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feeticeGrowing up in Michigan, I learned something about taking careful steps. There are lakes from one end of the state to the other, and much of the year, they are frozen over with ice. There’s even a lake in the middle of my hometown of Howell. As kids, we were excited to play out on the ice-covered lake the minute temperatures hit freezing. Nobody, however, wanted to run out on a frozen lake and fall into the icy water. So those of us who were experienced with the ice would test it a little.

Instead of looking at the lake and thinking, Yup, looks frozen to me!, we would stick out one foot and tap around to see if the ice cracked under the weight. If it did, we quickly pulled back. If it didn’t, we would bring the other foot out on the ice and apply a little more weight. If the ice continued holding us up, we took little steps, then bigger steps until we were walking.

I like to call it testing the ice.

It’s the same as when we walk out God’s will for our lives. Instead of standing on the shore thinking, I’d really love to be out in the middle of God’s will. It sure looks like the plan of God. Maybe I should wait until someone tells me it’s good out there. No, just test the ice.

If you’ve been sitting and waiting with a vision from God stirring in your heart, what should you do? You could sit around a whole lot longer, or you can start taking baby steps toward what you see yourself doing in life and ministry. Don’t run out throwing yourself in the middle of things without preparation. Take small steps, inching your way out to see if the way is solid.

As you move forward, if something doesn’t seem right, stop and go back. You’re either in the wrong place, or it’s the wrong time. But don’t sit around waiting for God to say, “Thou shalt go forth on the lake.” Move toward the lake. Test it. If it is solid, begin moving forward for God.

Go Ye

The late Dr. T.L. Osborn made an interesting statement about how he stepped out in God’s will. Keep in mind this is a man who traveled to more than 100 nations reaching millions of people with the gospel for a half century, and his literature has been published in 132 languages and dialects. Yet, in a meeting at our church I heard him say, “There was no moment when God ‘called’ me to the ministry. I heard the gospel. I heard the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel. And I went.”

I’m all for praying and waiting on God. I’m all for getting God’s direction. That’s the way I’ve lived my life, and that’s the way I’ve run my ministry. Yet, I know of Bible school graduates who went to school with fire burning in their hearts, then graduated from school and sat around the next 20 or 30 years waiting for more instructions. They began by wanting to do something great for God, but they got sidetracked doing nothing but waiting for vision.

Dr. Osborn simply said, “And I went.” Paul and company said something similar below. Notice how they headed out.

Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” (Acts 15:35-36)

Do these verses tell us that Paul received a vision from God telling them to go? No. Did an angel appear to Paul? No. Did Paul at least fast and pray and get a strong unction from the Lord to go? No. The truth is Paul walked so closely with God he knew that his desires were lined up with God’s desires, so he had the confidence to walk them out.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” This verse should speak to all of us. If we live a life of delighting ourselves in the Lord, we ought to have confidence that the desires we have are from God.

So what happened when Paul and company traveled to churches in verse 41?

And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:41)

Again, the words “and he went” sound a lot like Dr. Osborn saying “and I went.” Paul headed to the nations. He heard the Great Commission, and he got busy. As a result, a lot people were helped, and a lot of lives were changed.

I don’t mean this as a criticism; I say this to help people. But too many Christians with visions and callings and anointings are waiting for God to launch them. They are waiting for God to say, “Go!”

But, folks, God already said “Go!” in Mark 16. In fact, He said “Go ye!” And He never said stop! God has never said stop ye or stay ye or ponder ye or wait ye. God said GO!

Now don’t misunderstand me. What I’m saying is that the steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord (Psalm 37:23), but God cannot order your steps if you aren’t walking.

Have you ever tried to turn a parked car? It doesn’t work. Cars driving down the road are a whole lot easier to turn than parked cars. In the same way, God can turn us in the right direction a lot easier if we’re moving in His plan.

Preaching What We Practice

A number of years ago, I was teaching on being led by the Spirit, and as I was studying one afternoon, the Spirit of God spoke to me and said, “You teach it one way, but you live it another.”

“Lord, I wouldn’t do that,” I said. “That wouldn’t be right.” Then I got to thinking that the Lord wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true. So I began listening to myself more carefully, and I began to understand what He meant.

Of course, we must pray and seek God’s direction, and there are important leadings we must consider. “If you don’t know, don’t go.” “If it’s not quite, it’s not right.” At the same time, we have to balance these truths with action. If we don’t, there will be people who sit around their whole lives waiting for direction.

Here’s the point: Don’t go without direction; go get direction.

There are people all over the world with a call or a gift or a vision, but they don’t do anything with it. It’s not that they’re bad people. It’s because they’ve gotten stuck on this one side of being led by the Holy Ghost. If they could just figure out the other side and balance it out with action, they could test the ice and get moving.

