We are now moving into the 24th chapter of Acts. Before we actually begin this chapter let me review some of the last two chapters because the very directly tie into this one. If you remember, the Lord told Paul to go to Jerusalem, but that there would be trouble when he got there. A few people prophesied the same thing repeatedly, so his friends tried desperately to get him to change his mind and not go.
But once Paul set his heart to go to Jerusalem, there was to be no turning back, even when his best friends urged him not to go. The Spirit had frequently revealed to Paul and others that suffering and prison was waiting for him there, but Paul would not be turned back from what he believed to be his calling.
Let me give you some example how this can look. Back in 1984, we had visited a church in Ann Arbor and I was so impressed with the fellowship and the Pastors of that church. Later that year, I began to hear the Lord telling us to move across the state, to Ann Arbor to become members of that church. To be honest, I was hesitant. A friend of mine and I had begun a church; it was growing and I would often be asked to minister at other churches; people would come and stay at our house for a time. I felt the “Lord’s work” was doing just fine that way it was. I did not see any reason he needed me to move across the state. Little did I know, He was much wiser than I was.
This “sense,” these “leadings,” continued to grow increasingly stronger and more pronounced. It became quite obvious to me that we were to move, but I will be honest, I did not want to. The move would force me out of my “comfort zone.” During that time, there were several nights when I could not sleep. Ordinarily I have no trouble sleeping; I felt guilty everytime I preached and no longer felt any “presence,” or anointing on my teaching.
My conscience was hurting. Our conscience is the “voice” of our spirit, and my spirit knew I was not listening to it.
Finally, one night I was lying there quietly and I said, “Lord, if you want us to move to Ann Arbor, we will. I will be honest and tell you that I do not want to, but I do not want to stand in your way, either. You are my Lord and I will obey and follow your direction . . .” Then on the inside of me, I heard that “still small voice.”
Now I am not talking about the Spirit of God speaking. When the Holy Spirit speaks, it is more authoritative. That still small voice is the voice of our own spirit speaking. However, our own spirit receives its guidance from the Holy Spirit, who is in us.
That still small voice, that inward voice, not authoritative, just something on the inside of me said, “I am going to send you there for your growth and enrichment . . .” I also heard that there would be many troubles and trials while there—frankly, that it would be an extremely difficult time for us. Well that certainly excited me (not). It was like when God told Abraham to go to Egypt, “and oh, by the way, while you are there your descendants will become slaves and it will be real rough for them.” But Abraham went . . . and so did I. That was back in 1985, so we has been over almost 26 years now, and I did eventually understand—at least a little—why and what his intentions were for the move . . . the rest is still unfolding for me.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts