I listened as a friend offered a prayer for an acquaintance who was traveling. They prayed for smooth flights, easy connections, and no interruptions. I have also heard prayers before a church service, asking that everything go according to plan, smoothly and again with no interruptions. On the surface, these seem like very usual, even noble prayer requests, but what if we should pray that instead of our journey being on a smooth path, we ask for a road of opportunity?
There is a lot to be said for a smooth path; it is easier and more predictable. It certainly causes less wear and tear on our bodies, minds, and emotions, whereas the road of opportunity is full of surprises and even peril. Many ministry opportunities look like interruptions to the typical itinerary or plan.
Recall the time that Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jericho, and a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, shouting, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Even though others implored him to stop, he was persistent until Jesus called for him. (Mark 10:46-52) Perhaps this was not unexpected for Jesus, but it seemed like an unwelcome interruption of their schedule for the crowd and His disciples. Things may not have gone the way some had hoped, but Jesus was on the road of opportunity instead of the convenience of the smooth path.
Looking closely at the ministry of Jesus, it might appear as though he was always on the road of opportunity instead of the smooth path. Sometimes, even the interruptions were interrupted.
In Luke 8, Jesus had just crossed over the lake, and the crowds were there to greet him when Jairus, a local synagogue leader, interrupted Jesus and pled with him to come and heal his daughter, who was gravely ill. On the way, a woman, who had been hemorrhaging for years, summoned courage and faith to get close enough to Jesus to touch the edge of his clothes. (Luke 8:40-56) The disciple in charge of keeping the appointment book or calendar would have been pulling their hair out because nothing ever seemed to go according to plan.
Our Plans and God’s Opportunities
It is reasonable to have a plan and schedule for the days of our lives, but we should prepare for divine interruptions on the road of opportunity. “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) The smooth path may be convenient and predictable, perhaps even desirable. Still, problems and interruptions on the road of opportunity are frequently where the miracles, the healings, and the demonstration of God’s power are experienced.
Andre Crouch put it this way in his song “Through It All” when he wrote, “I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys, I thank Him for the storms He brought me through. For if I’d never had a problem, I wouldn’t know God could solve them, I’d never know what faith in God could do.”
We can be grateful for those stretches of smooth paths in our lives. Still, ultimately the opportunities to see God at work are to be found, not despite, but because of the problems, obstacles, and interruptions that everyone will face sooner or later. We must learn to be sensitive and alert on the road of opportunity.
Led by the Spirit
To be led by the Holy Spirit, we must be sensitive and alert because the promptings are often subtle and quiet. As Elijah discovered, there can be a lot of distractions when listening for God’s voice. “After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12 (NIV) You can be confident that there are forces at work that do not want you to hear God’s voice and his instruction. It takes practice to recognize and respond to the voice of God.
We must not be rigid in our agendas because even though we may think that we know where we are supposed to be going or even where we want to be going, we must always be receptive to new instructions from God. In Acts 16:6-10, Paul intended to preach the gospel in Asia, but in verse 7, he declares, “but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” Instead of fighting against God, he continued until one night he experienced a vision of a man from Macedonia who said, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Because of this, Paul concluded that this is what God wanted him to do.
Which Road Will We Take?
There is no doubt that some roads are more pleasant than others. When we hear the voice of God calling us to a pleasant place, we are less likely to question that we heard correctly than we would be when we are asked to walk a road that requires sacrifice and hardship. Yet, we should not be surprised because we have already been called to take up our crosses daily and follow Him.
Regardless of the difficulties or obstacles that are on the road to which we have been called, it is far better to be on that road with God than to be on some other pathway and be running away from Him. We must adjust our hearing to His voice. ‘Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.’ Isaiah 30:20–21 (NLT)
It should not be surprising that a pathway with great potential will also have significant opposition. “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.” 1 Corinthians 16:9 (NLT) In the end, it is not so much whether we are on a smooth path or a road filled with obstacles and danger. The only thing that matters is to be right where God wants us to be.