The Pinball Life of Paul: How To Respond When Life Doesn't Go Your Way

We all ask the dreaded question WHY when life goes differently than we expected. You are not alone. 

Renee spent over a year bonding with her team and building a love for this country. She worked hard to raise support and get all of her paperwork together.  She prayed and prayed and then prayed some more.  She sold possessions including her car.  She struggled through the emotions of having to say goodbye to family and friends.  She mentally prepared herself to live in a different culture vastly different than her own.  She was set and ready to leave.

Renee was following God’s leading to move overseas and become a mentor for Cafe 1040, fulfilling passions and dreams He had placed there years before. Then, the news came.  Due to factors outside of her control, she was barred from going to our South Asia base.

Have you ever experienced a burning passion?  A good desire to glorify God with your life only to have it changed in an instant?  This is how Renee felt.

Sometimes in the Christian life, God decides to throw us an unforeseen curveball.  This happened quite frequently to the Apostle Paul in Acts.  When I heard of Renee’s heartache, I thought about Acts 16:

[Paul and Silas] passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden in the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.  A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  When he had seen this vision, immediately [they] sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called [them] to preach the gospel to them.

Paul’s journeys often ended up with him moving like a pinball around the world.  Paul wanted to preach the gospel to Asia.  Later, he wanted again to head east to a place called Bithynia (in modern day Turkey).  Each time, the Holy Spirit stopped them and redirected them toward the west.

God works in mysterious ways.  He changes our plans in a moment.  When we keep trying to push east, His spirit may lead us west instead.  Thankfully, Paul listened to the Holy Spirit’s direction.  Because he went west, he met Lydia, who became the first convert in Europe.  Paul continued to preach throughout Europe sowing the seeds of the Gospel throughout the Roman world.  How different history would have been if Paul had gone east instead of west.

Just like Paul, Renee’s good desire to head east was changed when the Sovereign Lord redirected her.  She now has a new passion to mobilize and mentor students with Cafe 1040.  We don’t know how the Lord will use Renee yet.  The wounds are still fresh.  However, through her obedience to His leading, we pray that it will be as glorious an outcome as when he led Paul to turn toward Europe and spark the Christianization of the Western world. 

Sometimes when we follow the Spirit’s leading, we end up living like the pinball life of Paul.

This post if part of a series called the 1st Principles of the 1st Church. The book of Acts describes the 1st Century of the Church.  Led by those who had seen the risen Jesus and empowered by the Spirit of God, they multiplied from a small band of mostly Jewish disciples to a massive “Way” and eventually to a world religion.  We desire to see such multiplication and Kingdom advancement in our generation.  Thankfully, we have the Word of God to guide us through discovering the basic principles that drove the success of the early church.  Join us as we learn from Acts how to partner with God’s Kingdom work.