We are so powerless to judge the future that even the greatest weathermen, when absolutely certain that rain is coming, still have to put the chances in percentage format for us to comprehend their level of certainty. There is no guarantee of anything in this world. The only guarantees that we have is that we have not guarantees.
Paul the Apostle was a man of many stripes. He was raised a stout, conservative Jew that would later become one of the higher-ranking “Pharisee of Pharisees.” He would be so staunch in his Judaism that he would even hold the coats of those hurling stones to kill Stephen, a Christian and deacon of the first Christian Church in Jerusalem (Acts 7). He would later be converted to Christianity by the brilliant revelation of Christ Himself to Paul. This was not some extraordinary visit that was meant to cause a simple, coerced reaction from Paul; no, this was to call Paul to something, to Someone. This “something” and “Someone” is Christ and His gospel. For the next thirty years or so, Paul the apostle would journey the known world three times and plant numerous churches for the cause of Christ. But, just as he persecuted Christians, so would the world persecute him as one of them. Ultimately, this would end in his final trial in Rome and end in his beheading.
We have the luxury of knowing the end of the story at any given time we are reading it. It’s simple really; we simply turn the pages and look at the end. But in our own lives we can’t do that. We try, of course, but we simply cannot peer into the future. So what was it that Paul did (among a great cloud of witnesses who did the same) that kept him still in the times of his greatest griefs? When the odds were turning in the direction of what seemingly seems out of control? His faith in God’s gracious, yet Almighty Hand.
I saw this in my quiet time time this morning in Acts chapter twenty seven where Paul is onboard a ship full of other slaves and prisoners headed to Rome, where he would stand trial to Caesar for his faith in Christ. Completely innocent, falsely accused, hated, ill treated and destitute. Yet, all the while, I keep reading of him unwaveringly encouraging others and giving substance to the things unseen and assurance of the things hoped for. But one thing caught my eye (and my heart) and it was this verse:
…”Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.” Acts 27:24
This was the message that God sent to Paul through the agency of an angel. But it wasn’t the angel’s presence that encouraged Paul. It was the message of the angel. What was the message? Don’t be afraid. Your mission is to stand before Caesar. God will see to it that you, and those with you, arrive safely to complete that mission.
It’s the mission of God that propelled Paul. It’s the certainty of success despite seeming failure of the mission. It’s the sovereign hand of God in the mission. It’s the mission of God that helps us remember to focus sharply on His face and peripherally on circumstances. After all, who can make a promise like that to a man like Paul without giving it in percentage format and cash it at the bank in full?
God. God can. And God still does. And God always will.