Paul and Company Test the Ice

In Acts 16 we see a practical application of the apostle Paul testing the ice and moving forward while listening at the same time. Actually, for more than 30 years now, I’ve studied the life of Paul a great deal. I admire and respect the man because he finished his course. Peter may have finished his course, but he never told us that. James and John may have finished their courses, but they didn’t tell us that. But before Paul left this earth, he told Timothy he had finished his course (2 Timothy 4:7).

That’s quite an accomplishment when you consider Paul’s course. Looking at 2 Corinthians 11, Paul encountered and endured a lot in the will of God. He was shipwrecked, beaten with rods and beaten with stripes, stoned and left for dead. In spite of it all, he still finished. I determined a long time ago that if Paul could face all those obstacles and finish his course, I should be able to finish my course. I’ve studied his life because if we can find out how he did it, we can do it, too.

There are many things that made Paul a success for God, but let’s focus here on how he kept moving in God’s plan. Within the boundaries of his assignment or call, Paul kept moving forward until God said stop. In doing so, he shared the gospel with the majority of the known world in his day and wrote more than half of the New Testament affecting every Christian from then until now. If only more of us followed God like Paul.

Paul knew His call because he had been told what great things he would suffer, and he knew he was called to minister to Jews, Gentiles and to kings (Acts 9:15-16). That assignment covers a lot of territory. Actually, there isn’t anybody who wouldn’t be included within those boundaries. Still, Paul’s primary calling was to the Gentiles; he was an apostle to the Gentiles.

Another thing I’ve noticed about Paul is that he didn’t do well when he was sitting still and not moving forward. I began to see this when God was dealing with me about teaching one way and walking it out another way. When I thought of Paul in this setting, I realized, I don’t sit still well either. I move forward like Paul did. Maybe we all should.

After all, there are billions upon billions of people on this earth who have never heard the gospel. Nations are opening daily, so there’s too much to do for you or me to do nothing. I don’t believe the Head of the Church is calling anyone to sit and do nothing. Short times of waiting might come along, but they better be short because time is short before Jesus returns.

Of course we need to establish the boundaries of our callings because there are certain things we’re called to do and certain things we’re not called to do. For instance, in my case there would be no use in me trying to be a music director. God already told me I wouldn’t be a youth pastor. But there are certain things I know in my heart I am called to do, so I need to be moving within those boundaries.

I decided to take a closer look at how Paul ran his ministry, and the Holy Ghost took me to Acts 16. The apostles and elders were establishing basic guidelines for the early church and chose Paul and company to take these instructions to the growing number of churches. They had good results, and the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased daily. Then notice how the Holy Ghost began to deal with Paul and company.

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 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.” 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. (Acts 16:6-10)

Paul, Silas and Timothy started to go to Asia, but the Holy Ghost told them not to go there. Then they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Holy Ghost told them no again. I looked at that one day and thought, Paul sure didn’t just sit on a log praying in tongues, waiting for God to tell him to go do something.

Paul kept moving within the boundaries of his call or what he knew to do. He knew every creature needed to hear the gospel, so he got his company together and got moving. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not wise to take off like a bull in a china shop either.

We should not step out and start walking instead of listening. The whole point is to step out while we’re listening.

We also should not step out doing any old thing or whatever we want to do. And we should not sit around listening for go. No. We should start moving within the boundaries of our call while we’re listening for slow down or no. “Is that scriptural?” Sure it is. That’s exactly how Paul functioned.

Paul on the Move

As I’ve studied the life of Paul, I’ve meditated on Acts 16 so many times. I imagine the scene with Paul and company went something like this. Paul probably said to Silas and Timothy, “Let’s go! Let’s leave our mark on this earth for Jesus Christ. I’ll have plenty of time to sit around when I go to jail.”

I imagine Luke and the other guys asked, “Where do you want to go, Paul?”

“Get out the dictionary. What starts with A?

“Asia.”

“Let’s go!” Paul said, as he and his company head to Asia. They start down the road moving and listening. They decide since God already told them to go into all the world preaching the gospel, they will keep going until they hear no.

As they headed toward Asia, the Holy Ghost forbade them to go there. But how would Paul have known he was forbidden to go unless he headed that direction and was told no? Did the Lord tell him beforehand? No. Look again at verse 6.

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. (Acts 16:6)

Paul did not know—nor was he forbidden—by the Holy Ghost to go to Asia until he started heading that direction. Let that soak in for a minute.

As I play this chapter out in my mind, I can almost hear Paul saying, “Let’s go to Asia.” Then somewhere along the way, Paul says, “Sorry! That’s not it.”

The next day Paul says, “We can’t sit around any longer when there’s a whole world waiting for the gospel. Let’s go! If not Asia, then somewhere.”

“Where do you want to go, Paul?”

“We tried the letter A, and that didn’t work. What starts with a B?”

“How about Bithynia?”

Paul and company head to Bithynia listening to the Holy Ghost—moving slowly and listening closely. Then Paul says, “Asia wasn’t right; the Holy Ghost forbid us. Now the Holy Ghost tells us not to go to Bithynia either. Let’s sleep on it.”

