Acts 13:4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.
This was the start of what are called Paul’s missionary journeys. One striking characteristic of how Luke records them, and indeed all of Acts, is how frequently the Holy Spirit is mentioned as guiding or directing things. For some people today that seems highly improbable, or unlikely at best, but they are simply going on the basis of their own experience. For others, likewise on the basis of their own experience, it seems totally normal. So what’s the difference? To hear and receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit there needs to be a prior commitment to obedience. He isn’t going to give you guidance He knows you aren’t going to follow! Sometimes His guidance takes the form of specific prophecy. That might seem easy to follow, but I have seen people make major mistakes that way, either because they missed the timing of what was said or because the “prophet” was actually speaking their own thoughts rather than the heart of God. Directive prophecy must always be prayed over and confirmed. More often, the Holy Spirit will open doors of opportunity. There too discernment is called for, because the devil loves to dress up his temptations as doors of opportunity. Sometimes we miss the genuine guidance of the Holy Spirit because we either are afraid to go through the door He has opened or we think we aren’t worthy, it’s “too good.” In both cases the problem is that our focus is on ourselves rather than on Jesus. We are never “worthy” apart from the grace of God, and He will always provide and protect in the path He has for us. In my experience, the Holy Spirit most often guides simply through an impression, which can grow to a conviction, a “knowing,” of what He wants us to do. Sometimes that might fit in the category of a “word of wisdom,” as Paul mentions in talking about the grace gifts of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) The point is, if we expect the Holy Spirit to guide us and are committed to following His guidance, we will find our paths are straight indeed. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I have experienced the Holy Spirit’s guidance many times, but I can’t say I’ve always been listening. I can say that when I have listened obediently it’s always turned out well in the long run, whatever it has looked like in the short run. One thing the Lord has used to train me in listening has been lane changes when driving. That seems utterly inconsequential, and often it is, but it is remarkable how smoothly I get through traffic when I’m listening rather than trying to figure things out on my own. The value of that as a training tool is that the consequences are so minor if I slip up, but it still teaches me to seek Him rather than depend on myself. I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten better at listening over the years, but I’ve still got plenty of room to grow!
Father, thank You for Your guidance. I deal with so many people who say they want Your guidance but are so full of themselves they can’t hear what You’re saying to them. I ask for grace and patience to keep speaking Your truth to them in love so that it may break through and set them free from the the traps of the enemy. May we all hear You obediently so that Your will may be done right here, even as it is in heaven, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!