Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Acts 26:32

These words have always haunted me. Poor Paul. If only he had not uttered the words “I appeal to Caesar” in the last chapter! But he did and now a few days later King Agrippa states plainly to Festus, the civic and military leader of Judea (of which Jerusalem was a part and where Paul was arrested) that Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.

It seems to me that I’d have been thinking “If I had only kept my mouth shut! Now look what I’ve gotten myself into. I’ve already been in prison for nearly a week and now they say I could have been set free.” I would have been frustrated.

The story continues. As a result of Paul appealing to Caesar, he was sent to Rome – not an easy trip we learn. Terrible storms buffeted the ship for more than two weeks and they were eventually forced to abandon ship at the small island of Malta. The narrative makes it clear that was windy, rainy and cold.

I think we so often romanticize Scripture narratives. The citizens of Malta join them on the beach and build a fire for them. Beach party! Not quite – let’s picture this as it really is – after more than 2 weeks of being battered by storms, their ship breaks apart and they swim to shore. It’s still raining and windy and cold. They are soaking wet, their clothes and hair are being whipped around their body as they search for wood to help make a fire in the rain. The 276 passengers and crew from the ship now have no ship to serve as their home away from home and to take them where they are going. No food to sustain them. No clothes to change into. It’s not a beach party, it’s a disaster and they feel devastated. And it all could have been avoided if Paul had not appealed to Caesar. But he did, so the story continues.

After three months on Malta, they set sail again for Rome.

Mini-Lesson in the Narrative
Upon arrival in Rome, Paul is greeted by believers who had heard he was headed to Rome and traveled a distance to see him. Scripture records:

At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.
Acts 28:15b

I’m thinking Paul needed the encouragement. It doesn’t say that Paul was discouraged, but it makes a point of including this half-verse saying that he was encouraged. The Apostles were great men of God, but they were still humans and I think God, in His grace, sent those believers to Paul simply to encourage him. The short lesson from this half-verse is that God knows when we need encouragement and He sends people to encourage us. Isn’t he a wonderful, compassionate and loving God?

Having arrived in Rome, you’d think Paul would have his day in court – have his opportunity to appeal to Caesar and get on with his life. The lesson of this narrative, though, is that God wants us to be a witness for Him throughout all the interruptions in our life. While on the island of Malta, Paul prayed for those who were sick and they were healed. Undoubtedly (knowing Paul), he was not only healing the sick, but also sharing the Truth about Christ at every opportunity. Upon arrival in Rome, the trial he had been waiting for seemed to have been delayed…

30For two whole years Paul stayed there [in Rome] in his own rented house [being guarded by a soldier while awaiting trial] and welcomed all who came to see him. 31Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 28:30-31

What began in false arrest, imprisonment and hardship resulted in Paul’s opportunity to “boldly and without hindrance” preach the Gospel and teach about Jesus to believers and non-believers alike in Rome.

When I am tempted to regret something I’ve done that seems to have changed the circumstances of my life for the worse, it’s important to remember that we don’t yet know the end of the story. (Well, we know the final end of the story – that I will spend eternity with God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in heaven, a place so unimaginably great that anything I consider pales in comparison to it; but that’s a different blog.) But in the midst of life on this earth, we don’t yet know where our circumstances are leading us in Christ. Continued obedience to Him and His Word might just be leading us to years of unrestrained opportunity to preach and teach about Jesus. Let’s not diss the Lord and His activity in our lives by keeping our eyes on the storms and hardship around us when those very storms and hardships are just the scenery on the journey to serving Him.

4 Responses to “Serving God Wherever Life (Or Our Seemingly Ill-Spoken Words) Takes Us”
  1. Sharon says:

    Great blog, I was feeling a little down when I started reading, after reading the blog I’m no longer feeling down. The gloomy day is just the scenery

  2. Sandy says:

    Thanks, Sharon! And I pray your day gets even better!

  3. Patti says:

    Very good, Sandy, as always. Easy to read and understand. I can relate to the lines “If I had only kept my mouth shut! Now look what I’ve gotten myself into.” Been there, done that…several times. LOL

    Paul was an amazing man for all that he went through and accomplished in his life.

    Be encouraged that you are making a difference in the world with your gift of blogging. Thank you!

  4. Sandy says:

    Thanks so much, Patti! I’m always encouraged by feedback. Blessings on your day!

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