The gospel is God's work. It began in His heart before the world was formed. He worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition - calling Abraham, creating the Jewish people, liberating them from slavery in Egypt, giving the Law, giving them the Promised Land, and finally giving them a Savior, Jesus. He secured the Gospel through Jesus coming as a man, fulfilling the Law, dying as a substitute for the sins of men, and then rising from death to conquer sin, death, and the grave. After Jesus ascended back to heaven, God entrusted the gospel to men; now, those who Jesus personally trained are empowered to preach the gospel. God does the impossible and allows them to preach to a variety of language groups so that each one can hear the message in their own language. The result is thousands of new, Jewish believers. But God's plan was not limited to the Jewish people. The promise had always been that they would bring a blessing for all the nations. With that in mind, God selects Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews).
God initiated this mission to the nations and now He is the One who carries it out. He has chosen to involve us in the work and calls us to be His partners, but He is the One who does the work. Paul responds to God's call with obedience, but God is clearly in charge. Paul's plan was to return to the churches that He started previously and then venture out to new territory in Asia. But God has other plans. He prevents Paul from entering Asia and redirects him to Europe. We don't know exactly what prevented Paul from entering Asia, only that God kept him from it. It was important enough that Paul know where to go that God gives him a vision of the need in Europe. A man in Macedonia, begs Paul to come and preach the gospel, so he does. He forsakes his plan to follow where God leads.
When Paul reaches Macedonia, he sees God at work in the lives of people. God had called him to Macedonia because He had gone ahead of Paul and prepared the way. There were people that God was already working with, preparing them to receive the message. God did the work of preparing them. Paul just delivered the message.
Sometimes it was easy to deliver the message. Lydia was a presentable, wealthy, businesswoman. God opened her heart to receive the message and she did. This encounter was reasonably safe and easy. However, that was not going to be the case every time. After they liberate a slave girl from the evil spirit persecuting her, Paul and Silas find themselves in prison. This is hardly the outcome we might expect from following God.
Why would a person following God's plan have to endure a beating from the authorities before they are locked up? Because God had another plan in place; he had a jailer to reach and that was more important than Paul's comfort or feelings. In spite of the difficulty, God's grace is sufficient for Paul. Even in a severe trial, God strengthens, supports, and encourages Paul. Because Paul is willing to be God's hands and feet, in spite of difficulty, God transforms the life of an entire family.
God is at work all around us. He calls us to be involved in that work. We have received His grace, but we are not to hoard it for our own pleasure. Instead, it is given to us so that we will give it away. The challenge for us is, are we willing to forsake our plan to follow God's, wherever it might lead and whatever it might cost?
Will you become God's partner?