5 STEPS TO SURGE BEYOND LIFE AT THE CROSSROADS
“When you come to a fork in the road – take it!” That was Yogi Berra’s famous but humorously bewildering advice. But standing at a crossroad moment in life is often the least humorous season for any of us. Surgery now or wait? Leave for a better job or try to make this one work? Should you tell her how you really feel or wait for a more opportune time? The crossroads can be agony.
Knowing that we make our choices, then they make us, can strand us paralyzed in the uncomfortable wasteland of indecision. Living at the crossroads means we are torn between two apparently good options and we don’t immediately know which is best. Or, we are left with the frustration of having no apparently good choices so we struggle to decide between the lesser of two evils. As a result, according to Psychology Today, we gaze out at an unrealized future up to one hour for every 8 waking hours everyday. Yet, author Peg Streep, (quoted in the article) finds that, lacking the skills to accurately assess our current situation, or decide what to do next, “We expect that when the future shows up, our best self will show up. Instead, we get our typical everyday self, struggling with the same traits—fear, laziness, procrastination—that consistently hold us back today.” (“Reinvent Yourself” Psychology Today, May 2014) In other words, we get stuck somewhere between dreaming of something different and doing something different. That difference creates a Grand Canyon of emotional distance and spiritual dissonance between what you really want to do and what you are settling for right now. Life at the crossroads starts looking normal, intractable, and permanent. But it is none of those things.
AN ANTIOCH MODEL (Acts 13:1-4)
The Christian movement itself was at a crossroads so a group of gifted, passionate leaders met to pray and worship God, literally expecting Divine intervention. Only a handful of them were there but they had already seen God move in power and He had given them dynamic spiritual gifts which they regularly used. The group included 2 men who are well known today but at the time Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus were relatively new Christians with a heart for God and a successful track record in the fledgling evangelistic and church planting ministry in Antioch, near modern day Antakya, Turkey. Antioch was an important city because it was on the trade route to the East. It had an impressive population of about 500,000 free citizens not counting slaves and was therefore the third largest city in the world.
It was exactly the kind of city the early church was attracted to and more importantly, God was moving in Antioch in a powerful way. It is the first city mentioned in Acts that was evangelized by the church without Apostolic assistance and is the second most frequently mentioned city in the book. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that leaders convened there for a strategic prayer gathering (Acts 13: 1-4).
The Christian movement had come to a crossroads moment. It seemed as if the prophets and teachers could sense an openness to the Gospel in the Gentile world, even though until that point Christianity had been almost exclusively a Jewish movement. What should they do? How should they precede? What they did is a blueprint for how you can move beyond your crossroads.
MOVING BEYOND THE CROSSROADS (Acts 13:1-4)
What did they do at the crossroads? Here are 5 steps you can take to get moving in the right direction.
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.” (Acts 13:1-4 ESV)
1) They gathered a group of like minded leaders for prayer (vv.1-2). It’s amazing what God will do when you convene with other spiritual men and women who have real passion for God and simply seek His presence in prayer! It can be world changing. Join a group or call one together! Start praying with Godly people and watch your circumstances start to change.
C.S. Lewis, the 20th century Christian philosopher once said, “It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men” His point is obvious. Time spent in worship, with no agenda but seeking God’s face, yields life changing results.
2) They recognized that prayer and worship are intensified with fasting! The word “fasting” occurs twice in this brief section of Scripture (vv.2-3)- more than worship (1 mention) or prayer (1 mention). Fasting “clears” our spirit when we pray. It brings greater clarity and spiritual insight to the worship gathering. It adds a “turbo boost” to the engine of prayer and worship. When you fast and pray things happen!
3) They were very sensitive to the Holy Spirit (v.2). In fact, in this passage we read that the Holy Spirit talked to the group! Can you imagine being in a prayer meeting and the Holy Spirit starts speaking? This much is certain , when you are spiritually open to the Holy Spirit’s leadership you won’t be at the crossroads for long.
Regarding the Spirit’s tendency to intervene on behalf of believers at the crossroads, the British evangelical G. Campbell Morgan once observed, “To the individual believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit there is granted the direct impression of the Spirit of God on the spirit of man, imparting the knowledge of His will in matters of the smallest and greatest importance. This has to be sought and waited for.” In other words, whatever it takes, seek a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit and expect Him to communicate!
4) They were agreeable to new directions led by the Spirit! The Spirit chose Barnabas and his young apprentice Saul of Tarsus to go on a Mission Trip. It was the first of its kind and is often called “the first missionary journey of Paul.” The significance of the journey- through mostly Greek speaking gentile country in modern turkey- was the target audience. What had been a Jewish focus spilled over into the world wide evangelistic mission of the Church we know today!
It was a new direction. At the crossroads, if we are willing to fast, pray, worship and wait on a move of God’s Spirit, we can expect a breakthrough- when the way forward suddenly becomes unmistakable.
5) They obeyed. What a tragedy it is when we pray, hear from God, and then refuse to do what He instructs. After they fasted and prayed they booked passage on a ship and left town! When you are stranded at the crossroads of indecision, and then you worship, fast and pray with a group of godly people, and God speaks- you have to rise up and obey the Lord. Get going!
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