Today’s scripture readings are an interesting mix. In Acts, Paul addresses the people of Athens, who have a shrine to an unknown God. Paul is a smooth talker and the audience is with him until he mentions the word resurrection. Then they scoff. I think Paul would have preferred beatings, stones or prison. The Psalmist calls on everything in heaven and earth to praise the Lord. And in the Book of John, Christ tells the disciples that the Spirit of truth will be coming to guide them.
I always find the disciples encouraging. Whenever I think that I’m disappointing God. Whenever I think that God must be frustrated with me. Whenever I think that I’m slow and not understanding what God wants me to do. I just look at the disciples. I mean, they were really slow. They walked, ate and slept with Jesus and they still didn’t get it. And yet, Jesus loved them. He was patient with them. Despite all their failings, Christ chose them to take the Good News into the world. And, as usual, Christ’s choice was right.
How did the disciples do it? How can we do it? How can we know if we are doing God’s will? Where do we get our affirmation? Why is it important? Where do we get our guidance?
God’s guidance comes in many forms. Scripture, prayer, the Holy Spirit, people, tradition, life experience, events, wisdom. Some people can tell you the year, day and hour that they were born again. Paul was knocked to the ground and blinded. For most of us, God’s guidance is more subtle. Sometimes I’m envious of those who receive a push instead of a nudge. However, to be honest, if the Holy Spirit placed a size 12 sandal in the small of my back and said, “Dan O’Reilly, this is the direction you are going and then pushed”, I’m betting I’d veer off in another direction. When I’m asking God a question, His silence can be frustrating. Sometimes I wonder if the silence is God saying, “I did not create a mindless robot, I gave you a brain and a heart; what do you think?”
My wife teases me that I cannot say a prayer without uttering the words guidance and direction. I am always asking for guidance and direction. One would think I am chronically lost. And, in a way, I guess I am. At least I am always searching.
One area where I’ve been looking for guidance is teaching. I’ve been teaching Sunday School for decades. Literally. I’m getting a little burned out and it seems the kids know more about the Bible than I do. I’ve been questioning how effective I am and whether someone else should be doing this. I’ve been asking for some direction.
A few weeks ago, I welcomed a new student into my class. The first question out of this young man’s mouth was, “What makes Jesus so special?” Great, a smart aleck. However, as the discussion progressed, I realized the question had been asked in earnest. I talked to the dad after class and discovered that this young man had led a tough life and his parents were now at the end of a bitter divorce and custody fight. As sad as I was for this young man’s circumstances, I realized that God had placed a gift in my hands. What an opportunity. To introduce a child to Christ. I often think that God put children in my life more to help me grow than for me to help them grow. What a great teacher our God is, and what a joy when he uses children to guide His people.
My prayer today is for all of us seeking to do the will of God. For everyone who is searching for guidance and direction, that God would hear us and bless our efforts.
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