While Paul was asleep, a man from Macedonia came to him in a night vision. “Come help us!” the man said. Paul woke up saying, “I’ve got it now. I know where God wants us to go!”

God probably figured since Paul was so determined to go somewhere, He better give him somewhere to go. Paul wasn’t the type of guy to sit around the rest of his life. So God sent a man from Macedonia in a vision, and Paul became the first missionary to Europe. Now if Paul had pushed his way ahead to make something happen and said, “I’m going to Asia no matter what,” he might have found himself in Asia out of God’s plan.

Instead, Paul started moving, and God started directing.

Paul changed the continent of Europe and finished his course with joy. Someone might ask, “How can I move forward testing the ice like Paul?” If you’re being stirred to move to another nation or anywhere else, read about the nation or area. Check out ticket prices. Look up the area on the Internet. Read about the people there. See what the climate is like. Visit the country. Go help another ministry laboring in the harvest fields of that nation.

If you’re being stirred about a new position or job, do some investigating. Move toward it. The more you do, the more you’ll be able to gauge whether or not it feels right down on the inside. If you tell yourself, “I don’t know,” keep praying. Keep listening. Keep taking baby steps. If you sense in your spirit that something doesn’t seem right inside, stop.

Here’s the real truth of the matter. We need to get our assignments from heaven; there’s no doubt about it. Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” If you’re a born-again believer, the Spirit of God is your guide inside. He’s your inward compass. He’s your guide through every decision you’ll ever make, and God intends that you spend your life following Him. In fact, 99.999% of the time, God leads believers by an inward witness—knowing, pull, drawing, prompt, impression or nudge—in our spirits. So to develop and sensitize our spirits, we need to regularly feed on God’s Word, pray in other tongues and mediate on God’s Word.

Yet, the leading of the Holy Ghost usually is not to sit back waiting for a word from heaven. Most of the time, the leading of the Holy Ghost is to move forward while checking the witness of the Spirit inside to make sure all seems well.

One time a friend of mine made a decision that didn’t seem too smart, but it wasn’t my job to tell him. I’m not the Holy Ghost, and I don’t have all the answers. But I asked him, “Are you absolutely sure you heard right about this move?”

“Definitely!” he said. He had a track record of not listening to anyone, including the Holy Ghost. He sold everything he had and took his money and rented a place in the middle of nowhere to start a business. The problem was he picked a place where there weren’t enough humans to do business in the first place. He lost everything he had, got mad at God and backslid.

If only he had taken baby steps and tested the ice, it would have been so much better for him. Over the years I’ve seen other people step out and recognize, This just isn’t right. I’ve done it hundreds of times myself and recognized, Nope, this isn’t it. Then I’ve headed for home, asking God all the way back, “What’s next? Where are we going now?”

Paul and his company understood what some folks today don’t understand. We don’t need to sit on our launching pads waiting for the fuse to be lit. Jesus Himself lit the fuse 2,000 years ago when He said, “Go…make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).

I realize we teach how to follow God from two points of view. On one side we teach if we don’t know, don’t go. If it’s not quite, it’s not right. Those are valid statements. And yet on the other side, what often happens is that some folks are so afraid of doing the wrong thing, they don’t do anything at all. Folks can get so afraid of stepping out and missing God, they spend their lives sitting and missing God.

Holy Ghost Traffic Lights

Over the years I’ve noticed that many Christians sit at some intersection of life waiting for a red light to turn green. Yet, Jesus turned the light green when He was raised from the dead. We’re on green because we have a “go ye.”

If the light changes to red, stop. If the light changes to yellow, proceed with caution. Sometimes a yellow light means you’re going too fast or things aren’t ready for you on the other end. If the light is green, then we should proceed full speed ahead advancing the kingdom.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that traffic lights in most urban areas are actually timed. If you drive the posted speed limit, you don’t even have to stop. Every light will turn green in front of you. If you race ahead or drive too slowly, you will keep hitting red lights.

It’s the same when we follow the plan of God. A lot of times we’re saying, “God, what do I do?” But if we move along at God’s speed, we’ll keep hitting green lights in our spirit. Instead of waiting for red lights in life to turn green, just know that the light already turned green. Instead of sitting until God says go, you ought to go until He says stop. It’s worked for me for more than 35 years.

I believe walking with God this way is how Paul was able to accomplish as much as he did. He was successful because he never stopped and said, “Well…I don’t know what to do next.” He ran his race. He finished his course. He kept the faith. And if we’ll follow the The Guide Inside, we can do the same.



Copyright © Mark Brazee Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Mark Brazee
Web site: Mark Brazee Ministries - DOMATA School of Missions
 
For more than 30 years, Pastors Mark and Janet Brazee have traveled throughout the world sharing the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Together they've shared the powerful truths of faith and healing in more than 50 nations.
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