Has Jesus ever led you to do something and things didn’t go the way you expected? I’d bet every one of you reading this article would give an emphatic, “YES” to that question. We have all had times where we entered into a relationship, took a job, or got involved in a new ministry opportunity and things went sideways. The reason I’m writing this article is to help bring answers and hope when these things happen. I believe you’ll be encouraged!
The first thing I want to encourage you with is you are not alone. There are countless people in the Bible and church history who have had clear words from God they obeyed and things went contrary to there expectation. Look at Acts 16:
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
God gave the Apostle Paul a clear vision to go to Macedonia to minister. When he traveled to Macedonia, however, he was arrested and placed in jail after sharing the gospel. I’m sure Paul was thinking, “Where was that in the vision? That wasn’t part of the plan. Why did things go sideways?”
Another example from more recent history, which was the impetus for this article is William Seymour. He was the man God used to start the Azusa Street Revival in 1906. Many theologians and historians consider the Azusa Street Revival to be the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit since the Day of Pentecost. This revival led to salvations, healings, signs, wonders and united people beyond their differences of race, gender, and age. It also led to the birth of dozens of Pentecostal denominations.
As glorious as the Azusa Street Revival was, it got off to a rocky start. William Seymour moved from Houston, Texas to Los Angeles after receiving an invitation to pastor a holiness mission. He believed God had called him to this church and God was about to send another great outpouring of the Holy Spirit including the gift of tongues just like the day of Pentecost. What’s even more interesting is many other Christians in Los Angeles were believing the same thing at this time. They were praying for a great move of the Holy Spirit! Seemed like a divine appointment, right?
That’s not how it went. Things went sideways. Seymour was rejected when he began to minister on the baptism of the spirit and the gift of tongues at the holiness mission. He was fired within a couple of weeks. I’m sure he had to be thinking, what happened? I thought this was a divine appointment. Why did things go sideways?
I hope these two examples encourage you that you are not alone in having things go sideways when you obey God. Now, we have to explore what to do when this happens.
- Don’t quit. We must persist in the will of God even when hardship comes. Both the Apostle Paul and William Seymour kept believing God in the midst of hardship.
- Remember that we only know in part. 1 Corinthians 13:9 says we know in part and prophecy in part. This means when we hear God, often we only hear a part and not the whole plan. God didn’t tell the Apostle Paul he would be thrown in jail and he didn’t tell William Seymour he would be fired. This doesn’t mean they didn’t hear God. It just means God didn’t tell them everything. Often when God speaks to us, He doesn’t give us the whole picture. Unfortunately, we often put our own assumptions and spin on the word God gives us and assume things will go differently than God’s actual plan. When things go differently than we think they should, we need to remember to not let what we can’t control keep us from controlling what we can control, which is our attitude and prayer life. Both the Apostle Paul and William Seymour are exceptional examples of this principle.
- Pray. When we pray, we obtain the wisdom of God and invite Him to bring change in our circumstances. Acts 16:25 says Paul and Silas prayed and worshipped at midnight. As they prayed and worshipped, God broke through with an earthquake that loosened the prison doors and set them free. In William Seymour’s case, he moved into the home of a friend of his in Los Angeles and began to hold prayer meetings. He taught on Acts 2 about the baptism of the Holy Spirit nightly and the group prayed and believed for the same manifestation as on the day of Pentecost. After several days, they received a breakthrough and many were filled with the Holy Spirit. The small prayer meeting grew and they had to eventually find a new location on 312 Azusa Street. When they moved into the new location, they began to have 1,500 people show up nightly to the prayer meetings. In these meetings their were tremendous moves of the Holy Spirit including healings, signs, and wonders. Even more remarkable, these meetings included black, white, Hispanic, and Asian people sitting under the ministry of a black pastor. This was unheard of in 1906!
- Remember that God’s plan for your life is bigger than what you see. Going back to what I said earlier, we know in part. This means we only see a percentage of the plan; usually a small percentage. God’s plan for you is much bigger than you will ever know. In Paul’s case, he knew he was called to Macedonia to preach. What he didn’t know is when we was thrown in prison in Philippi, it would lead to the establishment of the Philippian church. This church was one of the greatest churches he planted and was the church that primarily supported him financially in his ministry. It’s a good thing he handled adversity well, right? In William Seymour’s case, he thought he was called to Los Angeles to pastor a church and see people filled with the Holy Spirit. He had no clue that God’s plan for him was much bigger than that. He was the man God used to oversee the greatest revival since Pentecost that we are still experiencing the effects over 115 years later.
I sure do hope this article has strengthened you. It’s certainly strengthened me to write it. Every time Jesus leads you to do something, He wants you to triumph! I’d encourage you to apply the principles above the next time things seem to go sideways in your life after you obey God! As you believe and obey, things will get back on track and you will walk in victory.
If you’d like to learn more about how the Apostle Paul overcame adversity and beginning the church in Philippi, check out this message. If you’d like to learn more about William Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival, check out this message. I believe both messages will encourage and strengthen you.