Let God Lead
Don’t fight change; if God is in it, change isn’t wrong.
Alright, thank you very much, and hello friends, how are you? You doing all right today? Well, I trust so, and I trust there’ll be some blessing in these few moments we spend together. I often refer to them as some of the sweetest fellowship this side of heaven, because it is fellowship around the Word of God and around the person and work of our blessed Lord. You and I are pretty uninteresting and drab when it comes right down to it, but we never get tired of being together, you and I, with our Lord.
This is really the secret of Christian fellowship. Have you ever thought of it that way? If you had to live with any given person all the time, you’d get pretty tired of him, or her, or them, but when we get together around our Lord, he then becomes the focal point, so to speak, of all of our thoughts and words and ideas and attention. That’s what John means when he says, “Our fellowship, yours and mine, is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” Ah, how beautiful, how wonderful, how blessed it is to have that kind of fellowship. That’s why I like these times together with you, because they’re times together with you, with him. Praise God.
Let’s look at the 15th chapter of Acts. We’re right in the middle of what happened when Paul and Barnabas decided they ought to go back and check on all these churches that they had started and see how these little baby churches were getting along. And we read in verse 37, I should say, verse 37 of Acts, chapter 15, Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. Small thought here: Whenever you make up your mind about something, you are bound to run into somebody else’s mind that has already also been made up.
Now, I’m not saying that you should be a kind of a wishy-washy person, never really knowing what you think, certainly not. You ought to have some convictions and you ought to know where you stand on things. But I’ve noticed this, that whenever I’ve made up my mind in advance of a situation, inevitably, I come into conflict with other people’s ideas. You wanna give that some thought and sort of try it on for size the next time, for example, you go to a deacons meeting, or to a Sunday school teachers and officers’ meeting, or to a committee meeting of some sort?
Whenever you’ve got your mind made up in advance that things have to go a certain way, well friend, I think you’re in for some sparks and some problems, because other people have their ideas too. Sometimes, sometimes, it is a very good idea to say, “Well, now, let me listen and see what other people have to say.” That doesn’t mean you have to do exactly as other people say, that doesn’t mean that you have to be a doormat, it only means that you are willing to listen to the other person’s point of view, and then you can pray together with that person and see what God would have you do.
I don’t find any record here that these men prayed together about this. They probably had a good many prayer meetings before, because it said they ministered to the Lord and fasted, so prayer and fasting was not unknown to them, but I don’t find any mention of it in this part of the record. Barnabas determined, Paul thought not good. So here you have the fact that great people do disagree. Now, as a matter of fact, over the years, God used this disagreement for his glory, and you can find groups all over the world that are prospering by the grace of God, even though they originated in a bitter argument and split in some church or denomination, and yet God reserves the right to bless people who disagree with each other.
And so it was that Barnabas was used of great blessing to John Mark, and he later became profitable, even to the apostle who had rejected him. Paul wrote at the end of his career, as you recall, “Take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” So God used Barnabas to reclaim, so to speak, the life of a young man who had once quit on the job. And so, I’m not really discussing what God was able to do with both of these men afterwards, that isn’t my point, and you understand that, don’t you? I’m simply pointing out that Barnabas made up his mind in advance, and the apostle Paul had his own strong feelings in advance, and when those two strong-minded people locked horns, so to speak, when they were faced with a frontal confrontation of ideas, well, something had to give, and what gave was their relationship.
Now, I don’t know whether it would have been any different had they called a prayer meeting, but anyhow, they didn’t, so far as the record is concerned. It says, “Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia and went not with them to the work.” He said, “Mark quit on us once, I’m not going to give him a chance to quit on us twice.” Now again, a small thought here about an index that you can use in your dealing with people. Whenever you find out a man is besetting sin, always after that, watch him at that point.
