Many times, as people read these final verses in Romans 15, they miss some important insights into the heart of the Apostle Paul. Why do I say this? Because Paul makes some comments in these verses that truly reveal who he was as a Christian man whose heart Jesus had captured. What were the desires and motivations that drove this man to dedicate his life to declaring the message of the cross? Paul begins by writing, “For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while” (Rom. 15:22-24).
1. Paul was kept from traveling to Rome because of his love for the lost. Vs. 22-24
The important question to answer first is, why had Paul not traveled to Rome before the writing of this epistle? He simply says that he had been hindered from coming to them because of the enormous number of places he had the opportunity to preach the gospel. In Paul’s first three missionary journeys he had traveled over 7,500 miles by foot and boat. He had started churches all over Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Achaia, and Greece. Simply look at the maps in the back of your Bible to get a better picture of the distances this man traveled to share God’s Word. Now he tells the Roman church that he has nowhere left to preach and is planning on traveling to Spain and wants to come to Rome also.
What an amazing passion and zeal Paul had to preach the gospel. He had no modern means of transportation, no radio, television, email, social media, and yet he and his followers turned the world upside down for Jesus (Acts 17:6). What amazing examples they were! What inspired and drove this man to reach out the way he did to the lost? Paul tells us his motivation in 2 Corinthians 5:14, when he wrote, “for the love of Christ compels us.” Paul reasoned that if Christ died for the whole world, then he must reach the whole world. Paul would go and preach the gospel in a city; people would believe and become followers; he would raise up elders and leaders in that city, and then he would move on to another city. On his next missionary journey, he would return to these churches to strengthen them by teaching the Word of God, and encourage the church to go and preach the gospel to people who had never heard the Good News. This was Paul’s method of reaching the world for Christ. If only churches would use this same method today!
My question to you is, how can you reach the lost and strengthen other believers? All of us are called to do the work of the ministry. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church and explained that Jesus had given to the church, “Some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Paul also told the Corinthians that God had, “Reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ,” and had also, “given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). This means that all of us have the ministry of reconciliation and are called to preach the gospel. All of us are also called to encourage and serve others (Gal. 5:13). Considering how you can be involved in God’s work is something you should give some thought to, and ask God to show you exactly how you can get involved in laboring for the Kingdom.
One of the best places you can begin to reach others for the Kingdom of God is to lead your own children to Christ, and disciple them in His Word. Remember the contemplation of Asaph as he commanded the fathers of Israel. He told them, “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalm 78:5-7). Discipling our own children is one of our greatest responsibilities as parents. How are you discipling your children and teaching them the Word of God?
Next, look at your extended family and friends and ask God how you can be a friend to those who are struggling and build them up. There are also multitudes of people that are in need in your own church, as well as those you work with. Notice what was the first thing Jesus told the demon-possessed man to do who was begging to stay and travel with Jesus. He said, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you” (Mark 5:19). Don’t miss the fact that this man was a brand-new believer in Jesus. This means that any believer of any maturity level has a testimony that he or she can give immediately to those around them. Look for neighbors or casual acquaintances who you can share the gospel with. You don’t have to become an apostle traveling to the other side of the world to do the work of the Lord, just reach out to those who are around you every day. Ask God to give you a heart for the lost, and for those who are in need in your immediate circle of family and friends. Ask God to give you divine opportunities with strangers who He wants you to be a light to. Step out in faith and share the love of Christ!
Now I know some of you are thinking, But how do I start a conversation with a total stranger? That is the hardest thing for me to do. To start a conversation with a stranger, you first need to ask the Lord to fill you with the Holy Spirit, because this is where you will get the boldness to even want to speak with a stranger (Acts 4:24; 29). The boldness of the Spirit is what you need! Then wait for an opportune moment when the person is sharing a difficult situation in their life, and ask a simple question. “May I share with you what God says in the Bible about this problem?” Or, “May I share with you what God has shown me, or has done in my life with this issue?” At this point a person will either say, “Sure,” or they will say, “No, I don’t believe in the Bible.” If they say, “No,” I usually respond, “If you ever change your mind, I would love to share with you how God has helped and transformed my life.” If they will allow you to share with them, begin by asking more questions so you can understand what they believe, such as: Do you believe in God? Do you believe that Jesus was a real person who came to be the Savior of the world? Do you believe in sin and that all of us must give account to God one day for our sins? These questions will give you a good idea where to begin to share the Word of God and to testify concerning your faith. Begin by sharing what great things God has done for you. Remember, your personal testimony is powerful, because it is what God has done in your life!
