There are some supposed Christian leaders who teach that it is always God’s will for His children to be free from physical pain, emotional struggles, and spiritual battles. I do not know where in the Bible they can draw this conclusion.
Paul had what he called a thorn in the flesh. Three times he asked the LORD to take it away and each time the LORD said “No, my grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Cor. 12:8-9)
When Paul visited Jerusalem, it was anything but pleasant, but he knew he was in God’s perfect will. (Acts 21:15-36) When he first arrived, he met with some of the church leaders and shared with them the successful ministry among the Gentiles. Later, in the chapter, you will read how some Jews, from the province of Asia, stirred up a mob riot.
On his trip to Jerusalem, Paul also presented gifts from the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia. Those gifts were intended for the poor believers in that city. You can read about that special offering in 1 Cor. 16:1-4 and also 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15.
I think Paul was thrilled to be able to take those special gifts to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He was well received by the leaders in the church but he was also informed that many Jews who had believed, were fed false rumors about Paul — in Acts 21:21 we read “But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They have heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs.”
Paul had taught that no one could be saved via circumcision or keeping the Mosaic law. He had clearly taught that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. In other matters, he exercised the freedom “to become all things to all people” including becoming like a Jew, to win Jews “so that by every possible means” he might “save some.” 1 Cor. 9:19-22
A. Consider their plan that failed.
James and the other elders were afraid of what the Jews might do to Paul. They devised a plan whereby Paul would join four Jewish Christians who were about to go through a period of purification. (Acts 21:22-24) Their thinking was that if the Jews who were against Paul saw him going through the time of purification, they would accept him.
Unfortunately, the plan backfired. Jews who had rejected Jesus recognized Paul and they stirred up the crowd by saying that Paul had brought Greeks into the temple. An unbelievable state of pandemonium broke out whereby they literally tried to kill Paul. (Acts 21:26-30)
They probably would have succeeded but a Roman commander intervened. When you read the entire account, you will see that Paul was permitted to share his story. Later, when the Roman commander who had Paul arrested was about to have him lashed with whips, the apostle revealed that he was also a Roman citizen, so the whipping never took place.
Nothing satisfied the unbelieving Jews and they continued to plan how they might kill him, so the Roman commander had him moved to Caesarea where he could appear before the Roman governor. (Acts 23:1-35)
B. Consider God’s ultimate plan.
In spite of all the opposition that Paul faced, the LORD assured him that just as he had testified about Christ in Jerusalem, he would also testify about our LORD in Rome. In Acts 23:11 we read “That night the LORD appeared to Paul and said “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”
Here is a truth for all of us —
Paul’s disappointments became God’s opportunities. Paul had planned to visit Rome as a free man. Now he would go there as a prisoner, but he would go. Along the way, he would have opportunities to share the gospel with many people – even high-ranking Roman officials and the Herodian king, Agrippa. (Acts 24:1-26;32)
Note: Things had not gone as Paul would have hoped, but he knew he was in God’s perfect will, and that was what mattered.
· Has your life been going as you had planned?
· Have there been more downs, and detours than you would have imagined?
· Have you forgotten what Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 –
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them.” LORD HELP US TO REMEMBER THIS!
In Acts 27 we read how Paul set sail for Rome. On that trip, they got caught in a terrible storm. The sailors did everything possible to save the ship. They hadn’t even eaten for several days. Listen to what Paul shared with them in Acts 27:22-24, “But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the LORD to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar!’ What’s more, God in His goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.” He continued in verse 25 “So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said.”
What a comforting word for Paul and all who were caught in that storm. Maybe you are going through a storm right now. I urge you to seek the LORD. I wouldn’t be surprised if He has a comforting word for you too.
C. Here are a few principles for all of us to live by.
1. Living in God’s good, acceptable and perfect will does not mean we won’t get caught up in environmental crises that cause physical pain, emotional struggles, and spiritual battles. 1 Peter 1:6-7
“So, be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure trials for a little while. These trials will show that our faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
Is it you/my desire that through the testing of our faith, Jesus may be truly honored and glorified?
2. Life crises often present the greatest opportunities to demonstrate character and to be a strong witness for Christ.
During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, he wrote to the Philippians and shared how he was able to flesh out this truth – even when chained to Roman guards.
Philippians 1:12-14 “And I want you to know dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped me spread the Good News. Everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows I am in chains because of Christ. And, because of my imprisonment, most of the believers have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”
Folks, Paul saw purpose in his suffering. How about you and me? Perhaps today you are going through the fire. Maybe the lions are nipping at your heels. Are you preoccupied with your trial(s) or is it your sincere intent to persevere right to the very end? You want your life and faith to be strengthened. You long for your life to be a strong witness for Christ; so you are persevering through your trials, knowing in your gut, that you are getting stronger, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Remember this – it is always too soon to quit. Hang in there brother or sister, because the best is yet to come. One of these days, you will hear Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
For His Glory, Pastor Leonard