Have you ever questioned if your next move is really the “Will of God” for your life? This is a common and necessary thought process that we need to have as Christians to discern what may be next for us. But, if you are anything like me, it’s easy to think yourself around in circles and still lack a beneficial conclusion. It’s time we gained some clarity on this.
In Acts, we find Paul and Silas locked in a jail after casting a demon out of girl who could tell fortunes because of demonic inspiration. Her owners weren’t too happy when a well of income ran dry. They caused a scene, hence, here they are in a jail.
In the middle of the night, as Paul and Silas were worshipping, there is an earth quake and their shackles and prison doors open. It would be easy, at least for me, in that moment to think “Wow, I was just praying and worshipping and God has just provided a way out of here!” It’s an open door to an apparent, desperate, and obvious need. They could have left in a split second without thinking twice. It’s hard to imagine that I wouldn’t have.
But they stayed right where they were. Now, that’s just plain irresponsible. If they die there, they can’t continue their call, right? What are they thinking? It’s like watching a movie and yelling at the character on the screen to do what you know they need to! Like, “Get out of there!!”
However, Paul notices the jailer about to kill himself because he thinks all the prisoners have escaped. The jailer knows that whether he takes his life or not, his fate is death if he lost all the prisoners. Paul yells out, “Don’t hurt yourself! We are all here.”
The jailer is just amazed. The short version of the story is: He and his whole family comes to know the Lord and are baptized all before the sun is up.
Then I noticed something in the text I have never paid attention to before. A letter came and then… Paul and Silas are released. But didn’t he already have an open door? I had always just assumed they said their good-byes to the jailer and his family and went on their merry way. But the jailer would have still faced death if that were the case. But no… a letter came the next day.
What if Paul just took the initial open door as a sign and left the jail? To state the obvious, the guard would have died, and there is a great chance that his family wouldn’t have heard the Gospel of Christ.
So, how did Paul know that the open door wasn’t for his release from prison? It was so obvious, wasn’t it? There are two things that the Lord pointed out to me as I read this:
- Before the prison door opened, what does scripture say they were doing? Praying and worshipping.
Want some real discernment? Want to really know if this open door is the right one. Call it cliché; but if it’s true it’s true. A mistake that I think can commonly be made with this is that we pray about it, but do we actually surrender it? It is “Lord let it be this please please?!” instead of “God, this is the direction that I want, but is it where you want me? Is it the right time for it?” There is a huge difference here. Do you really trust Him? Do you honestly believe that He has the best route in mind for you? If you aren’t willing to surrender your wants and direction of life to the Lord, you can’t expect to end up in the best route He has for you.
So, for that thing you have been wrestling with the Lord about, are you holding onto it in an unhealthy way? Or are you really and honestly saying “not my will but yours!”
- Paul was honoring the “revealed will of God.”
It was not in line with authority for Paul to just leave the jail. Paul was honoring his authority no matter how wrong they were for putting him in there in the first place. It’s God’s place to deal with them. If it was your place, he would have made you the leader. That is a separate issue that maybe we can talk about sometime, but beside that, it would have made Paul guilty of an actual crime, and before that, he hadn’t done anything illegal. It would not have been a wise move for him or the Christian movement as a whole. Notice that God’s real provision for aiding Paul out of jail was done through a means that was under the authorities.
The real issue for this conversation is sticking to what we already know His will is. As an extreme example, if you are feeling like you maybe want to murder someone, you can 100% bet, based on the Word of God, that it wouldn’t be His will. The only way to know what His Word says (this is very mind blowing, I know) is to read it. And get around people who you trust who understand it and spend more time reading it to help you navigate what you don’t understand.
This is me honestly evaluating my life in the past year and thinking, “God, I really missed it on somethings, and people were hurt in the process.” That last part is what stings the worst. I am Paul if he had made the choice to walk through that apparent “open door” and left the jail as the doors opened.
That being said, I’m thankful for a God that redeems our selfish choices. As we come to Him, just simply by praying (meaning opening up a conversation with Him), being honest with Him about ourselves, He lovingly guides us back to where we needed to be.
Not every open door is one to walk through. It may seem good, and it may even be a good thing. Being out of prison would have been a good thing! But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing at the right time.
I can tell you one thing for sure, when you take the time to weigh your decision (let me get Pentecostal here…) in the Presence of the Lord and trust God for direction in every area of your life, it’s not only better for you in the long run, it’s an adventure. It’s everything you thought you wanted and so much more. Did it happen right when you wanted it to? Likely no, but it is more fulfilling. Please don’t mishear me as saying it will be perfect. It will be difficult. It’s life. It’s a process.
If you find yourself in a situation today that, if you were honest with yourself, you’d say it probably wasn’t the right move. Ask the Lord how to move forward. Don’t let fear and pride keep you from approaching the One who loves you more than you or anyone else ever could.