To be effective in missions, we must allow the Holy Spirit to maintain an acute sense of spiritual discernment in us. After Barnabas and Paul arrive at Lystra, they see “a man sitting who could not use his feet…He listened to Paul speaking. Paul looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet” (Acts 14:8-10).
Notice the steps of God working in this situation. The healing did not come first and the physical condition of the man was not the most important issue even though it had affected the man’s life from birth. Paul is first concerned with delivering the Word of God and Gospel of Grace. While the Holy Spirit is using Paul to preach vital truth to his listeners, He is also at work in this man to give him faith (see Eph. 2:8). Paul first discerned that God was working in the man, giving him faith so that Paul commanded the man to “Stand upright on your feet” in order to meet his physical need (Acts 14:10).
The importance of these steps cannot be over emphasized. If we put the physical needs of persons above their spiritual needs, they will place more importance on their outward condition rather than seeing their relationship with Christ as the highest priority. We often forget that the physical is only temporal, while the work of God in the soul is eternal. God was already at work in the man and this required spiritual discernment with Paul to connect with what God was doing. Oswald J. Smith in his book, The Challenge of Missions (page 131-132) rightly insists that “Our business is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit…not to major on hospitals or give ourselves over to medical work…erecting schools and colleges…not to give ourselves, primarily, to the social, political and industrial betterment of those who have no interest in our Christ. Nor are we to introduce our western civilization in an effort to change the manners and customs of the people…but only to get a hearing of the Gospel.”
How well do you discern what God is doing in others? Are you joining Him where He is already at work, or are you operating on your agenda hoping God will approve it?
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