Daily D – Acts 23:11
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.” ACTS 23:11 (NLT)
If God awoke you in the night and whispered in your ear that he was going to make all your dreams come true, would you trust him? Would you trust him with the details? Would you allow him to direct your journey?
Proverbs 16 has several verses related to the journey of our lives and how God shapes our plans and directs our steps (vv. 1, 3, 9, 17). Verse 9 is one of my favorites: “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Maybe that’s where John Lennon came up with his observation that “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
Paul the Apostle had been dreaming of Rome for some time. The Golden Milestone, the Milliarium Aureum, was there. This monument was erected by Caesar Augustus near the Temple of Saturn in the Forum. All roads led from there to different points across the Empire. All roads literally led to Rome. It’s a fascinating tale for those who love history. When you cross railroad tracks today you can know that their width was shaped in large part by the Roman road system. Look it up.
In Acts 21:7-14, Paul was told by Agabus the prophet that he was going to be tied up as a captive if he went to Jerusalem. If he was ever going to make it to Rome, Jerusalem lay in the opposite direction, and losing freedom to physical bonds was no way to travel. None of it made sense to Agabus, Luke, and all the others.
What Agabus said was true. What the believers feared was accurate. Even so, Paul trusted God with the details. If he was going to get to Rome, God could take him all the way around the world if necessary. He was ready for his next epic adventure (v. 13).
A couple of weeks later, Paul was held in protective custody when Jesus appeared to him in the middle of the night. As Agabus prophesied, he had been bound. Now he was confined to protect his life. Two things which appeared to move in opposite directions were simultaneously true. He had moved farther from Rome, but he was also on his way to Rome.
Let’s pause a moment and think about the most epic vacation you have ever taken or plan to take. Once upon a time, people sent postcards to relatives with photos of what they were seeing and a simple message on the back saying something like, “Having a great time! Wish you were here!” While Paul was confined on his way to Rome, and again once he arrived, he wrote letters to churches we call New Testament books. Some of them are lengthy like 1 and 2 Corinthians. Some are brief like Philemon. Years ago, Chuck Swindoll referred to these briefer letters as New Testament postcards.
What we do in our downtime can shape generations. What we write to loved ones and friends can put strength in spines and determination in wavering hearts. Love and direction are communicated for length of days through notes and letters.
Lessons learned so far:
- Paul did not waste his time worrying about things he could not control. Instead, he trusted his unknown future to his deeply known God.
- Paul did not fret about the details regarding his journey to Rome. God was taking care of that.
- Paul was living his mission born of his apostolic bent whether chained, stretched out to be beaten, locked up for security, or transported across the Empire by horse, by boat, or by road.
- Paul could live each day in the full confidence of where he was headed and what he would experience when he got there.
- Paul and Luke kept a travelogue that is as thrilling as any ever written. A storm at sea lasting for days? Shipwrecked? Bitten by a snake? What a story! What a life! What tales to tell when chained to an armed guard in Rome!
Today, you and I are not as in control of life as we would like to be. Trust God. He is.
Today, details need to be worked out which are beyond our ability. Trust God. He’s got this.
Today, we have a mission to guide us. If it is God-given, nothing can deter us.
Today, we can live confidently and courageously knowing that God is with us every step of the way.
Today, we will experience adventures to tell about for years to come.
It’s enough to make an apostle’s heart go boom! It’s enough to make a prophet declare powerful words. It’s enough to make an evangelist look for new people to tell Good News. It’s enough to make a shepherd care for the wounded while telling them there is a bigger story afoot than they can imagine. It’s enough to make a teacher instruct all who will listen how God has always worked his best wonders in times like this.
I will awaken day by day encouraged by the opportunity to live another day on mission with God who is working out the details even when it seems everything is completely out of control.
Our Father, you are in charge here. I am not. I trust you to work out the details in your way and in your timing. You’ve got this. I belong to you. Let’s go! Amen.
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Ruth 1:20, 21 “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (CSB)