If you have read the book of Romans, you know it was Paul’s ambition and desire to go to Rome and preach the gospel (1:10-12; 15:23-24, 28, 31-32). We learn from this letter he would travel to Jerusalem first, and then on his way to Spain, he would stop in Rome and minister to the people. In Acts 21:15, we see Paul’s tumultuous trip to Jerusalem. Things do not go as planned. “The whole city was stirred up and the people rushed together. They seized Paul dragged him out of the Temple and at once the gates were shut. As they were trying to kill him…” (Acts 21:30-31a). Paul’s life was in peril. Death seemed certain. However, God had a different plan for Paul. In Acts 23:11, we read, “The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so it is necessary for you to testify in Rome.” Has God ever answered a prayer prayed in an unusual, and at times, at a high cost to you? How do you continue when life proceeds strangely?
Paul would go to Rome. However, consider his journey; a riot in Jerusalem, an arrest, a rejection of the Sanhedrin, a prison in Caesarea, an appeal to Caesar based upon Paul’s Roman citizenship, a journey by ship, a shipwreck, and a snakebite, to name a few things. Paul would get to Rome, but he would journey to Rome on the providence and provision of God.
How do we respond when we get what we desire, but in ways we could never conceive?
- Faith – Trust God. He is sovereign and can work all things out for good (Romans 8:28).
- Focus – Be Kingdom-focused saints. It’s all about the glory of God. Paul wanted to preach in Rome. God wanted Paul to preach in Rome in chains. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Our life is not about us, but about living for the glory of God, the good of others, and the advancement of the Kingdom.
- Fruitful – Be fruitful wherever God has you, and in whatever way He gets you there. How can you bear gospel fruit in your pain, difficulty, and heartache? How can you exhibit the grace and goodness of God?
Consider Spurgeon’s words, “I do not suppose that Paul guessed that he would be sent there at the government’s expense, but he was. The Roman Empire had to find a ship for him, and a fit escort for him, too, and he entered the city as an ambassador in bonds. When our hearts are set on a thing, and we pray for it, God may grant us the blessing; but, it may be, in a way that we never looked for. You shall go to Rome, Paul; but you shall go in chains.”
Paul’s desire to visit Rome was realized (between 59-60 AD). Paul preached the gospel in Rome. For two years, he stayed and wrote Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians. God had a marvelous plan for Paul. Paul left Rome (About AD 63-65) and returned to Rome to die (67 AD). It was rarely a smooth and easy ride for Paul, but his faithfulness stands as a great reminder, it’s not about us but always about the glory of God. If you are in a waiting phase, continue to pray. Lean upon God, press into Jesus, trust Him, advance His Kingdom, and bear gospel fruit? If so, God will use you in mighty ways.