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adapted from the book
Quiet Talks on Prayer
by S.D. Gordon, 1904
The Best Light for Studying a Thorn 2

God had a hard time holding Paul to His plans.
Paul had some plans of his own. We can all easily understand that.

Take a side glance or two as he is pushing eagerly, splendidly on. Turn to that sixteenth chapter of Acts, and listen. "Having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in (the province of) Asia," coupled with the fact of sickness being allowed to overtake him in Galatia where the "forbidding" message came. And again this, "they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not".

Tell me, is this the way the Spirit of God leads? That I should go driving ahead until He must pull me up with a sharp turn, and twist me around! It is the way He is obliged to do many times, no doubt, with most of us. But His chosen way? His own way? Surely not.

Rather this, the keeping close, and quiet and listening for the next step. Rather the "go not up yet unto this feast" of Jesus . And then in a few days going up, evidently when the clear intimation came. These words, "assayed to go," "forbidden," "suffered not" - what flashlights they let into this strong man's character.
But there is much stronger evidence yet.

Paul had an ambition to preach to the Jerusalem Jews. It burned in his bones from the early hours of his new life. The substratum of "Jerusalem" seemed ever in his thoughts and dreams. If he could just get to those Jerusalem Jews!

He knew them. He had trained with them. He was a leader among the younger set. When they burned against these Christians he burned just a bit hotter. They knew him. They trusted him to drive the opposite wedge. If only he could have a chance down there he felt that the tide might be turned.

But from that critical hour on the Damascus road "Gentiles-Gentiles" had been sounded in his ears. And he obeyed, of course he obeyed, with all his ardent heart.
But, but - those Jerusalem Jews! If he might go to Jerusalem!

Yet very early the Master had let Paul know that He had something different in mind than the Jerusalem service for Paul. He made it a matter of a special vision, in the holy temple, kindly explaining why. "They will not receive of thee testimony concerning Me." Would that not seem quite sufficient? Surely.

Yet this astonishing thing occurs:
Paul attempts to argue with the Master why he should be allowed to go.

This is going to great lengths; a subordinate arguing with his commanding general after the orders have been issued! The Master closes the vision with a peremptory word of command, "depart. I will send thee far hence (from Jerusalem, where you long to be), to the Gentiles."

That is a picture of this man.
It reveals the weak side in this giant - of strength and of love. And this is the man God has to use in His plan.

He is without doubt the best man available. And in his splendour he stands head and shoulders above his generation and many generations. Yet (with much reverence) God has a hard time getting Paul to work always along the line of His plans.