Here we see an amazing image. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke were on their missionary journeys and they deign to go to Asia, which the Holy Spirit forbids. And then, they determine to go to Bithynia, which He again forbids. Now, I want you to stop and truly think about this for a moment. You have this really great idea, and you believe within your heart that this idea will lead millions to the kingdom. You’re going to fly to this nation and preach the gospel and millions literally will be saved. And the flight gets cancelled. Or, the transport that you are going to take is delayed and you miss the flight. How do you respond?
See, Scripture isn’t real clear on how they knew that the Holy Spirit forbade them from going, we only know the He did, and thus they were unable to go. And how do they respond? In obedience. See, I ask this because all too often, we come up with these big plans in our own wisdom; these things that we wish to do for the Kingdom, and then something prevents us from doing it. And our reaction is usually the same. Despair, anxiety, anger, despondency. And this reaction reveals to each of us what is truly in our hearts. If our true motivation is to do the will of God, then we would recognize that nothings happens that He does not allow. To claim that a flight being cancelled could ever impede the will of God is to claim that whatever caused the cancellation is greater than the power of God. To claim that a flat tire could impede the will of God is to claim that whatever caused the flat tire is more powerful than God, that it could stop His will from being done.
No! Rather, we must consider the cause of our anger, of our despondency. If we grow angry because something interrupts our plans, then our anger is self-centered. It is not the will of God that has been interrupted, it is our own will that has been interrupted. Our anger grows because it wasn’t the will of God or the glory of God that we sought after, but rather our own will, our own glory. Nothing is ever able to stop God’s will being done, but frequently, He allows our own will to be stepped on, that we may be humbled and realize that it is our own ego, our own vainglory, that we are feeding with our actions. He allows these things to happen to help us to find humility, that our pride and self-righteousness may not overshadow the good deeds that we do in His name.
My brother by birth once told me that there are no selfless deeds, that everyone who performs any philanthropic act has a selfish desire. And I contested this statement, for where the love of God is, there is no selfishness, merely selflessness. But he, being an unbeliever, didn’t adhere to this mindset. And, for those who know not the love of God, this is true. To perform a philanthropic deed in absentia of the love of God is never selfless, because it is all centered on how that deed makes one feel. However, when our true motivation is the love of God, then all selfishness vanishes. To truly love someone with the same love that God loves us is truly selfless.
Paul, Timothy, Silas, Luke; each of these men of God were prepared to go wherever God chose, to suffer whatever God allowed, for the sake of His will. They prayed after the model of the Lord, “not MY will, but THY will be done.” When His plans contradicted theirs, they humbly obeyed and changed their plans. May we each, my brethern, learn from this wisdom and test our own hearts. Allow us to search the recesses of our hearts and consider, is it His will that we are trumpeting, or is it merely our own vainglory? Do we seek to feed the hungry or our own egos? Is our life exemplified by the “righteousness of God,” or is it led by the righteousness that we wish to portray to others? The Greek word which is translated “hypocrite” is a word that literally translates to “actor,” someone who plays the part rather than living it. Do we, my beloved brothers and sisters, do works that the will of God be done? Or do we stand before the world, trumpeting our own accomplishments seeking some form of egotistic, self-righteous praise? We must be careful, and ever follow the examples which have been handed down to us by the Holy Church, through the Holy Scriptures, and examine to make sure that our motives are pure. It is through the love of Christ alone that there are, indeed, selfless motives.
Christ is in our midst.