Guidance can be hard! On the Alpha Course we learn about 6 ways God guides us:
- Commanding Scripture – the Bible is our basic guidebook for life
- Compelling Spirit – the Spirit speaks to us
- Counsel of the saints – wise friends can help us
- Common Sense – God has given us minds to use
- Circumstantial Signs – Like Gideon and his fleece, God can provide signs that guide us.
Paul here has a circumstantial sign from the Lord and doesn’t go with it! The Lord opens a door for him to go to Troas and he doesn’t go because his spirit is not at peace – there is no-one to go with. Team is important to Paul – he is not a lone ranger, he will only go for it if he has team to do it with.
In the verses leading up to today’s reading we have a glimpse of some of the things he has had to go through:
Deadly perils in Asia 1:8-10
An emotionally wrought letter 2:4
Disappointment in Troas 2:12.
Even in the midst of tough times, Paul is thankful. Someone once said ‘our altitude is set by our attitude and our attitude needs to be gratitude’! Thankfulness, in all things, sets how far we can go in many ways. Grateful people get more.
So Paul thanks God for leading us in triumph; in the midst of difficulties and for the fragrance of Jesus spreading.
When you are saved, Jesus is the sweet aroma of life. To the perishing, the aroma of Christ is the smell of death. Occasionally our cat will bring in a dead mouse, or more often one only just alive, which hobbles into a corner under the oven to die. How can something so small, smell so bad? A mouse is a couple of inches at most, but the smell of a dead mouse pervades all! To the perishing the gospel smells like death and it is death. Death to self. But we become alive in Christ and our life in Him is so much more fragrant than the stench of sin and death.
Paul was often criticised for being small and not super-leader like. He hated being put on a pedestal. A good thing, because so many leaders on a pedestal fall off spectacularly. He doesn’t need commending, doesn’t want letters of reference. They and their changed lives are his reference, his resume.
Their new life, and ours, is a life in the Spirit, with the Spirit written on our hearts, superseding the law written on stone. Here Paul is echoing Ezekiel’s promise that the Spirit would be written on our hearts, in contrast to the law written on stone. Our hearts that were once stone cold, dead in sin, are now alive in Christ, filled with the Spirit of God and bringing life wherever we go.