Acts 5: 34-42
But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”
They were convinced by him, and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
John 6: 1-15
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
How do we know when we are being led by God? This is an age old question that most people, even those who don’t fully believe in God, wonder at some point in their life. If we are living in line with God’s word and commandments, then we can rest assured that the Lord’s will is being done to some extent in our lives. After that come the questions around vocation, career, ministry, and even hobbies. When these things are not going our way we can easily start to wonder if we are really being led by the Lord in these matters, or worse we can begin to question if God desires our happiness and well being.
Today’s readings give us a simple, three step process to discerning if a plan in your lives is being orchestrated by the Lord:
1.) If a plan is of the Lord, it will ultimately work out.
As a teacher of the law and avid observer of cultural dynamics, Gamaliel knew a thing or two. He recognized that the disciples were not the first to come into town proclaiming a message of power, but he also recognized that there was something different about them. Most likely because of his position teaching the law, he was scripturally sound and could recognize that their actions pointed to the Messiah. For us then, when we are in questions we should trace our actions back to the source of God’s word to test it. We should do a soul check and ask if we made a decision in an attempt to follow God, or our own earthly desires. If the roots are self-serving, it will fail. But if the roots are in God, than it will succeed despite whatever obstacles arise.
2.) Speaking of obstacles, God’s plan is not always linear and will require us to have faith in Him.
Before Jesus asked Philip about the practicalities of feeding the crowd, He already had a plan. But first and foremost, Jesus chose to disciple Philip in that moment and call upon him to place his trust in Him. God cares too much about our souls and our personal relationship with Him to let an opportunity to build our faith in Him go by. Since His ultimate plan is for us to be right relationship with Him, then as He fulfills His purposes for us, He will allow times of testing that challenge us and draw us closer to Him. A trial is not a sign that God isn’t working. It is an opportunity to seek Him, learn more about His character, and have that relationship take priority while He steps in and fulfills His will.
3.) It will require patience.
The psalm states, “wait for the Lord”. We only wait when we know something is coming, so to wait for the Lord is to be in a posture of expecting Him to act. The other element of waiting points to the reality that something has not yet happened. To wait for the Lord is to recognize that His plan has not yet been fulfilled, and to have faith that it will be.
At the end of the day, the most important thing that God cares about is us receiving His love for us. For the sake of our salvation, He may even delay fulfilling different parts of our lives until that comes into place. So when we wonder if God is leading us, we need to first check in and see if we are even open to Him leading us. As we hold our life plans with faithfulness and surrender, we can ask ourselves these questions:
1.) Does my life plan have roots in the scripture or in serving the Lord in some capacity?
2.) Are the trials that have risen up around it calling me to place my trust in God?
3.) Do I really believe that the Lord is good and will fulfill His plans for my life?
Today, let us deepen our dependency on the Lord and therefore allow His Holy Spirit to move us and guide us.
Prayer: Dear Lord, please help me to know your voice and your calling in my life. Lord I know that your care most about my relationship with you, so Lord help me to trust you and receive your love for me! I love you Lord and want to be closer to you today. Amen.