Study from God’s Word… Reading the 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica and in Acts 18: 12 – Acts 19: 22 about Paul’s third missionary journey. … Passage for Reflection: Acts 18: 21 in the context of verses 19 - 22 … NIV 19 They [Paul and his traveling companions] arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.
My Journal for Today: That’s an interesting phrase, “…if it is God’s will;” and Dr. Smith points out today that its use appears to be diminishing in even our Christian social interaction. Paul’s use of the directional phrase in today’s highlight passage had to do with his expressed belief that God was the one guiding his journeys (in this case in his third missionary journey to Ephesus and other spots in Asia-Minor).
When I was a kid, I used to hear folks, Christian and non-believers, use a social phrase when trying to express quandary over what might transpire. They’d say about some future questioned possibility, “Well, … God willing and if the creek don’t rise.” And the implication was – either from tradition or belief – that God was the one Who was in control; and any future event was in His hands and not in the purview of the one speaking those words. But these days, in a culture which is becoming more secularized and where human control is more and more valued, the phrase “God willing” is just disappearing from our social mindset; and I’m afraid that’s even the case for Christians.
Dr. Smith’s probing evaluation question for the day is one we all should answer for ourselves. He posits, ”Do I ever consciously factor God’s will into my future plans?” Good question, huh?
In other words, when we’re trying to live and move within the will of God, which I assume is a goal of any Christian reading this here today, do we really believe and actively pursue God’s way as we set out in a given direction or make choices which have lasting impact on our own lives, let alone the lives of our family and others in our sphere of influence?
You know, God, through Paul, charged Christians in Ephesus (and all of us, by extension) to beware of our directions and choices, especially in troubled times [please meditate on Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5: 15-16 - linked here]. Jesus was clear to His followers (the people of “the Way” - see Luke 9: 23) to deny self and, when things get tough, to follow Him (and His ways). So, we need to, as disciples of Christ, be seeking – and finding – the “God willing” way in life rather than the way of SELF actualization or SELF determination, toward which so many are turning and pointing in our world.
I believe Christians began to turn away from seeking the “God willing” ways to the “self willed” ways back in the 50s, under the influence of “positive thinking” gurus like Norman Vincent Peale; and now we see a great proliferation in the secularized spiritual teachings of those like Oprah Winfrey as well as “word-of-faith” false preachers, touting themselves as “christian,” … people like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer and all of the other “prosperity gospel” advocates. They all point mankind toward self-will and thereby away from the “God willing” point of view.
I hope we all, as followers of Christ, are doing what Paul was trying to teach the Christians in Thessalonica and on his various missionary journeys, as well as through God’s teachings in Paul’s epistles, … and that is to actively, and in surrender to God’s Spirit, seek out God’s will and become a “God willing” advocate rather than a pusher of the “self willing” points of view.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, I surrender to say that “God willing” I will seek Your way rather than my way. Amen