Have you ever made plans, asked God to bless them, and then had them turn out completely different than you had envisioned? How do you feel when that happens? Most of us would be terribly disappointed by it. So, where is God in all that? Does God not care about our plans or our desires?
The Apostle Paul had plans made. He had a strong desire to fulfill those plans and he fervently asked God to deliver him from the Judeans and allow him to travel to Spain via Rome. Paul did make it to Rome, but only after a few years of detainment in the prison of Caesarea, and only in the chains of house arrest. Probably not how he had envisioned his grand introduction to the “eternal city.”
We can learn some things from Paul’s failed plans.
1. Even Paul didn’t get to do everything he planned to do.
2. Even Paul didn’t completely understand what God wanted him to do in the next leg of his journey.
3. A fervent prayer is not a guarantee of request fulfillment.
4. God’s version of our plan is most often very different than ours.
Paul did make it to Rome, and from there had a very fruitful ministry. He taught people as they came in and out of his house. He had influence on the Roman army by being physically chained to a Roman soldier. He had an impact on the royal family since he, being a prisoner in the appeals court of Caesar, was on the political radar, and he penned four letters that are now in our New Testament collection. It would have been easy for Paul to be discouraged by these circumstances (and I’m sure he had his moments), but he knew that his job was to submit to God’s methods and God’s timing. He was only a servant, serving one part in a very complex play.
As a final note for this week, read v. 29 again. The key to success in the Christian life is found in this verse. Paul’s prayer was answered. Paul asked to come to Rome in the “full measure of the blessing of Christ.” What Paul didn’t realize when he made the request was that the blessing had to be wrapped in prison clothes in order to reach its full measure. That’s where our problem lies. We try to dress up God’s blessing in the clothes we want it to have. We say that it must look this way or it will not, or cannot be a blessing. Sometimes, often times, the things that the world considers a curse are actually a blessing from God. If you don’t get a particular job, you may have been spared from greed. If you have a special needs child, God may be teaching you patience. If you lose a loved one, God may use the story to penetrate a hardened heart.
Let’s take time this week to a) evaluate our plans and make sure they are in line with God’s will, and b) make sure our “bless-o-meter” is calibrated to God’s standard of blessing and not our own.