It was unlike any of the previous 28 trips I had made to Israel since hearing the Lord’s call in 1970: “Teach My Word to My people in My land.” Out of concern over increasing danger in the Holy Land, my trips in the Spring of both 2001 and 2002 had been cancelled. However the Lord dealt with me strongly that He wanted me to go there on a prayer journey—“a pilgrimage to secure boundaries.”
In prayer, a few weeks before our trips to Israel finally resumed at the end of 2002, I asked the Lord for a “conflict-free journey.” His response was not loveless or unkind but came almost with a chuckle from the heart of God: “Son, I’ve called you to go to Israel to do spiritual warfare. How can you expect that to be conflict-free?”
God had given Anna and me 70 prayer warriors to partner with on this pilgrimage. We went with the foundational conviction that “the peace of Jerusalem” can only be found and maintained through prayer; and that Israel’s return—not only to her land, but to her God—is essential for peace.
In all of my years of ministry, I had never felt a greater quickening of the Holy Spirit—where you sense the profound presence of the power of God—than I did during the week we were in Israel. Time after time there were visitations of the presence of the power of God confirming His purpose in what we were doing. We had a profoundly anointed trip with a remarkable sense of fulfilling divinely appointed destiny unto God’s purpose. And every trip we’ve taken to Israel since then has been just like that.
The Lord’s Word to us in all the uncertain seasons of our world is that while the journey He calls us to may not be “conflict-free,” our arrival, as destined by Him, will indeed be joyous.
When we believe the Lord has spoken to us, most of us feel certain there are things He wants to do in our lives. But we’re not sure how they’re going to happen; and how we would prefer they happen isn’t usually how they work out.
You may desire the destination but be jarred by the journey.
The story of the apostle Paul’s voyage to Rome, as recorded in Acts 27-28, addresses the issues that every one of us move through. A Roman citizen, Paul was on his way from Caesarea, where he was held in prison for nearly two years, to appeal to the court of Caesar. But Paul didn’t go to Rome simply for a court case; he went under a sense of divine constraint. The lessons of his journey resonate in each of us. You may want to open your Bible and follow along with the Scripture verses noted.
Paul knew he was called, and he had a desire to go. He wrote to the Corinthians that he was looking to go to “regions beyond” (2 Corinthians 10:16). Wherever you are in your life with Jesus, God is always calling you further, to a place that will test your faith. Along the way, He promises His presence and blessing. All of history was impacted by Paul’s trip to the “regions beyond.” None of us can imagine the fruit of responding to His call to move out of our comfort zones. Are you willing to answer it? Are you willing to endure the “storms” along the way?
The journey is seldom on schedule, by the means you imagine, or with the company you’d prefer.
Paul was forced to travel with nearly 300 prisoners during a season when the “winds were contrary” and the sailing dangerous (27:4-9). Whenever you’re called to a journey “beyond,” relationships and circumstances are bound to be tested. Before you “jump ship,” resolve things where you are, otherwise you may find yourself in deep water.
Journeys to joy rarely allow you much control.
Paul warns of trouble ahead, but his advice is not heeded (27:9-11). We’ve all faced situations in which, while walking with God, we had no control on the human side. Yet remember, we hold the hand of the One who’s in ultimate control. Paul makes this trip under constraint—not of the Roman government but of God’s purpose in him. In his letters, Paul refers to himself as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” not of the Romans—he won’t give them the credit for controlling him.
Sometimes things that start out well later reduce you to hopelessness.
The storm hits hard (27:13-20), and despite Paul’s initial confidence that he was responding to the Lord’s call, he writes: “All hope that we would be saved was finally given up.” In the middle of a storm, even sensing that God is with you, it’s still easy to wonder if perhaps you’ve been pursuing your own idea, not God’s. When hope for a harbor seems lost, remember: No matter how long the storm, you will never be forsaken (John 16:33; Hebrews 13:5).
The Lord will come to you with a word (27:23).
The inconveniences of our journey are loaded with redemptive opportunity. The angel encourages Paul that not only will God bring him to his intended destination, but also that without him, the entire shipload of men would be lost. Your presence in a muddle becomes God’s means to bring deliverance to others.
Encourage others in faith (27:22-26).
As they approach land and the possibility of running aground on the rocks, this time they listen to Paul. If we stay “onboard” during the storm, the Lord eventually gives us the servant role of helping others through it. When the love of God shines in you, people will listen.
Anticipate an unexpected harvest (28:1-10).
Shipwrecked on the island of Malta, Paul is given an unexpected opportunity to establish the witness of Jesus Christ when he easily shakes off a deadly snake. A door to ministry of the Gospel and miracle healings was opened up in a place he never intended to go. Even when the ship goes out from under you, God’s arms still have you in tow.
Expect a joyous arrival at your hoped for destination.
God does not call us to a “conflict-free” journey, not because He designs disaster, but because the world is full of it. Not only will He bring you through the storm to the place He specifically has intended for you, but along the way you will become an instrument of His grace to people who would otherwise never know it.
We’re all called to walk with confidence to our eternal destination with the Lord, but there are other journeys He calls us to along the way. The guarantee of His presence and the certainty of His purpose directs us toward our joyful arrival. Respond to His call with commitment. Don’t “jump ship” but be His agent of redemptive life in the middle of the storm. And do anticipate a harvest of unexpected fruit and a joyous arrival at your intended destination.