Being led without realizing it (until later)…

[Chapter 15 of “How God Guides.” I’m sure we can all relate to this, where God does his leading sort of behind our backs! If you have a story about this, I’m sure we’d all like to hear it…]

“You don’t realize now what I’m doing, but later you will understand.” John 13:7

“Guidance doesn’t demand continual interference from heaven; it’s based on a quiet surrender and trust in the constant care of our Father, with a carefulness to walk in the light of all that we know to be His will, and a leaving of the remainder with Him.”  Donald Gee

Maybe we could call this an inadvertent leading, the kind of leading where you don’t know you’re being led until after you’ve been led there. We’ve probably all experienced looking back at our path and realizing that Someone from behind the scenes was cutting the trail just ahead of us without us being aware of it.  

Sometimes he sets up divine appointments that we didn’t recognize as such until afterwards. No doubt there are dozens of incidents in each of our lives every day where God orchestrates events around us to get us to do what he wants, where he wants, and when he wants. Some people call it “providence.”

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.  Ephesians 1:11

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28


I guess that most of the time God leads us without us actually knowing it (at least not until we look back).  Sometimes he somehow gets us somewhere to experience something, learn something, or do something good for someone, without us having any idea that he’s the one doing it!

My friend Dan was in the Navy Reserves riding in a van with a half dozen other reservists on a peace-time mission of some kind. Dan is a pretty fearless guy and loves to share his faith with others. He asked the entire vanload of men, “What do you guys think about death? Where do we go when we die?” A conversation ensued, and he had an opportunity to tell them about how Jesus rescued believers from eternal death. They finished their mission, and the next day one of the men from the van suddenly died of a heart attack. When I heard the story, my first thought was about God’s mercy, and how he was clearly reaching out to this man on the eve of his death! I asked Dan if he had felt a “leading from the Holy Spirit” to open that discussion. He said he hadn’t had any such leading, but that he just “thought” it would be a good idea, and it might lead to a good conversation about God. To my mind, the Spirit put this in Dan’s mind in such a subtle way that he wasn’t even aware of being led in order to give that man (as well as all the other men in the van) a chance to know Jesus before he died.

To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue. Proverbs 16:1

In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Sometimes it’s not a matter of knowing His will, but of just being in it. He’s our Shepherd, and as such, he often gets us where he wants us to be when we’re open to doing his will. We’re his sheep; and when we lack understanding (which is pretty much all the time), I think he simply arranges our circumstances in such a way that we end up doing his will. He’s too big to allow our ignorance to keep him from leading us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake!

Be encouraged.  When you’re sure you’re on the right train, you can rest easy and leave the rest up to the engineer. If you sincerely and unreservedly want God’s will, rest assured, you’ll have it!

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea. Acts 8:39

This is one of those way-out-of-the-box supernatural incidents recorded in the Bible. One moment Philip was on the road to Gaza and the next moment was in Azotus! He didn’t walk there or take a camel cab. He was “translated” by supernatural transport to the place where God needed him next (apparently he needed him there right away)! We see stuff like this in the movies all the time, but here it is right in the Bible. Even in Bible times this is not at all common, but sometimes God does what he does without precedent (or with any plans to do it again). I brought this up, not so much to encourage an expectation for translations, but to give an example of how God just took the initiative to transport someone to a location where he was needed. I’m not saying that we should expect such radical occurrences, but we might take courage from this that he can lead us without us having anything to do with it.

By the way, all indications about this man are that he was the kind of person to whom God could give such an outlandish ride. He’s the only person in the Bible called an “evangelist,” and he appears to have lived his life as a perpetual missions trip. He was available to do God’s will whatever it was, so God gave him a supersonic ride to his next assignment!

Sometimes he somehow gets us somewhere

to experience something, learn something,

or do something good for someone,

without us having any idea that

he’s the one doing it!

Of course this gives us no excuse to neglect doing our part to seek God’s will for our lives. Based on his providential involvement, I’ve heard people say, “Whatever God wants me to do, he’ll get me there –  one way or another.” While this might have some truth to it, based on all we’ve said so far, he appears to want the kind of friendship with us wherein we seek his will and he reveals pieces of it to us in any number of ways. And then he gives us a choice whether or not to do what he shows us.

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