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This is also very true for my Christian life. I am not a lover of detours. I know the mission, the goal the Lord wants me to tackle so I set out with my car in gear and start travelling. But then, out of nowhere, and for no apparent reason I hit a detour. The first time this happened to me I was devastated. I had started on a path that I was positive the Lord wanted for me. I was doing what I loved doing, I was walking the way I thought I was supposed to walk, but then, out of nowhere a detour popped up and I couldn’t travel down that path any longer. It took me some time to see and realize that there is a reason for every detour on these roads we travel. The Lord knows what roads are out, what roads are under water, and which way is the best way for us to travel to get to our destination. Paul and Timothy came up on a detour as well in their missionary journeys. They had a plan and an idea to go a certain way, then the Holy Spirit came in and said, “Nope- detour ahead”.
“Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.” Acts 16:6-7
Paul and Timothy and those with them wanted to go to Asia. But the scriptures tell us that they were forbidden to go by the Holy Spirit. They too had been given a detour. They were travelling along on their missionary road trip and the Lord said, “No”. When I first read these words I wondered why the Holy Spirit would tell them not to go to Asia. They were going to preach the word, obviously there was a need for the gospel to be preached in Asia, so why would the Holy Spirit tell them “No” and give them a detour? And then, even after they heeded the leading of the Holy Spirit, they decided to try another route, but once again, the Holy Spirit gave them a detour.
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First of all, one of the reasons the Lord gives us detours is because He has something else in mind for us to do. Our scripture today says that the Holy Spirit did not “permit” them to go into Bithynia. The context for “did not permit” means to not allow one to do what they wish. Paul and his crew wanted to go a certain way. They desired to preach the gospel to those in Bithynia, but it was their desire and not the Lord’s. I found myself nestled in this verse. How many times have I wanted to do something, wanted to go somewhere for the Lord and stepped out in my own strength to do it? It was Paul who wanted to go in that direction, not the Lord who was leading Him. The detour that came to them was to get them back on the path the Lord had for them- not the path they wanted to take.
The next reason why the Lord allows detours to come across our roadways is to protect us from something or someone we can’t even see yet. I once heard a pastor talk about a parade. We stand on the sides and we can only see a little bit of the parade as it passes by. We see the floats, and we can hear the band coming down the street, but we cannot see the end of the parade until it passes by us. But that is not our God. He is above the parade. He sees the beginning and the end. He has a bird’s eye view of every single float, band, and clown that is walking along. He knows what turns they will need to take before we do. So these detours that come into our lives, these “no’s” that we hear from the Holy Spirit are meant to guide us and protect us from what lies ahead.
“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.’” Isaiah 48:17
We do not always understand why these detours happen, and we get so discouraged when they do. I remember one time, when I was a little girl; we were travelling to Tybee Island, Georgia for our annual family vacation. Our car started acting up, somewhere in Kentucky. For no reason the warning lights came on and my uncle had to pull off the side of the road and find a mechanic. We pulled into the mechanic’s shop and all of a sudden the car started acting fine. The mechanic looked at it and could find nothing wrong with it. So, off we went headed back towards our destination. As we drove down the road a few miles, we came upon a really bad accident. A semi truck with a full load had jack knifed and crossed into oncoming traffic. There were many injuries, and some dead because of this accident. While we waited for them to clear the road so we could keep moving, my uncle said, “If our car had not acted up, we would have been right in the middle of all of this.” The Lord protected us from what He only could see.
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Let us come before the Lord today, as we travel on our roads of life and thank Him for the detours. We only see what is in front of us, but He sees the beginning from the end. We must trust in Him, even in the detours. In Jesus Name, amen and amen.