Yesterday my wife and I were faced with a situation that.. well.. was rather unusual. And even though I wish things happened differently, it did give me the perfect illustration for this post that I have been wanting to write for some time now. It has to do with our choice in how we respond to God’s leading.

What we experienced yesterday

It was Saturday morning, around 9. We sat at the kitchen table eating breakfast, soon on our way to church. I looked out the window, and saw a young woman, I guessed 18-ish, on the inner courtyard. This is the space with some grass and a playground in the middle of a number of apartment buildings.

It seemed as if she might have rushed out the door too quickly and forgot to put on pants. Literally. She was wearing a sweatshirt, and no pants. Soon she was joined by another girl in a sweatshirt who apparently also was unable to put on pants before leaving the house. There they both stood with their little dog. Oh and not to mention a boy about 6-7 years old.

And soon it became very evident as they were lifting up their shirts and bent down, that thankfully they at least did not forget to put on underwear. And I don’t want to get too graphical about this, so let’s just say that some very inappropriate public scenes between the girls followed for the whole neighborhood to see – and the boy got a close-up version of it.

Don’t worry, you are still reading about how to respond to God’s leading in your life. We’ll get there, trust me.

Our response

We could hardly believe what we were seeing, but our thoughts were quickly carried away from being about their outward behavior to the state of their hearts. How are they feeling if they are doing such things? We talked a bit about it as we finished our breakfast. Then Katja got an idea.

She told me how she wondered if she should go to them and ask them if they are doing okay and offer a listening ear if they wanted to have someone to talk to. I immediately thought, “this is a typical Katja idea”. See, my lovely wife has a huge heart and can build up a genuine care for strangers within milliseconds. She reasoned that many people in the world are simply not doing well. They might struggle with all kinds of things -like low self-respect, but feel that no one cares.

We had seen these two girls before -some months ago- with similar inappropriate behavior, also in the courtyard. So we kind of concluded that probably something is up, for them to do as they do. And what if God wants to reach them through us? What if they are in desperate need of some form of intervention? Are we to withhold this potential opportunity from them just because we think it is awkward? Or scared for how they will respond? We thought to give it a shot, because love for them compelled us to.

First up, the girls.

As I was preparing the car for us to go to church, Katja went to their door. She got the opportunity to talk to the girls, explaining what we had seen, and that in case they wanted to, they could come anytime and talk with us.

We did not really expect to immediately have a Dr. Phil moment with them right at their door -and that did not happen either. Here in Sweden everyone only minds their own business, so this must have been quite a unique and surprising situation for them too. And even though they responded more negative than we thought they might, at least a seed has been planted. Maybe they don’t appreciate it already now, but maybe one day.

But, this post is actually not about these girls and their behavior. It’s their parents.

The dad

After the girls left Katja at the door, the father asked what it was about. Katja explained to him what we had seen, and what she told the girls. The dad did not really seem to think that (most of) what they were doing was wrong, but he would talk with them. He asked questions, was polite and seemed to understand Katja’s heart of love behind it. We thought it was all over, got in the car and went to church. We listened to a great sermon, enjoyed the fellowship and did some evangelism in the afternoon. Then as we were in the middle of studying the Bible, the doorbell rang.

The mom

Apparently the story was not yet over before the mom took the liberty to tell Katja off. Without any form of respect she had come on a mission to put us in our place. Katja tried to explain as she was buried under false accusations and assumptions. With no opportunity to finish any of her sentences before the mom would interrupt her, I decided to step in. And as I manned up to tell her that she needs to listen to Katja, I was shushed by the mom.

For moments like these, you can thank God on your knees for a godly partner. I’ll be honest with you, exercising self-control does (still) not always come naturally to me. And in that situation, I know I would not have responded in a godly way, if it wasn’t for Katja giving me a subtle and gentle nudge. This nudge said, “ssssh”. I took her suggestion and watched how God kept Katja miraculously calm and peaceful.

Now let’s switch quickly to some verses from the Bible before we tie all this together.

The 3000 and the Sanhedrin

In the book of Acts we find two situations that are very similar to each other. God is giving them a message, but the way they respond to God’s leading has them experience very different results. One leads to life, while the other leads to death.

Peter preaches a bold message to his Jewish audience on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). He first builds the case for why Jesus would be the Messiah and then concludes with these words:

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36 KJV.

Ouch! The Messiah they had all been waiting for. For thousands of years (read more about the gospel). Then He finally came, and Peter tells them that they killed Him!

Stephen’s sermon

A few chapters later you have Stephen who is brought before the Sanhedrin -the Jewish leaders, and delivers a very similar message (Acts 7:2-53). He too builds the case for Christ, as he brings the Old Testament from the beginning to their attention. Then at the close he tells them this:

“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers” Acts 7:52 KJV.

So these Jewish leaders too were confronted by God through His people with a very direct message. Same painful conclusion, the reality was that they killed the Messiah, the Just One.

Hardening your heart against God’s leading

The Jewish leaders were cut to the heart (Acts 7:54). But how do they respond to God’s leading? They gnashed their teeth at Stephen, stopped their ears and ended up stoning him to death (Acts 7:59). Unwilling to listen and reason. They had their minds made up. Their pride and selfishness hardened their hearts towards a message from God.

So it was with the mom. She heard the story of what happened, but she was unwilling to listen. She had a choice to react as if her motherhood was under attack, or to be uplifted and grateful that a stranger cares for her daughter.

But because of her hardened attitude, she completely missed seeing that what Katja did came out of a loving heart. An opportunity to see God’s love in action, and potentially even experiencing how God can bless their family, out of pride angrily rejected at the door…

Words that lead to life

The dad had a very different approach. Even though he maybe did not fully agree in our view, he responded with an open mind. Willing to listen, even asking questions to understand it better. And because of his attitude, he was able to see that a random stranger, cares about his daughter. Instead of a neighbor angrily complaining, he saw a humble and kind person softly reaching out her hand. And even though he might not think they needed that hand, he can see that someone cares. How different were their experiences…

The Jewish audience under the reach of Peter’s voice too were deeply touched. And how they respond to God’s leading is captured in what I believe is one of the most beautiful Bible verses:

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37 KJV.

No stones were thrown. They humbled themselves. Three thousand of them were baptized and found life in Christ. Praise God!

Live God’s Word Today -application

When God wants to lead you in your life, how do you respond to God’s leading? What is your attitude? Especially if it might not be what you wanted or expected to hear..

I definitely have my experiences with stopping my ears. On a variety of topics, both about doctrines as well as lifestyle issues, I did not want to hear any other way than my own. Often pride, preference and comfort blocked God’s voice from getting through to me. I ignored and even actively avoided certain people who could be my Peter or Stephen. And I know that some of the consequences of those choices are lasting (hear part of my testimony).

It might not always be a life or death issue in itself, but not listening to God’s leading always costs you. Sometimes you might never know what it cost, because you’ll never know what could have been. Jesus wants to give us life more abundantly. That is His heart behind it. But to receive it, we need to humbly listen to the Katjas, Peters and Stephens God sends us.

Are you willing to humble your heart and listen to what God wants to tell you?