RedirectionJanuary 22, 2019 • John Lathrop
The Lord has given each of us a mind. Every day we use it to make decisions, some of these decisions are made with hardly a thought, and others are more deliberate. Generally speaking we try to make good decisions, that is, we try to make decisions that are best for ourselves and for the people we care about. In the decision making process we draw upon, information we have read in books, instructions we have received from others, lessons we have learned from observing the lives of others, and the practical lessons we have learned as we have lived our own life (drawing upon both our successes and failures).
For the Christian, and perhaps especially for the Pentecostal Christian, we understand that our intellect and logic, as good as they are, are not always to be the deciding voice in the decisions that we make. Before going further let me say that I am not against education or logic; I do not subscribe to an anti-intellectual viewpoint. As Christians, we are to use our minds but we are also to be people of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells us (1 Cor. 6:19) and empowers us (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:1-11) and we are to cooperate with Him in every way. Indeed, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), not just at one point in our experience but throughout our life. We are not to grieve Him (Eph. 4:30) or quench Him (1 Thess. 5:19). We are to be led by Him (Rom 8:14) and allow Him to create godly character in us. He does this by putting to death sin in us (Rom. 8:13) and replacing it with the qualities God wants us to have (Gal. 5:22-23). Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time realizes how essential the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to living and ministering effectively.
If a person is truly filled with the Holy Spirit we might think that they should always be certain of what they are supposed to do. However, this is not always the case. I am not saying that the Lord does not provided His children with a knowledge of His will for us or direct us even very specifically at times. Scripture is clear that the Lord has indeed given very explicit directions to various individuals (Acts 8:26-29; 9:11-12). What I am saying is that there are times, even for Spirit-filled believers, when, in spite of their best intentions and decisions they are redirected by the Lord.
In order to demonstrate this, I will draw upon the experiences of two men in the New Testament. Both of these men were Jews, both at one time did not believe that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, both became disciples of Jesus and both were filled with the Holy Spirit. The two men I am referring to are Saul of Tarsus, whom we know better as the apostle Paul, and Jude, who wrote the short book that we find right before the book of Revelation in our New Testament. We will take a brief look at the experiences of each of these individuals beginning with Jude.
It is commonly believed that Jude was one of the brothers of Jesus (Matt: 13:56). This would definitely make him Jewish because his parents, Joseph and Mary, were both Jews, in fact, Joseph is specifically identified as being from the house and lineage of David (Luke 2:4). During the earthly ministry of Jesus His brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5). However, Jude did have a change of heart about Jesus. We know this because he was among those in the prayer meeting in the upper room that took place just before the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 1:14). The text clearly tells us that the brothers of Jesus were there. Jude was also among those who were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4). In the brief letter that bears his name he tells us he had intended to write to the recipients of his letter about the salvation that they shared in common, but he felt he had to write about a different topic (v.3). He felt he had to urge his readers to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints (v. 3); Jude sensed a need to change his topic, in short, he felt redirected. He does not tell us how he came to this conclusion. It could have been that he became aware of a pressing need among the people he was addressing, or the Spirit could have clearly spoken to him about this. We believe that all of the writers of Scripture wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So Jude obeyed what he sensed. The Lord wanted the message he penned delivered to first century believers and He also thought it was important enough to preserve for subsequent generations of Christians. So the Lord had what Jude wrote included in the New Testament to inform and instruct the church in later church history. Thankfully Jude accepted and obeyed the redirection that he felt. If he had written what he had originally intended, we do not know if that letter would have been included in Scripture or not.
Paul also was a man who experienced some redirection. Like Jude, he was a Jew (Acts 21:39; Phil. 3:5) and was also at one time an unbeliever, indeed a very hostile one (Acts 8:1; Gal. 1:13; Tim. 1:13). He became a believer in Jesus through a very powerful encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. Paul was also filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). He ministered to some Gentiles in Acts 11 and was later called to devote most of his ministry to cross-cultural missions in Acts 13, a call he obeyed. He had experienced the Holy Spirit and submitted himself to the leadership of the Spirit in his life and ministry. In Acts 16 we find him come up against a wall regarding his ministry. The Spirit of God would not allow him to go into a couple of areas that he was trying to enter. Surely Paul thought he was obeying the Lord, surely he had good logical reasons for attempting to go into these areas, but the Lord would not allow it. Then Paul received a supernatural experience, a vision in the night, which led him and his companions into Macedonia. He was a man who was spiritually “plugged in” and yet in Acts 16 he had to be redirected.
So there are biblical precedents for redirections, even for Spirit-filled believers. We see this in our day as well. Contemporary examples might include a pastor in the middle of a service feeling led to preach on a topic other than the one they would address in the sermon that he or she had prepared for that day. Or a worship leader sensing the need to sing a particular song that was not originally intended to be included in that service.
These examples demonstrate that as servants of God, who are filled with His Spirit, there may be times when He redirects us. We are to be diligent and faithful in carrying out our ministries, preparing adequately for them, but we must also be flexible and allow the Lord to change our plans in order for Him to work His plans through us. The Lord knows who we are ministering to, what their needs are, and how best to meet them through us. If we are obedient to His promptings it can be done. Let us be true co-laborers with God!