by Mary Alice McGinnis
What dreams or goals do you have? When things get tough (as they always do), how do you react? What obstacles have you encountered in the past? What difficulties have hindered you? Where have you met with adversity that left you feeling like a failure, feeling weighed down, discouraged, or even hopeless?
Maybe we can learn something from the apostle Paul.
Earlier in his life, Paul zealously pursued a mission. He was completely obsessed by it. He made it his life’s goal to DESTROY what he thought was a blasphemous religious movement called “The Way”, also known as Christianity.
Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and stopped him in his tracks. God re-orients Paul away from his own zealous, self-proclaimed goal to a new God given purpose and mission.
When Paul set out on a new God-given mission (instead of his own selfish ambitions), he STILL encounters obstacles, setbacks, and hardships at every turn. Throughout the book of Acts and his other epistles, we can read all about them.
Today’s reading at the end of Acts gives us a hint into a few of his difficulties:
Paul was unjustly accused. “I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors.”
Paul was arrested. I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.”
Paul’s was reject by his own people. “The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar.”
One of the deepest desires of Paul’s heart went unfulfilled. He longed to reach his own people with the message of Jesus. He wanted to see them be saved. Yet again and again, his preaching to the Jews was met with resistance and disbelief.
“He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves . . .”
Paul’s appeal for justice was prolonged. After appealing to Rome, he had a long journey by boat from Jerusalem. Once he arrived in Rome, he had to wait another 2 years to have his case heard before Caesar.
"For two whole years Paul stayed there . . ."
With all these obstacles, wouldn’t you have expected Paul to feel disheartened? If you had been Paul, wouldn't you have felt discouraged? At some point, wouldn't you have wanted to just give up?
But, the last verse of today’s reading continues:
“ ...and, (he - Paul) welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”
Paul never saw obstacles. He was BOLD and his proclamation of the gospel was UNDHINDERED!
Think about it. It is likely that during these 2 years, Paul penned several of his letters - including the ones to the Ephesians, Philippians and the Colossians.
Despite his circumstance, Paul clung confidently to God’s mission:
“Therefore, I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
With God there is never a Plan B! His mission can never be hindered. This was His plan from the very beginning of time.
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
Jesus, from the beginning of time, Your mission was to rescue us and to bring Your Salvation to the ends of the earth. You say in Isaiah 9:7, “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Fold me into your plan. Help me to see that even when obstacles and hinderance come, You cannot be undone. Jesus, use me as a bold witness to proclaim the message of Your eternal Kingdom. By Your Holy Spirit, fill me with confident assurance that nothing can stop Your saving grace. Remind me again and again that no force of darkness will ever be able to extinguish Your plans.
Thank You for being our Omniscient, Omnipresent, Transcendent, Omnipotent, Invincible God. Thank You for Your unstoppable zeal and the boundlessness of Your love!