BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. “For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.” Acts 28:30,31 NLT
With these words, the Book of Acts comes to a close. We see this book begins with the proclamation of Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Book of Acts reveals how that prediction became true. The gospel message begins in Jerusalem, it spreads to other regions through the apostles and others when the church is scattered after the death of Stephen. We Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas on missionary journeys to various regions and then concluding with Paul preaching for two years in Rome.
The gospel spread, but the cost and the trials that unfold challenged the work at every turn. The final section of the Book of Acts focuses on Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, his imprisonment and the eventual trip to Rome under guard as a prisoner. He endured hardship, threats on his life, storms, and trials.
Soon after the initial uproar over Paul in Jerusalem, the Lord appeared to him, “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11)
I am confident that Paul could not have anticipated the years and the events that would transpire before the words of the Lord came true. In the midst of all that took place, we are reminded of the words of the Lord to Ananias at the time of Paul’s conversion, “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)
It was in these final chapters that we read of Paul proclaiming the gospel before religious and political leaders while he was a prisoner.
As we reflect on these events we can observe some important lessons about the fulfillment of the Lord’s plan. It often takes longer than we anticipate. What we believe will happen in the near term may be the Lord’s long-term plan. The challenges we encounter may be far greater than what we would anticipate or believe we can endure. This requires keeping our eyes on the Lord and seeing Him work at each step, at each juncture of the journey we find ourselves on. Finally, we can be confident that which the Lord has determined to happen will take place and His plan will be fulfilled and purposes will not be thwarted.
Most of us will not be like Paul. We won’t have the Lord personally appearing to us telling us about His plan for our life. But we can live each day with the confidence that as we place our trust in the Lord He will fulfill His good purpose for our life. In the process, we will discover all that entails.
Remember Paul’s words to the Philippians, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)