The world is so full of need. There are hurting people all over the globe. Untold billions—yes, billions with a “b”—who are trapped in darkness. They’re enslaved in this world to an unseen Enemy of their souls, and they have no prospect in the next world except for an eternity without Christ.
If you let the knowledge really sink in, it can easily overwhelm you. But here’s the good news (with small letters) for those of us who take the Great Commission seriously. We’re not called to save the world. I’m not called to witness to the entire world. I’m called to be a witness for Christ in the small corner of the world where God has called me. Now, for some that includes a calling to go to another country and cross cultural lines in order to bring the Message and help the Church where Christ isn’t known. But even for those called into international missions, it still doesn’t mean that they're called to share Christ with the entire world. Nobody bears that responsibility.
Having said that, I think today’s passage contains some good lessons for all of us, whether we’re called to cross-cultural missions or not. Here are some things I’ve managed to glean:
1) Paul was planning on checking on the churches he had started which were in Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Colosse, Sardis, Pergamos, and Thyatira. But God changed his plans. It wasn’t that Paul’s plans were bad or wrong or sinful. They just happened to be different from God’s plans. Just like David, Paul learned the lesson that God sometimes supersedes our plans.
2) God’s not in the habit of teasing us. If he hasn’t shown us what to do, then we just go off of his last orders until he changes them. When he points us in a certain direction, we keep going in that direction until he changes us again. But don’t worry. If he hasn’t made clear what he wants us to do, then he knows that. When he wants to be clear, he will be. If you’re trying to do what God has told you to do, then don’t worry about the future. If you’re heading in the wrong direction, then he will change it for you.
3) That leads me to an uncomfortable question. Am I that type of person? Most of the time it seems that God has to continually spur me on forward instead of changing the direction that I’m already going. Let me borrow an illustration someone gave me several years ago. Most cars today have power steering. If you’re parked, then the steering wheel is hard to turn, right? But if you’re moving forward, then it’s easier to turn the wheel. If we’re going forward in God’s plan as best as we can discern, then it’s easier for him to “steer” us in another direction if we need it. Make sense?
If you’re going in the direction that God wants you to (as best as you’re able to tell), then relax! Concentrate on what God has placed in front of you right here and now. Don’t let the weight of the world stay on your back. That’s meant for much broader shoulders than you’ll ever have.
Lord Jesus, so often I worry about things I shouldn’t be concerned about, and I neglect the simple duties you’ve put right in front of me. Reset my priorities, please.