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Why God Doesn’t Always Lead in a Straight Line

Don't Be Surprised if He Takes You on a Zigzag Path

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by Rod MacIlvaine in Uncategorized

When our family takes vacations, Cindy is generally the one with GPS in hand, making sure we take the most direct route. Most families have navigators riding shotgun tasked with making sure they don’t waste time getting to the destination. My wife does this brilliantly.

So wouldn’t it make sense that our Heavenly Father did the same?

Nope!

God doesn’t always lead us along the straight line path. Acts 19:21 is a case in point. After several years of immensely fruitful work in Ephesus, the Holy Spirit speaks to Paul about the next season of his life: “Now after these things Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'”

If we don’t know the geography of these verses, we might not think this is a big deal, but pull out a map, and you get a different picture.

The Spirit is asking Paul to…

  • first, go west to Macedonia…
  • then go east to Jerusalem…
  • then go west again to Rome…
  • and each leg of this journey was grueling.

Humanly speaking, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s a zig-zag path!

So what’s going on?

Remember that Luke and Acts are written by the same guy: Luke, the beloved physician (Col. 4:14). Moreover, Luke and Acts follow a similar outline.

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus takes a final trip to Jerusalem to go to the cross (9:51-19:44). Jesus’ final journey follows a zig-zag path. He’s going back-and-forth from place-to-place because there are needs to meet.

In the book of Acts, Paul makes a final trip to Rome to preach the cross (19:21-28:31). Likewise, this trip is a zig-zag trip. Paul goes back-and-forth from place-to-place, because there are needs to meet.

Luke is making a point. God forges character in his chosen leaders by taking them on a jagged path that requires moment-by-moment trust and faith.

And these examples are not the only instances of God leading led this way. When Moses led the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, it should have taken less than one month, if they went by the straight line path, but the people of Israel rebelled. They wandered for thirty-eight long and painful years. If you trace their wandering on the map, it’s pretty clear that it was a zig-zag path.

What was God doing during that time? He was training his future leaders: Caleb and Joshua. As Caleb and Joshua were suffering the consequences of Israel’s rebellion, God was forging patience, courage, deeper faith and fresh character.

This tells us something important about God.

He’s not primarily interested in helping us be more efficient, or successful, or giving us an easier life.

He’s passionate about two things:
  • He’s passionate about building our character.
  • He’s passionate about seeing his kingdom grow.

Sometimes God takes us on jagged journeys that we don’t fully understand to change us on the inside, and to use us on the outside to accomplish his transcendent purposes.

If you are on a zig-zag path right now, ask him what he’s up to. Is he forming new character? Is forging new purpose?

Once you understand more clearly what God is up to, the path ceases to be a journey of frustration, and it’s transformed into a journey of trust.

 

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Your Best Vacation: Seven Reasons Why a Trip to Israel Will Change Your Life

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