A Hard Lesson About Paying Attention!
After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. Acts 16:7
As I lay down on the hotel bed to take a one-hour nap before we left for a church service in a large Midwestern city, I kept feeling a “tug” in my heart to stay home from the meeting that night. But I wanted to go hear the special speaker that evening. Besides, many of our ministry friends were going to be there, and I wanted to tell them goodbye since this was to be our last night in the area.
As we walked out the door of the hotel room, I turned to Denise and said, “I don’t know why, Denise, but I think I’m going to let you go tonight, and I’m going to stay here.” As she walked out the door, however, I couldn’t bear the thought of missing a fantastic night at the meeting, so I headed downstairs to the car that waited to take us. I couldn’t figure out why I seemed impressed to stay in the room that night, so I overruled what my spirit was telling me and went on to church.
When the car pulled up to the church, I was overwhelmed with a “knowing” that I had to go back to the room. Once again, I told Denise, “I’m going to tell everyone goodbye right now before the meeting begins; then I’m going back to the room. I’ll see you when you get home from church tonight.” But as I went around telling people goodbye, I got involved in first one conversation, then another, and then another, until time began to slip away. Finally, the turmoil in my spirit became so strong that I asked the driver to take me right back to the hotel.
As I drove to the hotel, I kept thinking how irrational it was for me to feel like I needed to be at the hotel that night. Why would I need to be there? There was nothing urgent to do and no calls to make, so why did I have this incredible “urge” to get back to the hotel room? But when I opened the door to our room, I was stunned to see that the entire room had been ransacked.
- Suitcases were sprawled across the room.
- Clothes were hurled all over the place.
- Denise’s jewelry boxes were opened, empty, and scattered on the floor.
- My computer had been taken from the desk where it had been sitting.
- My briefcase that contained my tickets, my passport, and my visas was gone.
When I saw my computer and briefcase were gone, I realized that whoever had done this hadn’t just taken a computer. The information on that computer included:
- Nine years of important study notes.
- My American passport.
- My Latvian residence visa.
- My brand-new Russian visa.
- All my international travel documents.
- All my credit cards.
- My birth certificate.
- My Daytimer that was filled with vital addresses and phone numbers.
I went straight to the hotel desk to inform them that we had been robbed. I called Denise home from the church meeting, and we spent the rest of the evening with a group of police, who searched for clues as to who might have done this to us. When Denise looked through those empty, scattered jewelry boxes, she discovered that many pieces of jewelry recently given to her by a relative were gone. These pieces weren’t worth a great deal monetarily, but they had great sentimental value.
I looked at Denise and said, “Now I know why I kept feeling a tug in my spirit to stay home from the meeting tonight. The Holy Spirit was trying to prevent this from happening. If I had obeyed that still, small voice in my heart and stayed home, that thief would have never entered this room.”
What was so maddening about this was that I had been diligently paying attention to even the most gentle leadings in my spirit for a solid month. In fact, I had ardently focused and concentrated on being “in tune” with the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit in my own heart during that month. Because of my sensitivity to the Spirit of God, it had been a month of supernatural intervention and intimate fellowship with Him.
But that night, I simply overruled that still, small voice I heard in my heart because I wanted to be in that meeting so much. After listening so carefully for the Holy Spirit’s leading for a full month, I didn’t pay attention to Him. The Spirit of God was blaring His warning in my heart, trying to keep us from being taken advantage of – but I missed it. Later as I looked around at our ransacked room, I was more upset with myself than I was with the thief who took our belongings!
We must all learn to put on the brakes, stop ourselves for a while, and listen carefully to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to our hearts. Although we may not immediately understand what He is telling us to do or why we should do it exactly the way He is leading us, the results of our obedience will be powerful and we will experience less defeat and fewer mishaps in our lives.
In Acts 16:7, Paul and his apostolic team were headed to Bithynia when suddenly, the Spirit of God impressed them to stay away from that region. The verse says, “After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.”
The word “assayed” tells us how badly Paul and his team wanted to go to Bithynia. The word “assayed” is the Greek word peiradzo, which means to attempt or to try. The Greek tense used in this particular verse indicates an incomplete action, which alerts us to the fact that Paul and his team actually tried to go to Bithynia but were unsuccessful in their attempt. How hard they tried is not clear, but the Greek word peiradzo implies that they tried very hard to go there.
Paul suffered many difficulties as he traveled to different regions, but it rarely stopped him from going where he had intended to go. The reason he and his ministry team didn’t press through in their efforts this time is that the Holy Spirit “suffered them not” to go to Bithynia. The phrase “suffered them not” comes from the Greek words ouk eiasen. The word ouk is a strong “No!” The word eiasen is from the Greek word eao, which means to allow or to permit. When these words become the phrase ouk eiasen, it means to not permit or to forbid.
That day, the apostle Paul and his team listened to the leading of the Spirit to stay out of the region of Bithynia. By staying away from Bithynia, they apparently circumvented some kind of disaster that awaited them there. We don’t know what devilish trap had been set for Paul if he had gone to that region, but we do know he avoided it by obeying the Holy Spirit’s instructions.
As children of God, we must learn to follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership, direction, and guidance. The vandalizing of our hotel room is a good reminder to all of us to stay sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is telling us to do, even if we can’t rationalize or figure out why He is telling us to do it.
If the Holy Spirit impresses you to stay home, then stay home. If He impresses you not to get on an airplane, then don’t get on that airplane. If He impresses you to give a special offering, then you need to sow that offering. Don’t learn the hard way how important it is to pay attention to the Holy Spirit. Whatever He impresses on you to do is exactly what you need to do!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, help me follow the Holy Spirit’s leading whenever He impresses me to do something. I know there have been moments in my life when the Spirit was leading me to do something. But because I didn’t understand it, I didn’t obey – and later I was always sorry. Please help me become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to trust Him when He speaks to my heart. I want to be obedient and to experience the supernatural life that He wants to give me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Because I follow His leading, I am able to circumvent traps that the devil tries to set for me. If the Holy Spirit impresses me to stay home, I stay home. If He tells me not to get on an airplane, I don’t get on that airplane. If He nudges me to give a special offering, I sow that offering. Whatever the Spirit impresses me to do is exactly what I do!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of some instances in your life when the Holy Spirit tried to stop you from doing something, but because you didn’t understand or want to obey what He was saying, you ignored His leadership and did something you later regretted?
- Can you think of several instances when the Holy Spirit told you to do something and you obeyed Him? What happened as a result of your doing exactly what the Spirit was telling you to do?
- Is there anything the Spirit is leading you to do right now that you have been hesitant to do? What’s stopping you from obeying the Holy Spirit in this matter?