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Corrected “Practicing His Presence.”

As Christians, our lives MUST be led by the Holy Spirit. That means every moment, every word, every action, every thought should be led by Him. I know, easier said than done. But this is our reasonable service, yes?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.”

Romans 12:1

Acts 16 is a great example to us in being led by the Holy Spirit and the outcome of doing so. Paul took Silas and Timothy with him to preach the Gospel in various cities, and as they went it says the Holy Spirit “forbade them,” and “suffered them not” to go into certain places (Asia and Bithynia, Acts 16:6-7). Instead, Paul had a vision in the night that a man of Macedonia was asking him to come to that city. They decided that was the Lord guiding them to where they ought to go next and obeyed.

What came of their obedience was an entire household believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and being baptized. In addition, a woman possessed by a spirit of divination was set free. And because of that freedom, men who made money off her told the government they were leading people astray from Roman tradition. The multitude came together against them (the community), their clothes were ripped and they were beaten and thrown into prison.

Wait, what? Would the Lord lead them into being beaten?! What kind of God sends His children to the slaughter? I’m “speaking as a man” now (Romans 3:5), but these are the questions that plague us at times being Christians, and they definitely are asked by unbelievers.

I’ve been reading stories about women who were persecuted for their faith in Christ. In each of these stories, there was a fear (and eventual happening) of persecution. However, one prepared for her persecution by fasting and even eating rotten foods, knowing full well if captured that’s what she would have been given. Another prayed God would strengthen her to be ready for persecution and not to fear the pain she knew would come. All of them were prepared to take whatever came to them for the cause of Christ, because of His great love for them, and all of them were led by the Spirit. My Pastor says, “Boldness comes when you realize you have nothing to lose.” These women, and Paul and Silas and friends, had nothing to lose (in their minds), because their reward was safe in heaven with Christ, as was their very life.

In the words of Paul,

“To live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Philippians 1:21

I watched The Hiding Place last night, and was amazed at Corrie Ten Boom’s sister Betsie’s faith. She thought at one point that there would be no death. She thought surely the Lord had said it but someone died. This didn’t lead her to question her God, but her own thoughts. She said, “God, don’t let me listen to my own voice and think that it’s Yours.” This is to be our prayer as well. And the women (and many more) who have been willing to give up everything are to be our example. In the same way as Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ,” (1 Corinthians 11:1) we are to imitate them as well in that they imitate Christ.

So, yes. Sometimes we are called to go into persecution or trial. God does not cause men to choose to hurt us, mock us, or frustrate us. How can He allow it? Because He is a loving God. He loves, therefore He gives choice. What men do with that choice is up to them, but no matter what they may do to us, we should take up Paul’s attitude,

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

No matter where the Holy Spirit leads us, even if it is to stay where we are or not go a certain direction, we should follow Him.

What came of Paul and Silas in prison? They sang praises to God at midnight, a great earthquake came and shook the prison, opening the doors. They didn’t run out, but stayed and a guard’s life was spared and he and his family came to Christ, and Paul and Silas were released the next day.

Esther Ahn Kim, who trained herself to fast many days, eat rotten fruit, and live in terrible conditions to prepare for her persecution prepared well. During her imprisonment, Miss Ahn’s teeth became too weak to bite ripe apples, so when she was given the rotten fruit, she cried and praised the Lord for His faithfulness to her in giving her what she could handle. She lived through her terrible persecution and went on to tell her story around the world.

Betsie Ten Boom praised God for the lice she encountered at Ravensbruck because it kept the guards out of their “cabin,” allowing her to keep her Bible, sing praises, and hold Bible studies in the midst of her (and her sister’s) imprisonment. Many came to the Lord through their example and Corrie lived to tell their story, though Betsie died in prison. Many don’t get the chance to come out of persecution alive, but even they went to their deaths refusing to renounce their Christ, some even praising Him and forgiving their persecutors as they perished.

If these can be led by the Spirit into the unknown, trusting the Lord at every turn, surely we can do the same. We aren’t in persecution right now. Yes, there are restrictions and slight persecutions if you want to call it that, but we are not in the thick of it like many around the world are right now. We must, before persecution comes, be fully surrendered to Christ. Our “reasonable service” is training. Obedience is necessary in the small things now.

Take time to allow the Holy Spirit authority to speak into your life, to lead you in every way. Practice the presence of God. That doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit comes and goes based on you or anything you do – don’t get prideful. He does as He pleases. But your obedience will keep you under the shadow of God’s wing, will allow you to see His eye guiding you, and will train you to hear His voice and follow His lead in all things. You’ll be more aware of the Holy Spirit when you practice listening, slowing down, praying, reading the Word, and paying attention. Then, your steps (being righteous) will be ordered of the Lord.

Prayer: God, help me to be led by Your Holy Spirit. Forgive me for my idle or sinful thoughts, actions, and words. Forgive me for being led by my emotions, my desires, and my sinful heart. Help me to hear You and know You well, and to never think my voice is Yours. Lead me in all things, into all truth, and teach me to practice Your presence through obedience and repentance. I will follow you wherever You lead, even if that means staying in one place. I trust You. You are good and You know the plans You have for me, so I will follow You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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