One of the most important things we will need to learn in our everyday lives is how to navigate through uncertainty.
The beginning of the thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit spoke to the church in Antioch, and told them to Barnabas and Saul (also known as Paul) for a special work (v.2). As a result,
after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (v.3).
This special work was evidently the preaching of the Gospel among the Gentiles. Even to board a ship back then took a lot of courage, let alone to sail off on this mission! It was a real jump into the unknown. Nothing like it had ever been done before!
Perhaps Barnabas and Saul thought that their work would be met with immediate and unmitigated success. After all, hadn’t they been called to do this work by God? Hadn’t the church fasted and prayed for their success? But that’s not how it turned out.
From Antioch, Paul and Barnabas sailed to Salamis, and then to Paphos, and Perga in Pamphilia (vv. 4-13). From Paphos, they sailed to Pisidian Antioch.
Here, things didn’t go as they might have expected. Here they were met with persecution and they were expelled from the region,
So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (vv.51–52).
It’s interesting that after almost getting killed, and after being basically deported, Paul and Barnabas were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Aren’t you meant to be filled with joy when you achieve success? And if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t you succeed? What is going on here?
Entrust your uncertainty to the greatest navigator – Jesus Christ.
From Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium, where,
there was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled… (Acts 14:5–6, NIV).
From there, Paul and Barnabas went to Lystra, where the crowd,
stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead… The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe (VV.19–20).
While it’s true that they preached the Gospel, and won disciples in various cities. I suspect that this trip hadn’t turned out the way Paul and Barnabas had expected. Their conclusion was that,
God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles (v.28)
We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (v.22).
That’s why, like Paul, we must also learn to navigate uncertainty. Paul didn’t experience a life of certainty, and neither will we. But you can entrust your uncertainty to the greatest navigator: Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, even though you may not think you’ve experienced success, God is opening a door. And the hardship you are going through may be bringing you closer to the kingdom of God.
The future is always unknown. When we, like Paul, learn to make the presence of God the bedrock of our certainty, then we will be able to navigate through whatever may come our way.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez. The Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.