Follow the Leader



Paul was a man on a mission.  Why wouldn’t he be?  He was commissioned by God.  God chose Him, told Him what to do, and empowered Him.  Paul committed to God’s plan and got it done.  He was a doer and he pursued God’s plan with boldness and tireless passion.
The sobering truth is God also commissioned us…

Maybe we see Paul as a superhero, or, humanly speaking, a really, extraordinary person.  The one-of-a-kind guy we’re tempted to emulate using the social media shortcut.  He’s a luminary we might celebrate in history books, but maybe not the type we’d ever attempt to become ourselves.  He’s just too far off the charts.  I mean, it’s nice to dream, but we’re not Jesus, right?

No, we’re not Jesus and we really are severely handicapped when it comes to living as He did.  We are “prone to wander…to leave the God [we] love,” as Hymnodist Robert Robinson penned in 1757 (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing).  But Paul, though human like us, somehow took big steps for God – forgot what was behind and pressed on to win the prize God had in store for him (Philippians 3:13-14).
We have not arrived and, if you’re like me, we have a long way to go.  But we can follow Paul’s lead.  He invites us.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters,
and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.
Philippians 3:17

When we think we can’t be like Paul, remember the Holy Spirit is with us.  Always.
Jesus had to leave the earth, but He didn’t walk away from us.  He gave us someone like Him – someone who can help us in better ways than Jesus Himself.  He gave us an all-purpose helper named the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: 
it is to your advantage that I go away,
for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. 
But if I go, I will send him to you.
John 16:7 (ESV)

When I was young, I dreamed of running my own business.  A phrase I remember from those days:
Don’t let the start stop you.

When Paul met Jesus on his way to Damascus, he didn’t let the start stop him.  When Jesus halted him with a new mission, he made an about-face.  Others may have refused to believe his new agenda, or maybe even turned up their noses toward him, but Paul didn’t give up.  Instead, he let the Holy Spirit do his mighty work through him, a willing vessel (Acts 9:17, 21:13).

On what new adventure does God want us to embark?



God nudged me for about 6 months before I finally took the step to start a Bible study at work.  I work in a metropolitan area where even talking about the Bible is unpopular, but there were a few Christians in the office who agreed to be part of our core group.  That was 8 ½ years ago.
It didn’t take long for colleagues to catch wind of what we were doing, and to discover I was leading the whole endeavor.  Funny thing, as a result, I was sometimes asked to give thanks for the food at celebrations.  Every time it happened, I was caught off guard, but what a great opportunity to acknowledge God’s presence and compassion in the company of those who may not know Him.

I followed our Holy Spirit’s lead and I began to recognize His interaction.  One day, just hours before our Bible study, the Spirit led me to modify what I had already prepared for discussion.  It worked out well, despite my nerves, and I then realized I was leading God’s Bible study, not my own.  He determines the subject matter and He guides the discussions.  He also ushers the right people through the doors.  He does this through the fruitful work of the Holy Spirit.
Of the many reasons not to have this Bible study, I was uneasy about the fact that some of the members had much more Bible knowledge and teaching experience than I had.  But knowing that it was God’s study and that the Holy Spirit was directing the work, I was able to proceed with assurance.

God has been blessing us in our studies.  With very few cancellations, we met in a place of business some 400 times, and we have no plans of stopping.

But there’s more.  As I continued to follow the Spirit’s lead, God opened doors to other ministries that I’d never imagined.  He’s allowing me to teach as a writer – to some whom I already know and to many whom I don’t.  I even made a few friends through this amazing world of writing that I never before considered as a way of life for me.  How exciting is that!

What doors is God opening for you?
How have you seen the Holy Spirit work through your willingness to follow His lead?
Share your story in the comments below.  I look forward to reading it.

Maybe He’s still asking you to take that first step.  The Holy Spirit walks with us, emblazing each humble stride, as He did with Paul.  While God clears our paths, the Spirit guides and comforts us.  He fills in the gaps, and He does this for anyone who follows His lead.  He wants to.  (See John 14:26-27, 16:13; Acts 4:31; Galatians 5:16-18, 22-23; Psalm 32:8-10.)

Don’t let the start stop you.

Let’s press on, like Paul, and, with humility, let the Holy Spirit lead.  God designed special, prize-worthy paths for each one of us.  Each chapter is a growing adventure, just like it was for Paul:
“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 
First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem
and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles,
I preached that they should repent and turn to God
and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds…”
Paul in Acts 26:19-20



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Comments

  1. I was just pondering today how every human life is unique. And I love your concept of each of us walking our God-ordained paths.

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    1. That's wonderful. I love how God gives us something to think about, then fills it out with complimentary thoughts to broaden our scope. Thank you for reading and seeking God's unique path for you.

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  2. I love this statement. "Don't let the start stop you." How many times have I chose not to try something new because of the fear of the unknown? I know God has a plan for my life. There is a lot to be learned from Paul.

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    1. Yes. I've definitely had a lot of stopped starts in favor of my comfort zone. But God's unknown is exciting when we fix our eyes on Him. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. What a great encouragement to follow the commission the Lord gave us! Well done, Stephen! My calling has run backward of what you describe. Initially, I served the Lord in all the ways you describe. I led women's bible studies, served in a pro-life clinic, and went into the prison each week to serve there. I wrote our church's Bible study material, co-led our women's ministry, and met for Bible study with other women. I started a Christian blog. I also began writing Christian fiction for the marketplace. Then an illness struck me down in 2013, and it proved to be chronic and squashed my high energy level, changing the shape of my life and how the Lord now intends for me to serve. My focus now is writing the content the Lord gives me to blog about each week, and in continuing to write fiction that proclaims God's love and mercy. That's it. To me, it feels like a small offering, but in actuality it takes more out of me than all the other did when I was healthy. I also draw ever closer to the Lord during this more confined period of my life. The key, as you stated so well, is to follow the Lord's leading, which will be unique for each one of us, for we are each uniquely created by and for him. Your post is a great encouragement to believers to do just that - let the Lord use you where you are!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Melindal. You remind me that, even in difficulties, God has the right place for us - the right and blessed place. I'm glad you are able to write for Him.

