s busy. I feel awkward. I don’t want to do it.”
I stepped inside and closed the door behind me.
And there’s just something about shutting a door in God’s face that makes you stop and realize the gravity of your situation.
I immediately reopened the door and hurried outside, crossing the lawn and street and arriving at her house at a jogging pace.
When she saw me standing outside her door, my neighbor’s face broke into a wide grin. She came outside and we sat in two chairs on her front walk and we talked and talked and talked. She told me all about selling her house, how the house she’d been going to buy had fallen through, and how the Lord had very quickly provided another place for her to live. I told her about my mission work, how I needed to find a place to live in the Czech Republic, how the housing economy in ValMez is so bad, and how I was praying for God to provide a home for me. Her story of God’s housing provision encouraged me, and she offered to pray that the Lord would lead me to the right place as well. I went home as the sun began to set, so grateful to have spent time with a friend.
In Galatians, Paul writes, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (5:25 NIV).
It’s easy to ignore the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to pretend like we didn’t hear Him, to refuse Him, to go our own way. I know. I do it often enough. But the Lord wants to walk with us. He wants to be in a relationship with us that is so close that we can hear His voice and obey. There are times when we need to sit and wait and pray, and there are times we need to change course along the journey. But when He does speak, whether in the stillness or on the journey, whether through the Bible, a trusted friend, or the quiet nudging of our hearts, we need to be able to listen — and obey. It feels awkward at first, and it totally messes with the confines of my comfort zone. But I find that, the more I persevere, the more I grow. And the more I grow, the more receptive I become to His promptings.