Ways of Seeing Meditations: 10. Understanding Circumstances
Acts 27:9,10 “So Paul warned them, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous.”
Where next: Being a Christian means we see the world differently from our unbelieving neighbors. Their world is self-focused and godless, while ours has a God-core if I may put it like that. We may not be aware of God every single moment and we may not be thinking about Him every single minute, but He is there as the foundation of our lives and His Spirit does interact with us, even though often we may not realize it is Him. Thinking further about this matter of ‘seeing’, we see people circumstances differently from our unbelieving neighbors. At least I hope we do. We have a map for life called the New Testament that encourages us to live positive, godly, good lives, lives that are outward looking with concern for others, lives that are upward looking as we pray and seek God. And it is because it is in these things that there is another important distinction that makes us different from our neighbors.
Spiritually Alert: We said right at the beginning of this series that life is more than merely material or physical, it is also spiritual, for by the Spirit we have this direct link with heaven and there are words we use about aspects of our lives that flow from that direct link – wisdom, insight, revelation, knowledge, understanding – and these are all about how we ‘see’.
Discernment: A new person may arrive in our church midst one day and suddenly an alarm goes off inside you, suddenly you find you are on the alert, and another word is added to our armory – discernment. This is something more than ‘intuition’ which is an ‘inner sense’ that goes beyond reasoning. Intuition operates within the physical world; discernment operates in the spiritual world.
Wisdom: A complex problem occurs in life. Various of you talk about it but there seems no obvious solution, nothing seems to come to mind. You pray about it and suddenly a solution becomes obvious. You all wonder why you hadn’t seen it before, for it seems so obvious now you see it, but before – nothing. That is wisdom from on high, the knowledge how to do something, how to act.
Revelation: Life is carrying on as usual and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, you start feeling concerned about a particular individual. You remain quiet but pray. There is nothing obvious, but then suddenly you ‘know’, this man is committing adultery. That is revelation or knowledge. A word comes to you from the Lord what He is going to do about it. That is prophecy. He tells you that you are to confront him but he will deny it. That is wisdom, the knowledge of how to proceed. The outcome is not down to you, it is down to the Lord.
And So? These are just some of the ways we find ourselves ‘seeing’ in ways that are beyond the ‘natural’, beyond the physical, for we are moving in a spiritual dimension because we are spiritual people who are temples of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes these things don’t have a great sense of awesomeness, they just seem almost ordinary. That’s how it seems with Paul on the ship that is destined for shipwreck. They are sailing in the Mediterranean and the winds have been against them. They have come to a place called Fair Havens but “the harbor was unsuitable to winter in”, and so, “the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.” (Acts 27:12)
Paul had already spoken and his advice rejected: “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.” (27:10,11) They set off and a little while later a hurricane strikes. A little later Paul is able to share that an angel has told him that although the ship will be destroyed none of them will be lost. He is a constant source of encouragement to them in the ongoing crisis until the ship is wrecked. He has been moving with the knowledge of God – revelation. Note in passing that the world may not listen to your revelation but that doesn’t detract from it.
And Us? Going against the tide sometimes involves going against the opinion of others. Paul sees what they could not see and even when ‘the world dominates the situation’ God is still there reassuring him. Don’t fear when the world looks confused and out of control; trust the Lord in it, listen to Him in it. We don’t have to get angry when others can’t ‘see’ as we see. As a general principle the apostle Paul taught that, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel,” (2 Cor 4:4) and blindness is a frequent outworking of unbelief. I believe we are called to be like the men of Issachar who had a reputation for being men who “understood the times” (1 Chron 12:32) but that understanding comes by the Spirit who helps us ‘see’ what is going on. Understanding these things then lays a burden on us to pray and intercede, whether it be for individuals, a community, or the nation. Being people who ‘see’ brings responsibilities. But his grace is available for us. Let’s receive it.
(We will return to this series in a week’s time)