What do you do when God calls?

March 30th, 2019

Acts 16:9-15

Our God works in some wonderful and unexplainable ways. That affirmation has been the constant theme of every Easter season. A Savior nailed to a cross, then buried, comes back to life in three days as Jesus had predicted. For the disciples then, and believers now, nothing could be more wonderful or unexplainable. Indeed, the Easter story didn’t end there. The risen Christ visited Saul of Tarsus and, in one of the Bible’s most dramatic conversion stories, turned Paul from captain of the opposition into captain of the home team.

Today we visit a passage from the Bible that confirms this encounter. We will discover that most of what we consider blessings are visits by God. Some visits we receive and enjoy; others trouble us. Further, some visits we cannot explain and simply say it must have been the hand of the Lord. Such was the case some years ago when I was serving in a city near the U.S.-Mexico border. My congregation had several lay teams in mission work who would, on their own, gather clothing, supplies, Bibles, materials, and the like, and go to Methodist churches south of the border. Their ministry was rewarding to them and a frequent source of refreshment and inspiration for me.

One particular couple from my church loved to leave on the spur of the moment, led by God, they said, to visit pastors or members of churches along the Mexican side of the border. On one particular day they called me and invited me to come along for the ride to deliver some goods to a pastor I had met some months earlier. He served a tiny church and was a recent newlywed, full of energy for the work of the Lord in this small village, eager to spread the gospel. As we approached his home at the end of a long, dusty road, there seated on the porch was this young minister, head bent over an open Bible. He glanced up, immediately recognized the van, and began running toward us, waving and jumping with excitement. He opened my door and hugged me as he explained, “I just finished a prayer asking the Lord to send you to visit me!” I asked very innocently, “Me?” And he said yes and explained the why of his request. I talked with him about the situation he was facing in hopes that it might bring a blessing, and we enjoyed a great visit, closed our time with prayer, and I returned home. Only the Lord knows what purpose I served that day, since all I did was to say yes to an invitation to travel to Mexico, expecting only to help unload things from a van; not to help a fellow pastor with a load he was carrying.

What do you do when God visits? Paul would instruct, “Say yes” to whatever God leads us to do. Paul was visited with a vision, one night as he slept, of a man from Macedonia imploring Paul to “come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul, convinced it was God calling him, obediently began making plans to travel to that region and fulfill this call.

God visits us regularly and, whether through dreams, visions, or recurring thoughts, plants seeds in our minds that, if followed, may result in special blessing for the work of God even today. Paul’s call involved visiting a significant region of the time, to bring the good news about Christ’s love. Travel was difficult, but Paul and Timothy finally reached Philippi. Once there, they ventured outside the city gates to the river, where they believed they would find a place of worship. Paul shared the good news with the women gathered there. Lydia received this salvation message and opened her home to host what became the church in Philippi. Some scholars believe that while in Philippi, Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians and his first epistle to Timothy. We also have the epistle to the Philippians; those encouraging words Paul shared some years later with the church he founded there. This was, indeed, a fruitful visit. What do we do when God visits? Are we open to God’s leading?

Today is the perfect day to ask ourselves these questions. Have we considered that every obedient step we take may guide us to the place where a wonderful seed is planted for fruitful ministry? Dare not to limit God’s power to share exactly what is needed to be faithful. Dare even to imagine that God may provide exactly what we thought we didn’t need, as was the case with the disciples on that first Pentecost Day. God visited them in a mighty way and continues visiting today.

I serve in the ministry as the result of a recurring visit by God. I told God that I was not the right person, and shared hundreds of what I thought were excellent excuses to dodge this call. I placed conditions on my call; I had to overcome my shyness and I had to be more willing to stand in front of people to speak God’s Word. Wouldn’t you know it; God did all those things and more.

Two weeks from now, we will celebrate Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit visited the disciples and empowered them to share God’s good works in many languages. The disciples followed God’s leading to take those steps to share the way God continues to work in all the lives that trust God and let God work in them. Where is God leading you?

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