It doesn’t mean that you won’t love him, it doesn’t mean that you won’t use him, doesn’t mean that you won’t fellowship with him, but when you’re aware of the point at which he is apt to collapse, aside from the grace of God, then you’re aware of it, and you’re no longer gullible. At this point, in verse 38, Paul the apostle was using some very wise human principles. He said, “Mark quit once, he’s apt to quit again.” Now where his mistake was, was that he said, “I’m not gonna give him another chance.” You see, it’s one thing to be aware of human weakness. I think, really, you and I are obligated to be very much aware. There is no virtue in being gullible and naive, really, is there?
We’re to be child-like, not childish. What a difference; there is a difference between simple, uncomplicated, frontal, guileless faith in God. On one hand, that’s child-like faith. On the other hand, to be gullible, and naive, and artlessly trusting of everything that one hears, that’s childish. So I think that you and I are obligated to be aware of things and people and relationships as we go through life. But I think Paul’s mistake, if it were indeed a mistake, it was in saying, “He failed once, I’m not gonna give him a chance to fail twice.” Barnabas, on the other hand, said, “He failed once, but I’m gonna give him a chance to show that God can do something with a man who is disposed to quit under pressure.” There’s the difference.
History would seem to bear out the fact that Barnabas was right at this point, humanly speaking. The mistake that both of them made was in making up their minds ahead of time and just engaging in a confrontation from which there was no escape, except to separate from each other. As verse 39 says, “The contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other.” That word “contention” is our word “paroxysm.” The Greek word for contention here is the word from which we get our word “paroxysm,” they had fits. [laughter]
That’s some argument, isn’t it? [laughter] Well, it is possible, isn’t it, to disagree so thoroughly with another brother or sister that your blood pressure goes up, and the atmosphere gets very tense, and the only human, the only human alternative is simply to say, “Well, you go your way and I’ll go mine?” And sadly enough, this happens from time to time. It says, “The contention was so sharp between them, that they parted asunder one from the other,” and I was saying to you that if you allow a situation to develop where there’s a frontal confrontation, sometimes there is no exit from a situation like that, aside from saying, “Well, you go your way, and I’ll go mine.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. I have lived long enough to know that some situations which seemed to be impossible yielded to prayer, and patience, and love. And some situations which I tried with blundering fingers, so to speak, to fix and to repair and to bulldoze through, I only succeeded in doing a lot of damage, damage that had to be healed over the period of years of time, and the outpouring of God’s grace on people. So I know, I’ve been there.
I know, dear friend, that you don’t have to come to a place where you just say, “Well, I quit.” I know that you don’t have to make up your mind inflexibly in advance of any given discussion, and I know also, that if you give God a chance to lead, he will lead you. Now, there are times, evidently, when God allows people to go their separate ways for his own designs. Do remember, then, the change isn’t wrong if God is in it. If somebody decides to leave your church and go to another church, don’t grieve over it, bid him Godspeed, love him in the Lord, and let God bless him in the new relationship. Either he’ll be greatly blessed and you can rejoice, if your heart and motives are right, or else he’ll get lonesome and come back, and you can welcome him back and say, “Well, come on back.”
Either way, if you have kept your heart from bitterness, and acrimony, and all of the sad works of the flesh, then you are in shape to bless this person when he comes back, if he does. But don’t fight change, if God is in it, change isn’t wrong, and if people seek another place of fellowship or another place of Christian work, if you’re in a missionary society, or some other Christian institution, if they seek another place of Christian ministry, don’t fight it. Let God lead, keep your own heart sweet, avoid a confrontation wherever you can by keeping your own mind and heart open, and just remember that God uses people with whom you disagree. Yes, he does.
A lot of wisdom in that, isn’t it? Now, let’s pray together.
Dear heavenly Father, make us wise as we deal with people who, many times, have different points of view from ours. Keep us, Lord, from being inflexible, help us to follow thy will, and bless us, we pray thee, in spite of ourselves, for thy glory. I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus, amen, amen. God bless you, my dear friend, all the way.
That’s all for now, until I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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