2. What kept Paul from going to Rome were the needs of the poor in Jerusalem. Vs. 25-28
The second revelation into Paul’s heart is in verses 25 through 28. Paul wrote, “But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain” (Rom. 15:25-28). Paul is explaining that he also could not come immediately to them, because he had to deliver the financial gift that many of the Gentile churches had given for the poor in Jerusalem.
It is important to first understand why these believers were so poor and in such need at this time. There were two reasons that are given in Scripture. The first was that there was a persecution taking place in Judea and Samaria, and the second was that there was also a famine occurring at that time. Luke records both of these problems in the book of Acts. In Acts 8:1, it declares, “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem.” This persecution brought about great financial problems for many believers. In addition, in Acts 11:28, Luke explained that the Prophet Agabus had given a prophecy warning the church that a famine was coming. Agabus, “Showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.” Claudius reigned as emperor of Rome from 41 to 54 CE. The Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that this famine took place in 45 CE. So, the church determined to help those in the land of Israel, which I believe was their moral responsibility. Paul also believed helping the Jewish church was the Gentiles moral responsibility, because he declares, “For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things” (Rom. 16:27). He was teaching the Romans that if they had received the spiritual blessings that came from the Jewish Messiah, they should, at the very least, help them materially. A very simple concept of moral and godly responsibility.
This was also Paul’s heart to care for the poor. This concern and love for those who were hurting was a great motivation deep within this man. Do you also have this care within your heart? I hope that when you hear of the needs of others it touches you and motivates you to help those in need. However, I don’t believe that the church today has a good grasp on the many ways God has called each of us to become givers. There are three basic words used in Scripture that refer to giving. These words are: the tithe which is given to the church for the work of the ministry, an almsgiving which is giving to the poor, and a general offering to refer to any special giving. I believe these three words give you a clear understanding of how you should give, and your moral responsibility to give. I describe giving as a moral duty, because we have all received so much from God. Jesus gave this basic principle when He taught, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8).
Let’s look at these three types of giving. First, because of the context of the verses we are studying, let us consider almsgiving or giving to the poor. In Proverbs 14:31, Solomon declared, “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.” Solomon also taught, “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, will also cry himself and not be heard” (Prov. 21:13). Jesus also taught the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matt. 19:21). The Bible is very clear about our personal responsibility to care for the poor. All through the Old and New Testaments, there are laws and principles given to God’s people explaining how to care for the poor. For instance, the Jews were not to harvest the corners of their field, but to leave them for the poor to be able to come and gather food (Lev. 23:22). It is important to note that the poor still had to work for this food, which is a very important principle that I think we should implement today. Also, the Jews were to give a special offering every three years as an additional tithe for the poor, the widows, the fatherless, and the needy of the land (Deut. 14:28-29). In the New Testament, Paul gave instructions for almsgiving in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. There he gives instruction to believers concerning how and why they should give, and Paul specifically refers to the offering he is taking to Jerusalem.
The second type of giving is your tithe to your local church. The Old Testament concept of tithing is clearly brought into the New Testament in several places by Jesus and Paul. When speaking to the Pharisees Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matt. 23:23). Jesus makes a simple comparison between tithing and the neglect of the more important matters of the law. These weightier matters should have been fulfilled without leaving the issues of tithing undone. Jesus in no way denounces tithing in His teaching.
The Apostle Paul also brings the concept of tithing into the New Testament when he taught the Corinthians about paying their pastors a salary. Paul explained to them, “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:7-14). In these verses, Paul gives a military example, a farming example and several biblical reasons why their ministers should be paid. But, the most important example that Paul used was the priests who ministered in the Temple and were supported by the tithe of the people of Israel. This is how ministers are supported today in many churches around the world.
However, today probably only 10 to 25% of the people within any given church regularly tithe. Your local church is where your tithe should go. Why? Because this is where your spiritual encouragement and spiritual instruction come from. This is why in the Old Testament times God commanded, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, ‘Says the LORD of hosts,’ if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). Notice that God gives the reason these tithes were to be brought into My house. The tithe should be given so that food or provision should be in God’s house so that the priest would have their needs met. It is also important to consider that the issue of tithing is the only place in the Bible where God says to test Him in this thing. My wife and I have tithed from the beginning of our marriage. We have tested God in the issue of tithing, and God has poured out a blessing upon us that has been more than we could have ever expected. We started out our life together with nothing, and God has provided faithfully for all we have needed and so much more. I hope you will also test God in this area of tithing, and see His blessings poured out upon you. If the people of every church actually did tithe, there would never be a missionary in need. There would never be an outreach that would fail because of insufficient funding. There would never be a lack of pastoral staff in any church in our land. Every one of these needs would be met. I hope you will consider these reasons to give as you tithe to your local church.
