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15th May: Guidance (4) -- What if things go Wrong?

This man could have been set free if... Acts 26:32

There was no doubt about the rightness of his decision. Directed by the Spirit he had planned to visit Rome (Acts 19:21). His wish to go was certainly of God (Rom 15:22-24), and his call was later explicitly confirmed (Acts 23:11). Paul saw the future mapped out in front of him; he would finish his work in Macedonia and Achaia, deliver the gifts to the church in Jerusalem, then set out for Spain via Rome.

But things went badly wrong. Arrested in Jerusalem because of a total misunderstanding (Acts 21:28-29), he became the object of a smear campaign. The scandal grew. His enemies were quick to cash in on the situation and brought charges against him on accusations that were totally false and which he persistently and vehemently denied. But it was no good. The trip to Spain was 'off', and he found himself instead unjustly jailed for two years in Caesarea (Acts 24:27).

And then -- what irony -- justice at last -- but too late! Agrippa's judgment was in his favour, 'this man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment...He could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar' (Acts 26:31-32). Had he made a horrible mistake? could he have gone to Rome and Spain a free agent just as he had originally planned?

But Paul's plan would never have materialised. He would have been murdered in Jerusalem before he even started, God's plan was better. He actually used Paul's captors to save his life, to facilitate his work and to ensure the spread of the gospel to the west. Five times the Romans saved him from death (can you find them between Acts 21:31 and 27:44?). They gave him free and safe travel, so different from his missionary journeys. Not least they gave him guaranteed accommodation for four years under military protection, with his friends coming and going at will, with freedom to preach, teach and write unhindered (Acts 24:23; 28:16-24, 30-31).

Worried about injustices in job appointments? about unfairness and favouritism? about the malicious and false things people say? Afraid that God's plan for our lives is being spoilt? Our plans may not materialise, but God's always do.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
He will not, He cannot desert to its foes.
That soul though all hell should endeavour to shake,
He'll never, no, never, no never forsake.

Richard Keen.

Further reading: Passages indicated in the text.


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