The other day I had a conversation with some pastor friends of mine about the leading of the Lord. How do you know when God is leading you to another place? As Christians, should we wait on the leading of the Lord or can we be just as anointing and just as effective anywhere that we choose to go? The question is a difficult one and even more so when your life is wrapped up in ministry, and you are facing struggles where you are, and you start wondering should I go or should I stay. When you are a member of a smaller or mid-size church, and there is a bigger newer church down the road that has all the things a family desires, and you think should I leave and go to the new place. Is it necessary or even vital for us to be led, or will the Holy Spirit just go with us? Now I know that the Holy Spirit does lead people in a new direction and there are times without a doubt that it was the leading of the Holy Spirit, but I am talking about those times when opportunity knocks, but you really do not know if God is leading you or it is just an opportunity that has come along. What do you do during those times? Stay or go.
Well, as I thought about the question my friend posed to the group, I being to think about the life of the Apostle Paul. Paul, we know, did not start as a Christian but rather started as Saul, a persecutor of the church. On the Damascus road, he has an encounter with the risen savior Jesus, and his life is forever changed. He begins a missionary journey that would last the rest of his life — going around starting churches, writing letters, and preaching the gospel around the world of that time. In Acts 16, we see that Paul desires to go to Asia and preach. He knows the area had yet had the gospel preached them other than just small pockets here and there, and he believes that it is needful for him to go. Now it makes scents if there was an area as populated as Asia was there was a great work that needed to be acomplish in that place and that Paul and his team were just the people to do it. But in Acts 16:6, it says that Paul turned and went to Galatia, “having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” Here we see where Paul was told by the Holy Spirit that you cannot go where you want to do, but you must do what I want you to do. Now when you read on you find that on this trip, Paul has encounters with people like Lydia and others and establish the church of Philippi which would become the church that supports him more than any other. We also can see that in Acts 19 that the Holy Spirit tells Paul to go into Asia and the Bible says within a space of two years that all of Asia had heard the gospel and that God did special miracles through Paul in Asia.
What we see in this is that the Holy Spirit knew the time in which the Apostle should go both in Philippi and Asia and only led by the Spirit was Paul able to accomplish great things. Think about this scenario, Paul goes on to Asia on his own and more than likely he preaches the gospel, and because it is the gospel, there are people saved. But he would have never established the church of Philippi that supported him for the rest of his life and become a great church, and more than likely God would not have done the great miracles through him, which would have been due to the fact he did not listen to the Spirit. More than likely all of Asia would not have heard the word in two years, because I do not know if you know it, but that was a great miracle because Asia is a large place and Paul had no social media to help him out. So, what we see is yes, Paul could have chosen to move forward on his own, but he would not have been as effective as he was by listening and being led by the Holy Spirit. He would not have seen God do so many great things in his life in the here and now, nor would he have had the support of a great church for years to come that helped him to continue to spread the gospel around the world.
Now some people believe that we can be effective anywhere we are and that the anointing goes with us and so the Holy Spirit goes with us. Therefore, it does not matter where we go because wherever we are, we are called. I do agree that the anointing goes with us and that we can do the work of God anywhere and should do it anywhere and everywhere. But with that said, can we be as effective going out on our own rather than listening to the Holy Spirit? Looking at Paul’s example, we would have to say no not at all. Paul shows us by listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and we come into a place where we are effective because we are in the right place at the right time. By being in the right place at the right time, it allows us to operate under the full anointing of the Holy Spirit. Maybe this is why many in the church feel they are making no real impact in the work of the kingdom. They have failed to be led by the Holy Spirit but have allowed the opportunity, though good, to lead them. Maybe they have sought to do what looked and seemed good rather than hearing the voice of God give them a direction. Throughout the book of Acts, we see where the Apostles where lead by the Holy Spirit to people and places and in doing so saw one of the greatest harvests that the world has ever seen. I mean within a matter of years, the entire world had heard the gospel without any form of mass communication.
OK, but what about when things are going bad? I mean for Paul, things went well, and the Holy Spirit did remarkable things for him, which let him know that he was doing the right thing. What happens when you are doing what you think the Holy Spirit has told you and everything is going wrong or nothing is happening? Well, I thought about that, and I started to think about the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. When he sees his brothers in Genesis 50, he is the second in command to Pharaoh, and he makes the famous statement, “ye meant it for evil against me; but God meant it for good.” Now if we remember the story years before the brothers of Joseph hated him and sold him into slavery because he was the favorite of his father. They told his father Jacob that he had died. For the next several years Joseph would live as a slave where he was promoted because of the anointing in his life to the head of Potiphar’s house only then to face false accusations and be thrown into prison. Here was a man that followed the leading of God, but it was not into a place of success but a placed of hardship. He rose to authority in prison but let’s face it he is still in prison. Finally, after years of suffering, and not knowing what God was doing, Joseph is promoting through his gift to the second in command of all of Egypt. The vision that God had given him as a boy has not come to past, and he realizes that it was not because his brothers sold him but rather because God was leading him to this point where he would be the salvation of his entire family.
When the Spirit leads us, it does not mean that everything is going to be good. Many times, the Spirit leads us through rough places. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is our comforter and that we need Him to comfort us because many times He leads us into uncomfortable places. Following the leading of the Spirit does not always mean that we are going to see great things, and it does not all ways mean that we are going to have these great feelings of success. The truth is what God calls successful is not all ways what we call successful. Being led by the Spirit is about being effective. About knowing you are where God wants you to be. Being led by the Spirit is not about how big the church is or how much the church can do for your family. Being led is about being effective for the kingdom of God. The Spirit leads us into places where we can not only use our anointing but where our anointing can be more useful to those that God has called us to minister. It is easy to become frustrated when nothing seems to be happening, and it is easy to look over the fence and see how green the grass is over there. When you go to Facebook, and everyone is having success, and everyone is happy, and they seem to be doing great without any effort. But I have learned a few things along this journey. Number one do not believe everything you see on Facebook, remember no one post the picture of the struggle. Most of what you see on social media is personal propaganda that promotes something that is not completely true. Second, I learned that just because someone is successful doesn’t mean that I am not if what I am doing does not match what they are doing. God counts success differently than we do; He wants to know are you are following me. As I study the Bible, I think that I would have to say that the way we can be more effective for the kingdom of God is by being led by the Spirit of God. Walking out our faith with Him leading the way. If He has led you to a place of ministry then just stay put until you hear Him say move because sooner or later you are going to see the results of His promise in your life, and one day you will come to know why He led you where He did.