this is part 2 of my thoughts on an interesting part of the book of acts. like spiritual gifts, God’s sovereignty is something that is very difficult to wrap our minds around- but it is something that paul writes on in his epistles. again, his experiences along the way most likely shaped his thinking on these topics.
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
at the moment of reading, this little promise to paul might have seemed insignificant- but based on what was to come over the next period of time, it was a statement that paul had to cling to in order to trust that he was going to survive. it most likely also gave him boldness to speak to rulers and authorities with conviction- knowing that because God had promised he would speak in rome, he would not be killed or held captive for too long.
then, in a sort of prophetic way- and facilitating his own way to rome, he, in his defense as a roman citizen, paul appeals to caesar- which under the law, assured him a hearing in rome.
If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them.I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
in strange irony though, we watch the behind the scenes banter between the roman governor festus, and king agrippa- basically they talk about how paul ‘could have been’ sent free, if he had not appealed to caesar.
“Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, ‘This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.’ And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.'”
this is amazing and should teach us something about what is happening in our ‘lives’ and what God’s plan is. God’s bigger plan was to get paul to rome to preach the Gospel- yet here, we, in our worldly thinking, may think that paul ‘missed out’ on the chance to be free, which in a real world kind of way, was indeed a missed opportunity. that was my initial reaction when i read it. you kind of get this gut feeling of ‘man, if he just had not made that statement about caesar, he could have just walked.’ but paul’s continued imprisonment from that point on, and eventual shipwreck on the way to rome, was all for the greater good of the Gospel. this is a really great example and reminder to us, that we have to be sure to trust in the greater promises God makes to us- and to seek those out- not becoming distracted with worldly comfort and solutions. paul was to go to rome, and he was going to get there as a prisonor, on a ship. he did not ‘miss out’ on anything- he was just on the right track of where God was getting him to go. if he had been let free, who knows how/if he could have ever made it up to rome at all. paul was unwavering in his faith of God’s promise to him. let us all build that kind of trust in the Lord- and not be so quick to judge our current predicaments.