A Heavenly Guide
“Now there were in the Church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
“And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
“So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed.” —Acts 13:1–4.
As we read the history of Paul and Barnabas in the New Testament, we see they were wonderfully used of God. They traveled from one city to another and the fruits of their preaching were marvelous, and we cannot but ask, “How did these men begin their missionary labors?”
In the second verse of the thirteenth chapter of Acts we are told how a number of saints were gathered together in the church at Antioch praying, and “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Mark that little word “ministering.” They were not seemingly going about visiting the sick, nor talking to unbelievers; nor to believers; but they were in a private session with God, holding a conference with God the Holy Ghost. They wanted to know what He had to say. Therefore, they were waiting in fasting, in ministering, in praying, in talking out their hearts one after the other.
I imagine that Paul began to pray, and prayed through until he said “Amen”; then Manaen prayed until he had finished, then others took it up. They may have stopped in between to sing some hymns, and then gone on. Mealtime came and went unnoticed, for they were waiting on God the Holy Spirit. They wanted to know what His plan was, wanted to know what He had for them to do.
As I read this a great hunger came into my heart (not that I have not had it before. I thank God for a burning desire within my own breast to know the will of God, and to do the will of God. Not simply to be kept out of sin, away from wickedness, but) an increasing desire to walk in the will of God, in the program of God. I never asked God for a position, never asked Him to make me a preacher, never asked Him for this church or any other church, never asked Him for any power that I know of in the seven years I have walked with Him; but I have before God earnestly desired to do what God would have me do—to follow in His will, in His footsteps, whatever the thing was that He wanted. There is nothing I covet so much today as to know the voice of God, the leading of God. Those who travel with God ought to know the difference between the path which is of the Spirit and the path which is of the flesh. The voice of God plainly tells us; and we ought not to bluff ourselves, and sear our vision.
“Whatsoever Is Not Of Faith Is Sin”
It is a delightful way God gives us of keeping the path clear. When any question comes into our mind about the rightness of an act of ours, we should name it as wrong because of the “if.” If there is any doubt, any shadiness about it, we should always count it on the wrong side. There is no darkness in Him. There is a way of bluffing, or trying to make it a spiritual affair. Have you made that mistake at times, and found that darkness came over your spirit? Do not put up with something in your life trying to make out it is spiritual. It only mars your spiritual conception. My heart hungers to know the will of God and to be able to take His way—not the choice of family or friends, or just human choice; but to be Spirit led.
Now, in order to have that blessing, these men were ministering to God in prayer, in praise, in communion. You and I, if we wanted to make plans, would say, “We will have the committee meet tomorrow night to talk it over.” We get together and talk over this side of the question and that, and as we discuss matters, light begins to come, and the thing you were dead sure of a few minutes before is laid aside, another idea is brought in, and matters are sifted until the thing that should be done is perfectly clear before you. It is the same when you and God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are having a committee meeting.
Fasting was only that their own buoyant enthusiasm might not get into the way. A lot of folks do not know the difference between spirituality and the feeling they have after a good meal. Heaven to some folks is a hammock underneath a tree with a nice book and nobody to call them to do any work. That is ministering to the flesh. A spiritual man wants to get rid of the feelings of the flesh, the call of the flesh. He wants his spirituality uppermost and his spirit to be filled with God. O, if you have never known what it was to luxuriate in the presence of God, His presence bringing your heart up to the boiling point until the morning sun appeared, God pity you. I wish the Lord would give you such a refreshment in Himself. It is a joy to speak to God past your own human reasoning, God Himself speaking to you, the Spirit of God in all His joy in your heart, talking face to face with you. That is joy unspeakable.
That is what those men were doing. They had forgotten about breakfast. You do not have to make yourself fast—fasting comes when you are so anxious for something from the Lord that you forget about eating. If a man is sitting with three others and thinks that in fifteen minutes he is going to sign up for the biggest thing in his life, does he pull out his watch and say, “I have got to have something to eat?” He has forgotten all about it. Fasting is forgetting everything but what God has to say, putting things aside and letting the Spirit talk to you.
It would be folly to talk to you as the Holy Ghost was doing in this text until you came to the place where you were really talking face to face with God. How can you know His leading until there has been the spirit of waiting on God to find out what He wants? What the Church needs is to let the Holy Ghost talk to it. Many of our lives look as if there were no Holy Ghost, no fullness of His presence, no joy of hearing Him speak.
Those men recognized His marvelous position in the Trinity—not an influence, not a joy, not a blessing, but the Third Person of the Godhead, who speaks to the heart and the heart knows it has a message from heaven. When He speaks, devils, nor hell, nor human circumstances can make you back up an inch. O, there is no satisfaction in the world like the satisfaction of His voice as you have gone on in prayer until He has spoken to you, until He has told you within your heart that He has broken that which has been hindering and points the open door and path.
