Formations lesson for May 13: Led by the Spirit
April 27 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Acts 16:6-15

Formations lesson for May 13: Led by the Spirit | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Formations lesson for May 13: Led by the Spirit

By F. Calvin Parker Acts 16:6-15 One of the greatest blessings of the Christian life is guidance from above. "For all who are led by the Spirit of God," Paul declares, "are children of God" (Rom. 8:14). The context of this verse stresses that we are not slaves but children who voluntarily submit to God's will for our lives. Paul is a prime example of one who carried out his appointed mission in obedience to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Stop, look and listen (Acts 16:6-8) Last week's lesson focused on Paul's boldness in preaching. No danger, no threat to his life, could hush him. This week we learn that he was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." Imagine being silenced by the very One who sent you out to preach! And when Paul attempted to go into Bithynia, the Spirit blocked the way. Apparently there is such a thing as negative guidance from the Lord.

I well remember the most difficult part of my adjustment as a freshman missionary and language school student in Tokyo. During the previous three years I had preached twice every Sunday without a break, and often on weekdays. Now I sat in a pew each Lord's day while a Japanese pastor did the preaching. I felt with Jeremiah (20:9) that "there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." Occasionally I preached through an interpreter, but not until I could express myself freely in Japanese did I gain relief.

An inhibition against speaking the word must have been agony to Paul as well. How God's "No preaching allowed here!" was conveyed to him, whether by inner compulsion or outward sign, is not revealed. What we do know is that a public witness for Christ can be counterproductive, that some occasions call for quiet and restraint. We know that doors of opportunity open and then shut again - that right timing is crucial in evangelistic work.

Seeing a need (Acts 16:9-12) In Troas, Paul saw a vision of a man who urged, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." To Paul and his companions (Silas, Timothy and probably Luke), the man's appeal was a convincing call from God. This vision has since been repeated thousands of times. Clarence E. Macartney told of a young American surgeon who saw what looked like a map of Africa, out of which was stretched the gruesome arm and hand of a leper. Overcoming his natural repugnance, the doctor reached out to clasp the proffered hand. This dramatic vision drew him to Ethiopia, where he opened a hospital for lepers.

My own life-changing vision was an objective experience. Soon after World War II, when I had completed the Army's Japanese language course, I did patrol duty on a ship anchored near Seattle. The half-starved Japanese crewmen told me of their shattered hopes and dreams of loved ones killed and homes destroyed. How pitiful those men looked! What pictures of despair! After 55 years I can still see those emaciated sailors beckoning me to Japan. It was a vision I had to obey.

Women to the fore (Acts 16:13-15) The first Christian convert in Europe was a successful businesswoman who attended Jewish prayer services beside the river Gangites. Lydia was baptized with her household, possibly in that river. She is one of several women - among them Dorcas, Priscilla and the four prophesying daughters of Philip - who are recognized in Acts for their significant role in the spread of the gospel. The author highlights the truth that God pours out his Spirit on women and men alike, that women no less than men are led by the Spirit.

The Lydia in my own ministry is a diminutive farm woman named Akira Mizukura. She invited me to conduct services at her home in the town of Ono and became the first convert there. When my wife and I visited Japan last year, 83-year-old Mizukura greeted us warmly and flourished a picture of me baptizing her in the Asuwa River 42 years ago. Today she is an honored pillar in her church.

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Acts 16:6-15 | with 0 comments
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