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  4. I love what you are doing at work, leading a Bible Study where it may not be welcomed. Yet you obeyed. Such a missional focus! I pray God continues to reward you for your obedience to Him. I also loved The part where you allowed the Holy Spirit to modify what you had planned in your study. I’m learning to allow the Holy Spirit to lead me and to change my course if need be. This is total reliance upon Him and, in my opinion, gives Him the most glory! Great post, Stephen!

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Marcie. Letting the Spirit lead is definitely a process and I miss the nudges far too often. But when God graciously allows me to notice, it's pretty amazing. God bless you in your ministry.

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  5. This is amazing! Congratulations on your successful Bible study. Thanks for sharing your success story with us. That's always encouraging.

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    1. Thank you. I'm encouraged by your words. God is gracious to walk alongside us as we serve Him. Praise God for His guidance and care.

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  6. What an encouraging example, your Bible study at work. I like the idea of special prize-worthy paths being designed for each of us. That's an interesting concept. Thank you for being faithful to God's call.

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    1. Yes, each one of us can do what God wants of us because He designed our paths especially for us. Puts an interesting spin on His leading and interaction with us. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. Yes, when we listen and take those (often scary...) steps toward listening to God's direction, I'm always amazed at how other doors open and the path seems more and more clear. Thanks for sharing your story!

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    1. Yes, thanks for saying. And those other doors are often confirmation that we are going the right direction. Thank God for that.

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  8. I think it’s fascinating that you say Paul invites us. This really makes the Bible the “living word” over just a book from long ago, what an amazing way to look at it.

    Jessie
    Your Story Matters
    www.onelostcoin.com

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    1. Yes. God gave us a very personal Word and it knows how to speak to each of us, collectively and individually. Thank you for your comment.

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  9. I found your blog so encouraging especially loved your comment, don’t let the start stop you. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by thinking of how to start something, like your bible study. But if we give it to God to follow His timing, one step at a time and with lots of prayers, it will happen as God ordained.

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    1. Yes. I love this. Just get in and take the (often many) steps we know we're to take, and enjoy how God makes it all work out. Thank you for your encouraging words.

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  10. I like these thoughts, Stephen. I have seen it in my own life that what you say is true. I often let a poor or difficult start stop what God was doing. I'm a doer. I thrive on accomplishment and success. Even more than that I thrive on validation from people. Unfortunately it makes me very self-conscious about speaking out of turn, and I'm kind of cowardly. Right now I'm taking a season out of church ministry. I'm only just now easing back in after moving. What I hear the Lord asking me to do is to focus on following him, and he'll let me know what the next step is. It's not up to me. In the past when I've finally given him the reins, he's never failed to lead me where I was needed. Thanks for the encouragement today!

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    1. Thank you, Chip, for sharing a piece of your heart and your story. After a very systematic church search some 10 or 12 years ago, we spent a season outside of church ministry. It's a different kind of season of hearing God's direction, and ultimately rewarding. I'm glad you are hearing Him and letting Him lead. God gives us interesting, sometimes difficult, and exciting journeys. God bless your next steps.

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  11. Hey Stephen,

    The phrase, "Don't let the start stop you" is so powerful. It never stopped Paul and didn't stop your Bible study at work. So amazing by the way.

    One door God opened in my life is the answer to a prayer I prayed last year. I asked to Lord to broaden my scope of influence in my speaking ministry to include audiences with unbelievers. And a few weeks later, I was asked to speak at a Walmart Women's Leadership Conference for a market sector (eight stores) in my area. About 60 people attended including eight men (managers). I boldly shared the gospel and have already been asked to speak again this year the end of October.

    I never take the calling of God or the Spirit lightly. So thankful to be used.

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    1. What a very cool door, Karen. When we come to God with a humble and open heart, He gives us opportunities to sow and reap. I love it, and I love that they invited you back. Praise God for that.

      Thank you for sharing your story. It's encouraging to read.

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  12. Hi Stephen, it’s true that at times Paul may seem to be like a superhero of faith. I serve the Lord in my little way of writing Christian devotionals and recently preaching recorded sermons and posting them up online for my followers. I’m encouraged by what you shared about how God gave you a new message to share that was different from what you prepared, and you obediently followed the prompting of the Spirit even though you may have felt like you weren’t in control anymore. That’s something I aim to do: if the Holy Spirit prompts me to share something different from what I have prepared for my next sermon, I want to have the spiritual sensitivity to His voice so that I can obey and share the word as led by the Lord. God bless your Bible study and I pray that He increases the favor and harvest of souls through this ministry of yours!

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    1. Hi Milton. I'm glad you are encouraged. It's certainly God's message we deliver and nothing changes about that. But I love how our approach may differ depending on our audience and how the Holy Spirit is perfectly aware of what is best. Nowadays, I usually deliver what I put on paper knowing that the Holy Spirit has already helped me write it down. This is confirmed by the things that come to mind and the Scripture He leads me to while I prepare, among other things. It's all about God and not at all about us. I will certainly pray for your ministry as well during this week. God bless you and those in your care.

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