“But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.” (Acts 18:21, AV)
In 1987, my employment in the Chicago area was terminated. The company gave me a decent severance package of three months pay. So, I began the job search. I sent out about 200 resumes all over the United States. I only had one prerequisite. I would never go to Savannah Georgia, and I would never work for Union Camp Corporation. The reason was that I had a bad experience when my former employer attempted to sell them a printing press. After two and a half months, I began to get nervous. I had not yet found a job. So, I called someone in Minneapolis and asked if they knew of anything. The person with whom I spoke told me to call Vince at Union Camp Corporation in Savannah Georgia. Two weeks later I was working for them in Savannah. While we have plans, the will of the Lord prevails.
Paul makes a statement that echoes this sentiment. Remember that Paul on his second missionary tour determined to preach in the province of Asia, but he was forbidden by the Spirit to do so (Acts 16:6-8). Instead, he ends up going to Macedonia. However, later he ministers in Ephesus, a city in the province of Asia. The Jews in Ephesus asked him to stay and speak further. However, Paul apparently understood it was the will of the Lord for him to leave for Jerusalem. However, on Paul’s third missionary journey, he visited Ephesus again and had a period of extended ministry there (Acts 19).
The point is this. Sometimes, we make plans and they do not seem to work out the way we desire. Paul had a desire in his heart for ministry in Asia, but the Lord’s timing was different from his. In Proverbs we read, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, AV). There are a couple things to note here.
First, while often believers have a sincere desire to serve the Lord in a particular way, it is the Lord who directs how this will happen. The Lord opens and shuts doors of opportunity, determining the size and scope of one’s ministry, and where that ministry shall be accomplished.
Second, the Lord orchestrates this according to His own perfect timeframe. Paul wanted to minister the word in Asia but was prevented from doing so on his timeframe. The Lord had a different timeframe for Paul in Asia. It is the same for us. We may have a desire for ministry in a timeframe that makes sense to us. However, it is the Lord who determines the time and place for everything.
My move to Savannah Georgia was one that I did not immediately choose. However, it was of the Lord. I had a desire to serve the Lord in my heart, and it was in Savannah that the Lord had me attend an extension seminary, receive a call to the pastorate and plant a small church. I had devised my way, but the Lord directed my steps.
We must avoid trying to bust doors for ministry open according to our plans. When you try to bust open a door, like you see those in the movies doing so with their shoulder, you will experience a very sore shoulder. You may get the door open, but experience great struggles on the other side. We need to learn the fine art of following the Lord’s leading, being patient and prayerfully waiting on Him to open the door for us. When we see the door open, it will be in that particular place where we will see Him at work. In that case it is for us to join in what He is doing.