In the last three posts, I’ve sought to make a case from in the book of Acts that God guides people by His Spirit in three primary ways: spiritual wisdom, providential provision and direct intervention. In this final post, I want to offer some implications and applications for those of us engaged in ministry today.
While I believe there are unique, unrepeatable features in the book of Acts (for example, the presence of the original apostles and the epic coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost), I’m convinced the book of Acts is meant to both inspire and instruct us as we serve the Lord Jesus in our day. The mission of bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth is still a work in progress. Since the book of Acts ends in a way that implies the story is unfinished (28:31), you could say we are living out the “longer ending” of the book’s storyline.
To wrap things up, I want to set forth four lessons about God’s guidance that I’m seeking to keep in mind and would encourage you to take to heart.
- Spiritual wisdom is a genuine aspect of the Spirit’s guidance even though it doesn’t normally look or feel overtly supernatural. In fact, I see spiritual wisdom as the “default” way spiritual leaders make ministry decisions. Since spiritual wisdom is primarily developed through soaking up Scripture (Psalm 1), all of us engaged in ministry must prioritize regular Scripture study and prayer. Having our hearts and minds saturated with Scripture enables us to wisely evaluate situations, think clearly about best options and make decisions in line with God’s ways and will.
- Spiritual wisdom should not be understood in completely individualistic terms. Throughout Acts we see an emphasis on leaders seeking consultation and confirmation from other godly people. For example, Paul’s decision to take Timothy onto his missionary team was due, at least in part, to the fact that “the brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him” (16:2). When Paul received the “Macedonian vision,” his team confirmed this vision as indicating God’s direction for their mission (16:10). At times we do see Paul making decisions on his own (20:22; 21:12-14); however, he regularly worked as a team player not a lone ranger. The lesson: it’s wise to involve godly people in important ministry decisions. None of us are as spiritually wise as all of us together.
- God can use providential provisions and/or direct intervention to clarify, confirm or change the decisions we make through the use of spiritual wisdom. When we experience a convergence of spiritual wisdom, providential provision (“open” or “closed” doors) and direct intervention (internal promptings, internal peace or the lack of it), we gain greater confidence that we are headed in the right direction.
- As we are submissive to His will, God will intervene to get us where He wants us to be for His greater purposes. Paul thought it wise to go to Bithynia and Mysia (16:6-7). Evidently, God wanted him in Macedonia. As a result, Paul and company were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia” (16:6). God overruled and redirected Paul and He’s more than capable of doing that for us as well. This takes pressure off us to figure everything out and lets us walk humbly and confidently with God in life and ministry.