WEEK 4 — Dealing with Detours

From the Book

In chapter 3, Rob recounts Paul’s unexpected detour from his planned ministry in Bithynia. Instead, Paul traveled to Troas when he was prevented entering Bithynia. Comparing God’s guidance to a GPS which reroutes us to where we actually need to be, Rob reminds us that “God calls us to a purpose before God calls us to a place” (p. 68). We tend to have difficulty with redirection—even when we recognize that it is coming from God. And yet Jesus told us that, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62, NRSV). We cannot move forward well and welcome new opportunities if we are constantly looking back, and holding on to what is meant to be in our past. Even if we thought we already knew what God’s plan would be, we cannot allow our idea of God’s plan to interfere with God’s actual plan. We have to be open to taking the sharp left — as and when God encourages. Paul’s story reminds us to focus more on living as who and where God calls us to be, and worry less about making strategic choices and even “wrong turns.” Rob highlights two stories of following God’s “detours” in this chapter. First, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assigned to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama rather than his first choice in Chattanooga, Tennessee, King was in the right place to take the helm of the Civil Rights movement. Second, Rob’s church was force to change their plans for mission work when India was closed to Compassion International just after the mission team visited their planned site. Instead, they sent a team to Uganda. Shortly after meeting their pastors in Uganda, the team discovered that, though they had been planning to donate shoes, God had called them to Uganda to recognize the need for and help to fund huts for children whose parents had died in the AIDS crisis. Each of these acts of faithfulness to the detours God signals demonstrates that God is aware of intersections that we could personally never know or imagine might exist. Rob reminds us that choosing to view detours as a “new opportunity from God” leads us not only to welcome new opportunities, but also helps us to recognize that “a detour simply means we aren’t pursuing the route we originally had in mind” (77).

 

From the DVD

In the fourth session Rob asks, “Have you ever been in a place that feels like the middle of nowhere, and you’re not sure where to go next?” Rob recounts that because of the work that Paul has done to build a relationship with God, Paul “experiences a divine detour” (Acts 16). He can willingly say yes to God because he recognizes God urging him elsewhere, and trusts God enough to go in this new direction Troas is Pauls’ detour, and he embraces it. What we tend to think are detours—because they are not where we think we should be—are often exactly where God would have us be.

Recognizing Your Detours

  • Looking back at the detours in your life, what purpose can you now see in them?
  • What does it mean to keep taking steps when you can no longer go in the direction you wanted?
  • How might doors of opportunity open through a willingness to help others?

 

Scripture — Luke 9:57-62

Rob references verse 62 in his writing: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” However, this entire section of this chapter of Luke is helpful in light of Rob’s discussion on detours. Jesus says to one man, “Follow me,” and the man responds, “Lord, first let me go and…” Another man volunteers to follow Jesus, and adds: “but first let me go back and…” Jesus has provided direction, but we insert our own desires and plans—as well intended and understandable as they may be to us. We insist we must complete them before we can follow God somewhere else. Faithfulness means choosing whose plans we are going to follow—ours, or God’s. It can feel inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it ultimately means trusting that God has greater intentions that what we ourselves could know or create, and embracing the blessing to be part of and receive from that work.

 

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your guiding spirit and your desire to help us both reach you, and to do our greatest work. Thank you for your love, patience, and peace as we seek to walk with you, and lean into living fully and faithfully with you. May we lift up one another in these gifts as fully as you give them to us.

 

Benediction

As we go forth, be blessed to walk in the faith and beauty of God, trusting that each of our steps is marking a path toward our greater life together. Amen.

 

— Joy Bronson

Upper Room Intern, M.Div. Candidate

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