Chains and Storms

The plan of God rarely works out the way that we see it happening in our minds. Frequently we think that God has sent us to do something, and the image in our mind of what we think God wants to do is full of good times and even glory for ourselves. Yet the way that the reality usually works out is quite different from this. It usually, instead, looks like one challenge after another.

Jesus’s plan for Paul was that he had chosen him to be sent to the Gentiles. This was a new thing that God was doing, opening the Kingdom of God to new people who had never had access to the Kingdom previously without becoming a converted Jew, but now Jesus is carrying out this plan through Paul.

Paul had traveled throughout what is modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia, sharing the Gospel and planting churches through the entire area. Now Jesus was carrying out his plan to send Paul to Rome, the center of the Gentile world at the time as the Roman empire had conquered the largest portion of the world.

Paul wouldn’t travel there triumphantly, though. He would go there hidden. The Gospel would travel with him hidden. He was a prisoner, of no consequence to the Empire of Rome. Nothing from a human perspective.

When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Acts 27:39-44

Paul is traveling as a prisoner and has been in the midst of storms as he has moved with fishing vessels from east to west, having left Caesarea and headed to Italy. To those in charge, his life meant very little, but he was obeying the plan of God and moving in the way that God desired.

In some ways, this reminds me of how God also brought Jesus into the world. Jesus came as a baby, under the cover of darkness, hidden. Nothing particularly astounding about him and people really didn’t regard him highly, except that he taught with authority and performed signs that only God could do.

In the same way, Paul moved as a simple man, following the plan of God without fanfare, even following God’s plan while in chains and through great difficulty.

So we also should expect to move similarly as we see God use us. There will not likely be many friendly greetings from the world. There will not likely be any fanfare. Instead, we can expect the normal. We can expect the struggle. We can expect that, in the process of doing what God has called us to do, to need to overcome the obstacles of the world by depending on God’s help and leading.

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