Paul followed his heart; or was it his mind?
In Acts 19: 21 we read “Paul resolved in the Spirit to go through Macedonia and Achaia, and then to go on to Jerusalem. He said, “After I have gone there, I must also see Rome.”
And he sent his helpers ahead of him to Macedonia.
If he had resolved to do this, then his mind was made up. But he resolved in the Spirit, so he had sought divine guidance. It is possible to do both, that is to pray and to think in one go, to love God with heart and soul and mind.
Wisely informed and divinely led, Paul moved on to Macedonia only after properly saying farewell to those whom he had built up in Ephesus. There in Macedonia he did the same, staying long enough to encourage believers before his three- month stopover in Greece.
He had hoped to visit Syria but another one of those plots against him was in the making so Macedonia was going to have some more of him. Others went ahead of hm to Troas, where he joined them, staying for seven days.
If we look at the map, we can see that there was method in Paul’s trip planning. Geography then, as now, dictates some aspects of travel. But other circumstances, like human plots against Paul, also played a part. Look how these did not keep him stuck in worry mode, not while there were believers needing his teaching ministry. See how he used his partners to go ahead and prepare. While Paul’s own ministry was exemplary, the team-work yielded much to God’s glory.
We have many lessons to learn- how important it is to plan- God doesn’t mind that so long as we appreciate that the Eternal Lord has the last say. We must be willing to change plans as the situations demand (even as I write the church and the world are making many adjustments to the COVID-19 crisis). We must not rush on if the job is not yet done; stay longer if necessary. We must know when to stop and go- I mean go away. When our time is up for a given task, if we have obeyed God, then remember, God stays when we leave. We are limited, not eternal, but God is.
I speak as an itinerant minister of the church. The people we serve often complain that we are moved) transferred too often. Maybe sometimes we are. But ever so often, we too are hesitant, even reluctant, occasionally defiant when it’s time to move.
Paul moved many times. Yes, sometimes he followed his plans and sought his heart’s desire. At other times he adjusted his plans. May God help all workers in ministry to be ready and yet to follow the Spirit’s leading so that we serve the Lord. well.
O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide.
Oh, let me hear Thee speaking, in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will;
Oh. speak to reassure me, to hasten, or control;
Oh, speak, and make me listen, thou Guardian of my soul.
John Ernest Bode, 1816-74