“Lay down what’s good and find what’s best…” – Johnny Diaz, “Breathe”
A Bible study teacher pointed me to Acts 16 to answer this question: should we choose what is good for our lives, or allow God to show us what is best? Paul and Silas had set out on what Paul chose to do – preach in Asia. Key words here are “Paul chose.” In Acts 16:6, “the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching the Word in Asia at the time.” God had in mind best, not good. When Paul failed to seek His will, God intervened through the Holy Spirit and prevented them from preaching in Asia.
I settled for what I thought best for most of my life. I didn’t view my decisions as settling. In my pride, I thought I knew best. Through my own brokenness, I believed the only person I could trust had to be me. So many others had failed me or didn’t really want to hear me. Or so I thought. Like Paul, I settled for what I believed good and right. That thinking led me to damaging choices. Damaging to myself and everyone around me.
Paul had a plan. He had his own plan. He chose to follow his plan to Asia, where he wanted. God’s plan differed from Paul’s. The Holy Spirit prevented Paul from stopping in Asia and gave him a dream as prodding to move on elsewhere. Paul listened. He paid attention to God’s direction and changed his plan from good to best. When I plan (I said when…because I can’t help myself), I can become convinced what I want is good and proceed. The question I have to ask, to make sure I have the right plan, is if this is a good thing right now.
Paul understood that his plan didn’t fit right now. A door closed. A window shut. I have moved forward with a job, continued in a relationship, decided to speak up in a way that I thought right; all of these happened after the door closed in my face or the opportunity ended. I charged through anyway, believing in my own judgment and discernment. Paul sought out God’s discernment in what to do next. He listened and asked the simple question: is this a good thing to the Lord?
Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia calling out for help. Macedonia didn’t fit in Paul’s original plan. My plan for restoration in my marriage and family after my affair became known involved repentance and amends. Nowhere in my plans did full disclosure show up. God revealed to me over and over the necessity for honesty and transparency as the building blocks for healing. I didn’t want to hear that and slipped back into my old life of lies and sexual sin. After the vision of the man calling from Macedonia, Paul immediately obeyed and set sail for Macedonia. He obeyed, answering the simple question: what is the last thing the Lord convicted me to do?
Paul started teaching and preaching in Macedonia. He had few followers. People denounced him, threw him in prison, beat him. He didn’t immediately recognize the results of his obedience. After I finally obeyed, followed through with full disclosure of my years of deception to my wife, our marriage didn’t magically heal. The first few months meant separate rooms, anger, yelling, threats. I knew I had obeyed God, but I wondered why I even bothered. Paul continued and slowly realized the fruits of God’s direction. He reaffirmed his commitment by asking the question: is my effort backed by the hand of the Lord and bearing fruit of the Spirit?
Laying down what’s good and finding what’s best doesn’t come easy for me. My immediate response seems to skew toward what’s the least painful or difficult or what fits my own view. However, I have chosen to seek what’s best in my life. After walking through my third step, and turning my life and will over to the care of God, I find opportunities to seek His direction in how to daily turn my will over to Him. Thanks to Paul, I have a great example of how to find what’s best.