We often say the “the Lord moves in mysterious ways” don’t we? This morning I was surprised to read that Wesley’s decision to join George Whitfield in Bristol (which led to the beginning of his outdoor preaching ministry) was decided “by lot”. Quoting from Wesley’s journal: “I had no thought of leaving London, when I received… a letter from Mr Whitfield… entreating me, in the most pressing manner, to come to Bristol without delay. This I was not at all forward to do… we at length all agreed to decide it by lot. And by this it was determined I should go.”
The casting of lots is not entirely without scriptural precedence – in Acts 1:26 Matthias is chosen to replace Judas by the casting of lots – but I feel sure that most Methodists would not think of it as a means of discernment that they would be entirely comfortable with! I’m equally sure that most would be very surprised to learn that the preaching-in-the-fields ministry of John Wesley should have come down to this literal throw of the dice (or similar).
Now I’m not suggesting, for a moment, that we decide the future of Netley by the casting of lots. But, we serve a God of the unexpected – He knows our hearts better than we do, and He likewise understands our every need and concern.
What strikes me about this passage in Wesley’s journal is that he should submit so fully and immediately to what he believed to be the discerned will of God. This decision meant that, in a day when travel was not as simple as jumping in a car and driving for a couple of hours, Wesley would drop whatever he was doing in London and ride to Bristol to join Whitfield. It was an act of obedience that would have far-reaching and profound implications for the Church in England; in fact it would have far-reaching implications for British society.
I wonder what the consequences would be had the lot fallen the other way, or if Wesley has simply decided that this was too random a means of deciding what to do.
At some point, we will come to a moment of decision, After all the deliberations and discussions; after all the prayer and consideration, we will come to a view of what God is asking us to do. When that moment comes, will we, like Wesley, be ready to react with courage, conviction and obedience?