Acts 25&26, Psalm 39
Paul “could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32). These final words from our reading sound like an unfortunate “what if” scenario for Paul. If Paul had just been patient, maybe he could have been released from prison. From the perspective of Paul’s audience his imprisonment was a hindrance. To the writer of Acts, though, Paul’s circumstances bring great opportunity to preach the Gospel to governors and Kings. Since Paul does appeal to Caesar, he will go stand trial before the most powerful person in the world. This is not a bad thing! The scriptures have consistently told a story that upends our views of personal circumstances and how God works. Joseph, the one with 11 lousy brothers, was sold into slavery and wrongfully imprisoned en route to becoming number two in all of Egypt. Israel fulfilled her vocation as a light to Gentiles more successfully in exile than they did under the Davidic monarchy. The early Christians were imprisoned, but even under lock and key saw dramatic conversions from prison. Much of the New Testament was written from behind bars. Yet as a pastor I constantly have to remind myself and others that our circumstances or current frustrations alone are not sufficient evidence of our being either inside or outside of God’s will. Often I will tell people their hard circumstances might be the very means God intends for great use. No one wants to experience such vulnerability and difficulty. Though we do not wish it, we must not over spiritualize our troubles and run away from them at all costs. Dear reader, your current hardship might be the very place God wants to shine His light for others. Paul taught this, even from a position similar to the one he is in during today’s reading (see Phillipians 4:11-13). Let’s hold fast to the truth that our God does not need our comfort or ease to work in our midst.