Monday, February 4, 2013

Be careful what you wish for!

"...Join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company."
(Romans 15:30-32)

We could label it: "Be careful what you wish for," or "God's ways are not our ways."  Either way, I find these verses from the end of Romans 15 quite striking.  Let me set the stage...

Paul, who grew up as "Saul," had been a zealous Pharisee (Jewish religious leader), before his conversion to Christianity.  In his early days as a new believer, he went form synagogue to synagogue sharing the Gospel with his fellow Jews.  Some converted.  Many didn't.  Some even got so upset they sought to do him bodily harm!  So he changed his "M.O.", and started preaching to the Gentiles (non-Jews), which was groundbreaking at that time.  After helping start numerous communities of Gentile believers, Paul asked them to make a sacrificial "love offering" to the original believers (aka Jewish Christians from Jerusalem).  Now he's on his way back to deliver the gift.  He also wants to visit the believers in Rome, and tells them so in this letter we have.

What actually happened when he got to Jerusalem is this... He gave the offering to the Church. The "unbelievers in Judea" got him arrested on trumped-up charges, and almost succeeded in assassinating him while in custody.  In the end, Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the Emperor, and thus was transported (as a prisoner) to Rome, where he lived a couple of years before his death.

So in the end, his prayer to the church in Rome (Romans 15:30-32) was indeed answered.  He did make it to them - only as a prisoner.  But I reckon Paul didn't mind so much.  He was still able to meet with the believers even as a prisoner.  And he said on more than one occasion that he was "a prisoner of the Lord Jesus" (Ephesians 4:1).

So be careful what you wish for... or just know that God is ultimately in control, no matter what comes our way.  We need to use every moment we have for God's glory!

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