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"Strategy and Sensitivity" 02.27.16

“So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:8-10 ESV)

I apologize to all of my friends who are not as into sports as I am, but have you ever seen a crazy play in a football game? Like 8 laterals, 90 yards, and 6 points later, one teams walks off of the field proudly having just snagged victory out of the jaws of defeat? If not, go on Youtube and look one up. Seriously, go.

Now that you're back - what did you think? Pretty awesome huh! When a play like that comes together, it’s because two seemingly opposite principals have worked together to outwit and maneuver the opposition. Those two principals are planning and vigilance, or as Josh put it on Sunday, strategy and sensitivity. A strategic placement of team members is drawn out based on presumed defender reactions, and complex shifts in possession are designed to create confusion in the opposing team. Then in a pinch, the coach makes the call to use this crazy play on the field. Suddenly, the plan is in action, but the defenders aren’t quite reacting the way that the plan said that they would, the sensitivity of the players must kick in and they have to change the play – in the middle of the play. The use of strategy and sensitivity can pay off in a football game, and the truth is that God calls us to a similar place of mind.

What I mean is this, Paul in Acts 16 made a plan of how he’d extend the gospel. He would preach in Asia. Then once in Asia he’s “forbidden” by the Holy Spirit to speak there, so Paul being sensitive to the Spirit changes the plan and decides on Bithynia (no), then Troas (nope), and finally he sees a vision of a Macedonian man asking for help, and recognizes God’s call to Macedonia. Paul is both planful and willing to throw out his plans. He is strategic and sensitive to the Spirit, and that is how God is calling us to walk. It makes me think of Ephesians 5:15-16 which says to walk with wisdom “making the best use of [our] time.” Paul understood the importance of planning, and stewarding the time that we have from day to day. He knew that we are on a mission from God to share the Gospel with the whole world. He also understood the necessity of cooperation with the Holy Spirit and listening to what the Spirit has to say.

Lately we have heard from the pulpit two questions, “What is God saying to you?” and “What are you going to do about it?” The first question is a matter of sensitivity, and the second is a matter of strategy. We know that God has said to share the Gospel with those around us (Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8), so we can plan/strategize how we will work both together and individually to fulfill that great commission call. But let’s be sensitive too. Maybe God is calling you to join a billiards club, or eat at Joe’s, or buy Jeff a cat (maybe not). But what God is certainly not calling you to is stagnancy. Making the most of your time is not doing nothing for his kingdom.

So what is God saying to you? You don’t have to answer right now, but you should ask right now, “God, what are you asking me to do?” or “God, how can I do a better job of extending your kingdom?” There is no simple answer to these questions, but being strategic and yet sensitive is the most effective way to “move the ball down field.” And that’s our call. We are on the football field, and we have an opponent who is playing defense. Standing on the sideline does no good, so what’s the play you’ll call? What is your strategy for extending God’s Kingdom? And are you listening and ready to change the play is God makes a different call? Paul was, and we should be too.

Joe Popp

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV)