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Insight into God’s will from other believers

May 11, 2023

Daily Scripture

Acts 15:1-2, 22-30

1 Some people came down from Judea teaching the family of believers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom we’ve received from Moses, you can’t be saved.” 2 Paul and Barnabas took sides against these Judeans and argued strongly against their position.
The church at Antioch appointed Paul, Barnabas, and several others from Antioch to go up to Jerusalem to set this question before the apostles and the elders.

22 The apostles and the elders, along with the entire church, agreed to send some delegates chosen from among themselves to Antioch, together with Paul and Barnabas. They selected Judas Barsabbas and Silas, who were leaders among the brothers and sisters. 23 They were to carry this letter:
The apostles and the elders, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings! 24 We’ve heard that some of our number have disturbed you with unsettling words we didn’t authorize. 25 We reached a united decision to select some delegates and send them to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul. 26 These people have devoted their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore, we are sending Judas and Silas. They will confirm what we have written. 28 The Holy Spirit has led us to the decision that no burden should be placed on you other than these essentials: 29 refuse food offered to idols, blood, the meat from strangled animals, and sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid such things. Farewell.
30 When Barnabas, Paul, and the delegates were sent on their way, they went down to Antioch. They gathered the believers and delivered the letter.


Daily Reflection & Prayer

As early Christians shared the good news of Jesus far and wide, there came the inevitable day when some of them said, “You’re teaching what? We don’t agree with that.” Yet most of them did not split into estranged factions, blasting each other. Acts 15 said they worked together to discern God’s will, trusting that the Holy Spirit was at work in all of them. “God gives us other Christians through whom God may speak to us. Our pastors and leaders in the church can play the role of guide.” *

  • Instead of “going to war” as competing sides, what do you think moved the early Christian leaders to come together to work through their differing views and agree on major principles, if not every detail and emphasis? (It wasn’t always easy, and there were some holdouts—cf. Philippians 3:2.) How did that honor Jesus’ prayer we read last Saturday (cf. John 17:21)? When has the wisdom of others helped you to discern God’s will more clearly in your faith journey?
  • The Bible also tells of people who, at times, challenged, or even defied, other voices in their faith community (e.g., Jeremiah and most of the Old Testament prophets, and yes, John the Baptist and Jesus). What guidelines can help clarify when you should let agreement and unity with other believers guide you, and when you should stand firmly for what you perceive to be right? What do we lose when we try (or let others force us) to make our spiritual journey alone?

Lord God, my culture sometimes glorifies “rugged individualism.” But I’m glad you don’t call me to follow you all alone. Give me the ability to listen and value the discernment of others who love and serve you. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Dennis Apple

Dennis Apple

Dennis Apple is a Connection & Care pastor at the Leawood location. He and his wife, Buelah, plan to return to Mackinaw, MI next year where they will celebrate 60 years of marriage. Their son, Andrew, lives in Seattle with his wife, Amber and their two grandcats, Buster & Felix.
In 1991 their eighteen-year-old son, Denny, died suddenly. The Apples currently lead Resurrection support groups for those who have lost children, grandchildren, and siblings. In 2007 Dennis wrote the book Life After the Death of My Son.


“I’m afraid I have grieved the Holy Spirit and am out of God’s will for my life.” I heard these words from my saintly mother several times across my boyhood years, growing up in Indiana. Mother loved God and kept all of us (I am the oldest of ten) in church. However, she also suffered from a mental illness that caused her to question her relationship with God. As her children, we were watching and wondering about God’s will too. A mother’s influence is powerful. Later, in our adult years, once when all ten of us were together, I asked my siblings, “Have you ever struggled with finding the will of God when you had to make a big decision?” The response was quick and unanimous….YES!

Later, I learned about a Quaker named Parker Palmer and the method he used when he had an enormous decision to make. He had received an invitation to be a university president. Conflicted and unable to decide, he called together a few friends to be a “Clearness Committee.” The function of the Clearness Committee was not to give advice or “fix” but rather to help remove the interference so that he might discover his own wisdom from the inside out. He knew that he had blind spots. So, he depended on others to pray and help him see more clearly.

The early church had their own “clearness committee” too. When faced with questions about what restrictions to place on the Gentiles, they debated, argued, fasted, prayed and came to a consensus. As the writer Luke described the process, “The Holy Spirit has led us to the decision…” (Acts 15:28). What a great example for us.

When faced with big life-changing decisions, I no longer try to be a Lone Ranger. I turn to good and trusted friends and invite them into the process. We ponder and pray together until we have clear direction. We must remember that even the Lone Ranger needed Tonto with him!

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

*  Hamilton, Adam. Why?: Making Sense of God’s Will . Abingdon Press. Location 796-800, Kindle Edition.