I just concluded another reading of the book of Acts, and I got quite a few lessons from it. There was something that really got me this time. A communication between Jesus and Paul. In the 23rd Chapter, there is an account of Paul being held in the castle by the Romans, after being accused by the Jews. In verse 11, it is written: “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
In the KJV, it says “be of good cheer“. When I read that encouraging message from Jesus to Paul, I felt like Jesus was cheering Paul on, and letting him in on a secret plan. Like it was really exciting, a bit like “You’re one lucky man! You’ve been chosen to go Rome to testify of me! Isn’t that great?”, and Paul would be thinking, “Awesome! I can’t wait to tell all those people the Truth! Thank you, Jesus!” I don’t know if you get what I’m getting at.
It wasn’t like Jesus was saying “Sorry, Paul, I have to break it to you, but you’re going to have to go to Rome too. It’s going to be a long thing, but it will be worth it.” And Paul wouldn’t have been thinking, “Oh man, Rome? Do I have to?” No, the message that was communicated was one of excitement, joy and hope. Spreading the word was exciting, and going to Rome was a big deal!
But another thing I noticed was that Paul’s journey to Rome did not happen soon after, nor was it a short and easy journey. Paul didn’t go to Rome as part of his missionary trips, he went as a prisoner, in bonds. He suffered isolation, beatings, death threats and schemes, shipwreck and more. We’re told that he was kept two-years in bondage by Felix, who even hoped that he might give him a bribe in order to release him, even though he had appealed to Caesar. He recounted his story numerous times, even testifying before king Agrippa, before he would finally set foot in Rome.
I don’t know what Paul imagined when Jesus told him that he would be going to Rome. I’m sure he hoped it would be one of his pleasant travels, and not that he would be taken on a long drawn out case to prove his innocence before Caesar. However, we are not told of how or when he testified before Augustus. But we are told in Chapter 28, verses 30-31, that “…for two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”
So, Rome was like the promised land of preaching the gospel for Paul. He had been promised by Jesus that he would also testify among the Gentiles, which would be his focal ministry. And Rome was the epicenter at that time. From there, Paul’s ministry could spread into all the world. And God preserved him through all his trials for this purpose, even being bitten by a snake!
Sometimes, we receive a word from God, without knowing when or how it will come to pass. We live in expectation of its fulfilment, but when trials comes, our faith gets tested. We might wonder if it will ever happen, because things are not going the way we planned or hoped. But God who has promised is not a liar, and His word cannot return to Him unfulfilled.
We just have to settle our minds on that fact that we can’t know everything about the journey. However, just as God preserved Paul through all his trials and brought him to his promised land to fulfil his purpose, He will also preserve us and bring us through the straight, winding, rough and tough roads with a beautiful testimony of His faithfulness. Let’s not be tempted to take short cuts to get to where God has promised to take us, because God has said it and He is in control.
The journey should not be missed, with an over-emphasis on “getting there”, because it is an essential part of our preparation and the growing of our faith. When we finally do make it there, we will have so much experience to draw upon. And we will probably be much more humble, from realising that we couldn’t have done it without God.
I hope you’re encouraged today! Keep trusting in God, and don’t let your present circumstance bring doubt or steal your joy. God is with you!
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