The last area of giving you must consider is the special offering. This kind of giving is not a tithe and not almsgiving to the poor, but giving when there are needs that family or friends have, or when tragedies happen to people, or natural disasters take place in the world, and you are asked to give. This kind of giving should always be above your tithes and giving to the poor. In the Old Testament these were called freewill offerings or gifts given because of a vow made before God (Num. 29:39; Deut. 12:6). I have been so blessed to see church members over the years give so sacrificially when I have asked for help when needs arise. These offerings will also many times be needs that your family members or parents have in their old age. Caring for them will always be above your tithe or giving to the poor. Paul encouraged Timothy to warn those who refused to help their parents in their need. He taught, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Caring for aging parents or siblings is not an easy thing to do, but doing so is fundamental to a true and living faith in God. It is a moral duty! May God give you wisdom as you choose to give in these ways.
3. Paul had total confidence that God would give him His fullness of blessing. Vs. 29
The third insight into Paul’s heart and mind was his unwavering faith in the God who desired to bless him. Paul was absolutely sure that God wanted to pour out his fullness of blessings upon him. He declared, “But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:29). Notice that Paul didn’t begin by saying, “I think” or “I hope” that God will give His fullness of the blessing. No! He was absolutely confident that God wanted to bless him. There was no question in his mind. So, how about you? Do you believe that God wants to give you the fullness of His blessing, which means that He wants to overflow your life with His blessings? Or, do you believe that God is just tolerating or enduring you, like a child who is really not wanted? This is an important question to answer in your own mind. Why? Because these two opposing views in your relationship with God are the difference between real faith and unbelief. Real faith believes that you have a God who wants to give to you exceedingly abundantly above all you could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). You either believe that God wants to bless you, or that He is stingy and doesn’t really like you very much at all. Which is it? Jesus said it so clearly to His disciples when He said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Are you walking with the Lord thinking He is the thief, or that He is the one who wants to give you life? The Apostle Peter truly grasped this truth when he preached to the Jews that, “To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:26). Peter didn’t say that Jesus came to curse them, but He came to bless them. Notice that Peter tells them how Jesus will bless them, by, “Turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” If you want to experience the fullness of His blessings, then you must allow Him to turn you away from your iniquities. You need to allow Him to forgive you of your sin, and empower you with the Holy Spirit, Who will set you free from those sins that control you. This is where the fullness of His blessings begins in your life.
But what is more important to realize is that He has already blessed you. Where does the Bible teach this? In Ephesians 1:3 Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Notice Paul writes, “Who has blessed us,” which is past tense. This means that in Christ He has already given to you every spiritual blessing that you will need. He has already given this grace into each of our spiritual accounts before Him. Do you believe this to be true? Again, this is the difference between faith and unbelief. If you believe what God has declared in His Word, then all you must do is receive these blessings by faith. Paul knew and believed these truths and this is why He was so confident before God. Pray and ask for His blessings and then receive them with thanksgiving. To be thankful and to give God praise after you have asked, is another proof that you believe (Phil. 4:6-7). Remember, James said, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Think about this! God has given you gifts of the Spirit that He wants you to receive and use for His Kingdom, if you will simply ask. God has already given you all the wisdom you will ever need, if you will just ask. God has already given you the grace and strength you will need for your journey as His disciple, if you will only ask. This is why Jesus taught, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matt. 7:7-11)! So, ask, believe, and receive! What is it that you need right now in your walk with the Lord? Bring your petition before Him now!
4. Paul’s confidence was in the power of prayer. Vs. 30-31
The fourth insight into the heart of Paul the Apostle is revealed in verses 30 and 31. Paul declared his total confidence in the power of prayer when he wrote, “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints” (Rom. 15:30-31).
Paul is still discussing his trip to Jerusalem and the offering he has collected for the poor in Jerusalem, and he is asking for prayer for himself. He specifically wants prayer so that he might be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe. Paul knew the trouble that awaited him in Jerusalem. He didn’t know the specifics of exactly what would happen, but he knew it wouldn’t be good. How did he know there was trouble ahead for him? Paul declared to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:22-23, “I now go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.” So, literally in every city that he stopped on his way to Jerusalem, there were those who prophesied that chains awaited him. This is a powerful example of the gift of prophecy and its use to warn us of future events. As we know from reading the book of Acts, these prophecies came true. When Paul arrived in Caesarea, which is just north of the modern-day city of Tel Aviv, he gets another message from God. The Prophet Agabus who had prophesied about the great famine that was to come upon the world, now prophesies again. Luke records what took place. “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:10-11). Paul knew real trouble awaited him in Jerusalem.
This is why Paul begs the Romans to pray for him to be delivered from those who wanted to do him harm. It is interesting that Paul used two of the strongest Greek words as he encouraged the people to pray for him. The Greek word for beg means to earnestly plead or to implore them to pray. This word beg is also in the present tense, which means that he wanted them pleading continually for him. Paul also used the words to strive together with him in prayer. These words are one word in Greek that refers to soldiers fighting side by side to gain a common victory. In other words, Paul is asking them to be intensely aggressive in their prayers and to not let up. He was not talking about quiet, meditative, and calm prayer. No, he is asking them to fight with him in prayer against the powers of darkness, and win the victory in this very difficult time ahead for him. Have you ever been in circumstances in your life when you knew this was going to be the fight of your life, and you were hoping you could find people to pray with you? It may have been a severe medical issue in your life, or a spouse or child that were struggling in their faith. You knew that prayer was the best and only thing you could do to help. This is when you need good friends to pray with you for the fight ahead. This is what Paul was seeking.
Now some of you are thinking to yourself right now, I have been in those kinds of circumstances and I have greatly struggled to pray like this. I have found that I have real trouble in focusing on prayer and I get distracted so easily. My mind drifts and I end up giving up. If you are thinking this way, let me tell you that you are not alone. There are two things you should do to gain a personal victory in this circumstance. First, to keep your mind from drifting to other topics, pray out loud. You can’t drift in your mind if your mind is thinking about what you are saying. I have found the same victory in reading the Bible. When your mind is drifting as you read God’s Word, again, just read out loud and you will stay focused. This is why King David said, “I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill” (Ps. 3:4). Notice these other passages where David declared the same truth in Psalm 27:7; 77:1; 142:1.
Second, you need to realize that when you are distracted like this in prayer or reading your Bible you are in the midst of spiritual warfare. I can guarantee you; the spiritual forces of darkness do not want you to commune with God, and do not want you to hear from God. This is why Paul said concerning his mind, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). You need to fight with the spiritual weapons you possess, faith, the Word of God, and prayer. Don’t give in to the forces that want to distract you!
What enables you to fight and strive in prayer?
Once you have dealt with the distractions that keep you from earnest prayer, you need to open your heart to the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God must be your power source in prayer. Notice that the Spirit is who helped Paul to strive for the goals that God had set before him. He wrote to the Colossian church and explained, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). Notice again the aggressive words Paul used here to labor and to strive. But, how did he labor so abundantly and strive with such confidence and boldness? It was “according to His working” which worked in him mightily. Have you sensed God’s working in you mightily when you have prayed in the midst of your struggles? When you sense His power flooding your heart you can’t deny the reality of the Spirit’s working. If you are in the midst of one of those times right now, bow in prayer and ask God for the power of His Holy Spirit to begin to work inside of you mightily. He will enable you to overcome and to fight and win! This is why Paul wrote to his son in the faith to encourage him to fight that good fight of faith. Timothy was struggling in his ministry, and Paul knew that he had to fight if he was going to overcome in his personal struggles. The only way anyone wins in their personal battles is to fight in faith. This is why Paul told him in 1 Timothy 6:11-12, “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” If you want to win you must fight like this! Flee what stumbles you, and pursue what will encourage and build you up. Fight in faith!
In addition, do you realize that faith not only fights, but it also enables you to rest? Sometimes people see these two issues as completely contrary to each other, but they are not. One enables the other. If you fight in faith you will overcome. If you overcome, this is where you find your rest in Him. In Hebrews 4:1, the apostle declared, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to come short of it.” He is talking to believers, and he is warning them about coming short of the rest of God. That is a possibility for all of us. In the next verse he tells us why we come short of God’s rest. “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb. 4:2). To obtain God’s rest you must mix God’s Word with faith; only then will you find the rest of faith in your soul.
If you believe that there is a God who sees and a God who hears, then you will pray. If you don’t believe like this, then you will pray very little. Just look at how often you pray and this will reveal what you really believe. If you lack in your prayer life, I encourage you to call on the Lord right now and ask Him to open your heart to see His power and love which makes it easy to believe in Him. He will reveal Himself to you, and your prayer life will be transformed.
5. Paul had total confidence in the ultimate will of God. Vs. 32-33
The fifth insight into the heart of Paul is seen in verses 32 and 33. Paul writes, “That I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” Paul’s final prayer request was that he would come to see them with joy by the will of God and be refreshed in fellowship with them. This phrase, “By the will of God,” makes it clear that Paul believed in the sovereign will of God over his life. He believed that God was going to fulfill His ultimate plan in his life and ministry. Even knowing that chains and tribulations awaited him in Jerusalem, Paul was still confident that he would come to see the Romans.
One of the great things about Paul’s journey of faith, is that we know the rest of the story. All you have to do is read chapters 21 through 28 in the Book of Acts to understand what happened to Paul on his journey to Rome. We read that Paul went to Jerusalem, and he was arrested and put in jail. He was divinely protected from an assassination plot against him by some radical Jews. Paul was taken down to Caesarea and held in prison there for more than two years. He stood trial before Festus and Agrippa, and when he realized that they were going to turn him over to those who want to kill him, Paul appealed his case to Caesar. This was his right as a Roman citizen. As Paul was traveling by ship to Rome, he again was divinely protected and saved from drowning in a shipwreck. When he got to shore, Paul again was divinely saved when a poisonous viper bite him, and he was protected from any harm. He finally reached the city of Rome and ultimately was able to share with those of Caesar’s household as he waited another two years for his audience before Caesar. Paul revealed this fact when he wrote from his prison cell to the Philippian church. He told them, “I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me [referring to the prison, the shipwreck, all of this whole scene] have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, and are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil. 1:12-14).
My point is that Paul got to see how God’s plan all worked out in getting him to Rome. He was telling the Philippian church, “You’ve heard what took place and what happened to me on my trip to Rome, and it has all worked out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Paul believed in God’s sovereign will. God’s plan didn’t all work out as Paul thought it was going to, but God got him to Rome anyway! It may not have been Paul’s plan, but it was God’s plan.
What about your plans versus God’s will? Do you trust that God’s sovereign will is being worked out in your life right now? To trust God’s sovereignty is vital for you to rest when you don’t see your plans working out like you think they should. Just like Paul, you must realize that all is being worked out for the furtherance of God’s ultimate plan. Don’t lean on your own understanding and try to second guess God, but trust in His sovereign will to be accomplished (Prov. 3:5-6). Paul was completely confident of God’s purposes being worked out even when he had to suffer in prison. Paul wrote again from prison to the Ephesian church and said, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). In times like this you must make a choice to put your trust in His sovereign hand. You either believe in His power, or you don’t. What happens when you don’t believe in His sovereign will? You get very angry, depressed, and you lose hope. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Many years ago, I did the memorial service for a young girl who died of cancer. After her death, as I tried to comfort her mother, she got very angry and said, “Why would God ever do this to me? Is God even there? Is He real? I prayed for healing and God let me down.” However, many years later I saw this same mother, and she said to me, “God used the death of my daughter in my life in ways that I could never have imagined. He has truly worked all things together for good, even her death.” She then started to list for me all of the things that God had done. She said, “All these things would have never taken place without her death.” If you have been through some tragedy in your life or in your family, don’t get angry with God; trust Him to reveal His plan to you. If you want to read a great book on this topic, check out “If God is Good” by Randy Alcorn. He has an entire chapter of stories like the one I just told you that will be a real faith builder for you.
Remember, God is working all things according to the counsel of His will, whether or not you can see it, believe it, or can understand it. With all the things that are going on in your family, in your relationships, at your job and in your friendships with others, God is working out His plan. Believe it! If you can’t see it, then ask God to open your eyes, so you can comprehend some of His plan. Ask His forgiveness for charging Him with failure to work on your behalf. Ask Him to help you to see what He is doing, so you can work with Him. There will be things that you won’t be able to understand until you get to glory, but trust Him anyway. Acknowledge to Him that you just don’t understand what He is trying to do, but that you trust Him to do as He has promised, to work all things out for your good (Rom. 8:28).