Seeking God's Will in Big Decisions, post 2

Last week I posted the first installment on "seeking God's will in big decisions." In that post, I wanted to establish that we do first things first. And if we are going to make decisions with God, first things are waiting on God in a humble posture of praying and fasting. Once you establish that foundation, what comes next? For me, and based on my research, it involves looking at our history. Specifically, we seek to "see God in our story." Why? Because what God is going to do in the next chapter of my (or our) story is based on what he has already done in the previous chapters.

Look at the apostle Paul. He is commissioned along with Barnabas to begin a mission to the Gentiles in Acts 13. What we might not appreciate is that there was quite a backstory that led to his commissioning. Here are the highlights:
  • His calling (Acts 9:16): Saul is sitting in a room in Damascus, blinded and dealing with the shocking reality that Jesus really is Lord and master. Jesus comes to Ananias in a dream and asks him to go baptize Saul. When Ananias objects, Jesus replies, "This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel." 
  • His first connection with Barnabas (Acts 9:26-30): Most Christians thought Saul's conversion was just a ruse so he could infiltrate their community and persecute them further. Who took Saul to Jerusalem and defended him to the disciples? Barnabas. 
  • The Holy Spirit falls on Gentiles (Acts 10): The plot line of Acts turns when Peter goes to preach at the Gentile Cornelius' house, and the Holy Spirit falls on the Gentiles. God's intention is to bring in people from all nations, and the church now will have to play catch up. 
  • The first Gentile revival in Antioch (Acts 11:19-21): Some Christians had relocated from Jerusalem to Antioch (a significant city up the Mediterranean coast) during a recent wave of persecution. In Antioch, they began preaching the gospel about Jesus to the Greeks, and many Greeks believed. It was a revival that took the church by surprise. 
  • Barnabas goes to Antioch (Acts 11:22-24): Wanting to see what is happening in Antioch, the church, which is headquartered in Jerusalem, sends Barnabas. Barnabas endorses the authenticity of the Gentile revival in Antioch. 
  • Barnabas brings Saul to Antioch (Acts 11:25): This is an interesting twist in the story. Seeing that a genuine Gentile revival has erupted in Antioch, Barnabas goes to get Saul, who has been in his hometown of Tarsus. Why did Barnabas want to get Saul? He associated Saul with evangelizing Gentiles. Maybe Ananias had told others what Jesus had said about Saul's calling. For whatever reason, Barnabas showed up at Saul's house and told him, "You have to come and see what is happening in Antioch!" 
  • Saul and Barnabas become ministry partners: Saul goes to Antioch with Barnabas, and the two of them teach around town for a year (Acts 11:26). Then the church in Antioch sends a financial gift to the church in Jerusalem, which is carried there by Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:30). After making the delivery, Barnabas and Saul return to Antioch (Acts 12:25). 
This is the backstory as recorded in the book of Acts. All of these events lie behind the commissioning of Barnabas and Saul in Acts 13:1-3, "Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off."

The point is, God's sending out of Barnabas and Saul (who would soon become the famous apostle Paul) didn't come out of nowhere. It was a story God had been writing for a while. It might have been true that no one would have predicted God to do things this way. But when it happened, they could look at the backstory and seen that it made sense.

What story is God writing in your life? What has he been doing? Where might it lead? Approaching these questions prayerfully and with open hearts can lead us into a better place from which to discern his will.

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