July 20, 2020
After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you– for I will be going through Macedonia. 6 Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. 10 When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. 11 No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers. 12 Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity. (1 Corinthians 16:5-12 NIV)
This is a very personal portion of the letter. I am grateful that God allowed it to be preserved as it gives us an insight into Paul’s ministry and some helpful guidance for our own decision making.
Like many of us Paul has many things he wants to do and many people he wants to visit. He is not constrained by a global pandemic. He does not express that he is constrained by the means of transportation available to him. The only constraint that Paul expresses is the Lord’s permission. It is a good thing to have such clear direction from God. Clear direction does not mean that Paul has no choice or that everything is going to proceed smoothly. To experience this kind of clarity in our own lives we must first be willing to submit to God’s direction. Then we must constantly seek the leading of the Holy Spirit. I do not think this is a day to day thing. I do think that we all come to forks in the road that require a decision on which direction to go. I also believe that there are times when either fork is pleasing to God. It is easy to decide when one of the forks is clearly not consistent with who God is and His desires for our lives. The challenging times are when both forks are good. It is times like this that we must seek God’s direction. I know this is not always true, but in my experience the better choice will generally be the one that is harder and requires more trust in God.
Paul illustrates this with a personal example. In verse 9 Paul associates a door for effective work with many opponents. This is not what I would think of as an open door. If I were to sit down and use any of a number of decision making methods I would regard opposition as a negative factor for a chosen direction. The stronger the opposition the more likely I would consider that option to be a closed door. To Paul opposition is an opportunity and a reason to stay. He is looking to the work God has for him to do and not focusing on those human opposition.
At the end of Acts 15 Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement over who to include on their mission team. The disagreement is strong enough that they decide to split up. In this passage we find another disagreement about direction. Paul thinks Apollos should travel to Corinth, probably with the church members who are carrying this letter back there. Apollos strongly disagrees that this would be what God would have him do. He is determined to stay where he is and later go to Corinth. Paul is an apostle and Apollos is not. Yet, it seems clear that Paul exercises no authority over Apollos. Both men are striving to follow God’s leading and at this point they see that differently. I am not sure why Paul even shares this difference of opinion. It is possible that he wants to reassure the Corinthians of his desire to provide them with support?
Where are most challenged to seek God’s direction?