“When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, but took leave of them, saying, ‘I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.’ And he sailed from Ephesus” (Acts 18:20,21).
PAUL HAD WISHES AND MADE PLANS, AS WE ALL DO, BUT HIS PLANS WERE ALWAYS TENTATIVE. What he wanted to happen was always contingent on what God’s will turned out to be. “I will return again to you,” he said to the people in Ephesus, “God willing.” Paul had turned everything about his life and work over to God, and having done that, he really believed that whatever happened to him was God’s will. So he had ideas now and then, but he would wait to see how God would write the actual story.
In these latter days, God does not speak personally and directly to us; He speaks to us through His written word. So we would not expect audible messages directly from God explaining to us what His will is for our personal lives. Yet we do not need to receive such messages. If we have committed ourselves to Him, we can trust that whatever comes our way is coming from Him.
And bear in mind that this includes the obstacles as well as the opportunities. When we turn everything over to God and ask Him to set the agenda for us completely, some of the agenda that He sets will involve pain and suffering. He knows we need some difficulty, and He loves us too much to protect us from what we need. So we may face some situations and ask, “How could this have come from God?” But more good than we realize may come from the “useless” and “unpromising” situations that He puts us into.
In all cases, we must trust that the story of our lives is being written by God — and we should be content with the story as He writes it. There will be unexpected turns in the plot. There will be unwelcome events, at least from our perspective. The true story may turn out to be very different from the scenario of our dreams.
But my friends, let us resist the temptation to take the pen out of God’s hand and write the story ourselves. Let us rather wait and see how it all comes out. “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26).
“God engineers our circumstances as he did those of his Son; all we have to do is to follow where he places us. The majority of us are busy trying to place ourselves. God alters things while we wait for him” (Oswald Chambers).