When God Tells You to Go in a Different Direction

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Elephant in South Africa, 2012. ( church tour sponsored by the Travel Ministry of the Plymouth United Church of Christ, Detroit)

Have you ever prayed to God for something specific only to feel as if God is putting up a brick wall and telling you to turn around and go in a different direction? Sometimes this is how the will of God works. We pray and God either says yes, no, or not now.

We see an example of a person who totally misunderstands and does not appreciate the direction of God in Ananias of Damascus, Syria. Ananias is directed by God to go to the house of a man named Judas on a street called Straight and pray for Paul who is blind.

Acts 9: 10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” [1]

Two fascinating things occur in this Biblical story. First, Ananias receives a direct, verbal command from God. How often have you had a direct, audible request or command from God? Second, Ananias has the nerve to debate with God. God tells Ananias to do something he does not want to do. God tells Ananias to lay hands on Paul, touch him and pray for him that his eyesight would return. Ananias talks back to God and says he does not want to pray for Paul to regain his sight because Paul has a reputation of persecuting Christians. God gently, but forcefully compels Ananias to do what he does not want to do: go and find Paul and pray for him because God has a plan for Paul that is larger than what Ananias can see.

Acts 9: 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. [2]

Finally, Ananias does what God tells him to do. He seeks Paul. He finds Paul. He prays for Paul, heals Paul and baptizes Paul. The rest is history. Paul becomes arguably the greatest theologian and evangelist in the history of the Christian church. As for Ananias, we never hear anything more about him. He plays a significant role in the conversion of Paul, but after formally bringing Paul into the faith we never hear another word about Ananias. Could it be that we do not hear anything more about him because he performed the special task God had for him? Or is it that we do not hear more about Ananias because he had the nerve to talk back to God?

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Why do you think we sometimes misunderstand what God wants us to do?
  2. What process do you use in trying to determine what God’s direction is and will for your life?
  3. What lessons can we learn from the reaction of Ananias to God’s direction to lay hands on Paul that he might regain his eyesight?

 

Prayer:

Lord, help me to be a better listener. Lord, help me to trust you more completely.  Lord, there are things I have prayed for and all it seems is that your answer is no or not now. I do not fully grasp what it is you want me to do. Teach me to trust your word, even when I have a difficult time understanding your ultimate will and purpose for my life. Lord, help me to realize that there is something good and worthwhile in each human being. Remind me that you can see things that I cannot see. You understand that even people who seem so far from your goals and plans for the world also have the potential to be used to implement your will. Lord, help me to become more comfortable in opening my eyes and ears to better see and listen for your direction. Lord, help me to trust you more completely. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.

Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III

Photo by Nicholas Hood III

Additional Prayers Photos and Meditations from Rev. Hood at http://nicholashoodiiiministries.com

More about Nicholas Hood III Ministries at www.nicholashoodiiiministries.org

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ac 9:10–12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ac 9:13–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.