O, what joy comes into the heart when a man or woman for the first time believes Jesus and can look into His face and know He is saying, “You are clean,” and know the condemnation has passed away. When a soul has that assurance in his heart he has a testimony and you do not have to pump it up. All he has to do is to open his mouth and it comes. Why do not men praise God? Because they have not met God enough. Every time you meet God in the open and everything is put away, there will be praise in your bosom. Every time He touches your heart you will strike fire, like a match touching gasoline. Every time He speaks there is a dynamic thrill. Wait on the Lord until you hear Him speak to your heart. What a joy to get your leadings in this way!
Then the voices of men, the strife of men will make no difference. God is going to carry you through. He will bring you up to the place; He will open the door and do the work, and you will not have to know how. “Hath He spoken, and shall He not do it?”
Paul and Barnabas and those other men knew the Lord and said, “Here is a thing that ought to be done, but we do not know which two the Lord is going to use. Now Lord, you speak.” Oh, thank God, that in all the confusion of life there is a true voice, there is a place that is absolutely the truth, and the Holy Ghost can reveal it to you, where you can hear the voice of God, saying, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” When God has spoken you have no fear, for God is in control, and He will bring it to pass. These men wanted the direct leading of God, and they ministered unto God and fasted until they were sure. They did not run in and push the door shut and say, “Lord, I want direct leading.” Don’t be in such a rush. God has had lots of patience with you—you ought to have a little patience with Him. Minister to God and pray until you are sure you are talking to God and have gotten past your doubts and fears and morbidness. Be sure you are in the presence of God by talking with Him and reading His Word, and, as you pray and talk with God and He has reminded you of other conversations, and how He walked with Abraham and Moses and Isaiah, and how He made the worlds—as soon as you are talking with Him then God can speak. Oh, if we would just wait on Him—wouldn’t it be wonderful what God could do if we would pray?
Oh, if I could encourage every Christian heart to pray, to really minister to God in intercession, to get God’s ear and lay before Him the condition of people’s hearts, and your heart, your family, your church, your missionaries oh, beloved, if God could only win you to a life of intercession, there isn’t any power on Earth like it. No minister’s power on Earth is like the power of the man or woman of intercession, for they can bring things to pass faster than any man can preach a sermon, by simple belief in God Almighty.
Oh, how we need prayer, and how we will have to pray in these dark days. We will have to be more sure than ever of the voice of God; we will have to walk softly and quietly before Him because of the many disconcerting voices. The hunger of my heart is to know the will of God. Is it yours?
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted the Holy Ghost said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Just as surely as God called Barnabas and Saul, just so surely God calls every last one of us to a place. I tell you that many and many a life has missed the joy and the glory intended for it because someone has said, “I am not a minister. I never was called to be an elder; I never was called to be a deacon; I am not an officer in any church; therefore, I am not especially called of the Holy Ghost.”
Listen to me. For the sake of your own future, for the sake of your crown in that great day—God specifically speaks to every member of His Body about his place. If He puts you into a place He wants you to recognize that that place is from God, and not to waste your time trying to get out into something else, imagining that some day He will make you this or that. Take the place He has now for you and say, “Lord, this is your place for me.”
God is as anxious to give you a ministry as any minister. You have a place. I do not care if it is in a kitchen, God will bring people to your kitchen just in the hour of their greatest need, and in that kitchen some word may be given them, and kneeling on that kitchen floor they may give their hearts to Christ. I am sure some of you are missing the glory of the life of Jesus because you cannot have a big place and have felt that God does not particularly lead you; but He does. It is not the quality of your service that matters, it is whether or not you are faithful in letting Him use you where He puts you.
Do you believe it was necessary for Paul and Barnabas to pray about this matter? Is it necessary then for you to pray tomorrow morning about your daily work? I think so. I believe God would have every one of us think that our lives are watched by Him and that everything counts, and we should pray about it. To His glory and praise He can work in our lives if we dare to believe it, we can be Spirit-led men, Spirit-filled men and women.
There is nothing common to any Christian on Earth. We are not working for the world, we are not selecting the work we are to do, we are working for Jesus. Whatever we do we are told to do it all for the glory of God.
Oh, throw yourself into it, saying, “Lord, show me Thy will. Lead me by the power of the Holy Spirit.” When we come before Him and the crown is placed upon us, it will not be for some great service, but just for one thing—He had a program, and we fitted into it. That is all He is going to preserve—not your program, but His.
They said, “Lord, we are able to go out in the power of the Holy Ghost and preach, but we want to be sure we are the two to preach, and that these are the towns to which to go.” Because they were in the will of God the Lord said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”
Oh, beloved, let us pray; let us trust God to put us in His will; for that is all that will stand in that crowning day. Let us yield ourselves to His will, yield ourselves for His purpose and plan for our lives. Can you say “Oh, God, I have been walking in my own will, have been spending hours and whole days in which I never thought for a minute of asking You about the task, if it was pleasing to You. Now I want to be in Your will. I surrender my life to Your purpose.
“Separate me now, dear Lord, from everything—still every voice—speak Thyself of anything that is in me that displeases Thee, and separate me from myself to the very work to which Thou hast called me. I surrender, I believe now that Thou art doing it. Amen.”