Thursday, February 22, 2018

To Rome ... thoughts on God's call to spread the Gospel

Rome, book of Acts, Apostle Paul, Christian Living

Recently while reading in the books of Acts, I was struck anew by the prophesy of Agabus about Paul’s future in chapter 21. Agabus told Paul that he would be bound by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles. Paul’s companions were worried and begged Paul to not go to Jerusalem, but still, Paul went. Paul went to Jerusalem knowing he would very likely loose his life for the name of Christ. He had already been stoned, publicly beaten and imprisoned, now almost certain death awaited him. Perhaps Paul understood much more deeply than we do today what it means to give our lives for Christ. Paul went.

While in Jerusalem Paul’s life was in jeopardy once again, and through the mercies of God, Paul’s nephew learned of the plot to take his life. The Roman soldiers protected Paul by sending him away ahead of time to face his trial before Governor Felix. Paul gave his defense at the trial, how what he had done in Jerusalem and elsewhere was not breaking any Jewish laws, but simply angered the Jews because Paul believed in the resurrection of Christ, while the Sanhedrin did not. 

Paul spends two years in prison before another governor took control. At this point the trial resumes and Paul appealed to Caesar. As a Roman citizen Paul had the right to demand a trial before the Emperor. Governor Festus replied that since Paul had appealed to Rome, to Rome he would be sent.

Perhaps you have read further in the book of Acts. If so, you’ll remember Paul was shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake, and spent two years in Rome under house arrest awaiting his trial. 

God had a plan 

His plan involved Paul going to Rome and preaching repeatedly about the message of the Gospel, the good news, of Christ! Paul wrote many of the letters we now refer to as the Epistles while in Rome. God’s plan was for Paul to be in Rome. No plan of man - either Jew or Gentile - was going to trump God’s plan. Paul had been on missionary journeys, Paul had met with the Disciples in Jerusalem, he had carried a gift to help provide relief from the hardships they were facing. So many times along the way Paul’s life was seemingly lost, and yet, God provided a way out- because it was not yet time for Paul to die according to God's plan. 

Paul knew his life was surrendered to God, and that Christ Jesus had promised him a hope of a future, of eternal life. 
How often do we loose our focus and forget that this life we are living is just temporary? 




Are we more like Paul, who set his face resolutely towards Rome and God’s purposes, or are we more like the Old Testament prophet Jonah who ran away from God’s directions for his life? Are we holding on too tightly to the things of this world? I would have to say “yes.” What about you?

How do we get our focus back on what God’s plan is for us? 
First, we stop. 

Psalm 46:10 states: He says,"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heavens, I will be exalted in the earth."(NIV)

To know that God is reigning supreme, above all other things that might happen in our lives today, we must stop and be still. When you can hear your own heart beat, or feel yourself breathing - those involuntary actions that tell you that God has still given you life and breath - then you can begin to be thankful for all the other gifts God has given. When we are impatient or anxious about what might happen next in our day, then we are not being still. When we focus on how soon we can get a task completed to move on to something else, without focusing on doing the task well, then we are not being still.

I’m sitting in a library. When I look to my left, I see other people being still. Reading, typing, studying. When I look to my right, I see a highway outside the window. I see people in cars and trucks headed towards whatever comes next. I cannot say if they are being still or if they are striving to reach the next thing. It IS possible to be active in body while yet being still in your soul. It comes from trusting the One who holds your future. If Jesus commands your life, and your future - your life eternal - then you can be still and know God anywhere.

Paul had found that knowing, that trust, and it allowed him to face the future knowing that God would send him to Rome, because that was a part of God’s plan for Paul. Less than two weeks before Agabus prophesied, Paul had already known his future was at hand. In his farewell to the Ephesian elders he shared his knowledge of God’s plan, limited though his understanding was, Paul knew it would be for God’s glory.

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I an going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:22-24 (NIV)

Where is your Rome?

What is the place or task that the Holy Spirit is compelling you to go to or accomplish for the Gospel? If you have not recently felt the call of the Holy Spirit on your life, then you have not been listening. If you are not a Christian, the Holy Spirit is calling you, wooing you, to the freedom that comes from a future entrusted to God’s mighty hand. You are being called to a life filled with inexpressible peace and joy. If you are a Christian, then the Holy Spirit has a specific call for your life that includes being set apart for God. It may not be a call to foreign missions, it may be a call to be set apart right where you are today - as a plumber, a nurse, a teacher, a mom or dad, or even as a student. It is a call to be transformed from the inside out by time spent in God’s Word and prayer. 

My calling is different than yours, but we may be walking alongside each other for miles, years even, in the paths that God had planned for each of us. How do we hold one another up? How do our words and actions towards those around us show that we are set apart? Where is the love that Christ commands us to share with everyone? These can be tough questions to answer. I do not have all the answers, but I do know the One who does!

So I ask again? Where is your Rome, and are you following the call of the Holy Spirit to arrive there in God's timing?


  1. Oh.....good questions, interesting thoughts. You have me thinking. :)

  2. Indeed - very good questions - to consider for myself, and to discuss with my kids as they are figuring out their next steps.

  3. Very good thoughts...where is my Rome? At one point, I think I knew exactly where I was headed but then my life changed. Time for some reflection.

  4. This is a challenging post. Thank you for bringing up the question! My ministry and mission has been to raise, teach and train those that God entrusted to me, and now I see how they are impacting the world for Him. Exciting stuff!