Day #364: Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 27th
Scripture Reading: Acts 27 - 28 …
What if God doesn't have the wisdom or the power necessary to do what He says He will do? What if, in the end, it really is up to the human race to "create a better world"? What if, in the middle of the chaos all around us, God is not sovereign, He is not in control? What if He has left the future in our hands and our only hope is that we either discover life on another planet (I'm not sure what good that would do!), or figure out "where we came from" (doesn't Genesis 1 tell us?!). This is real life-and-death "stuff," because either God IS in control and His Word is true and everything will come to pass just as He says it will … OR … or you are left "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).
As we come to the end of the year and now to the end of the book of Acts, the work of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles to establish the Church on the earth during this "day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2), it is vital to see, understand and accept that all these things happened under the direction and guidance of the God who works everything according to His divine plan to gather for Himself a people and to establish His kingdom on a new earth where He will actually and literally live WITH us throughout all eternity, forever and ever!! So as we read these last two chapters of Acts, ask yourself if you see a sovereign God controlling the events, down to the very smallest details, and if so, is He the God YOU believe in?
Chapter 27 begins with a decision being made to transfer Paul and other prisoners to Rome. Remember that Paul could have been set free by Festus if he had not appealed to Rome, but it was God's desire to have Paul testify in Rome before Caesar (27:24). The journey from Caesarea to Rome would not be an easy one! Paul advised them not to complete the trip as winter was setting in, but they refused to listen to him. The winds were against them and finally a storm of hurricane force threatened to destroy the ship and all aboard. Luke, the writer of this book of Acts, was with Paul, and he writes, "We finally gave up all hope of being saved" (27:20). They had food aboard, but the storms were so ferocious and they were battling so hard night and day to save the ship that they had not eaten for many days.
Now Paul stood up before them and said, "Men, you should have taken my advice … But now, I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost!" (27:22). How did Paul know that? He explains that an angel of the Lord had brought him a message that God wanted him to testify before Caesar and because of that, He was going to save all those who were on board. Paul believed God would do exactly as He said He would. After more days had passed, some of the sailors decided to save themselves and were about to launch the lifeboats, but again Paul said, "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved" (27:31). Why? For no other reason than this is what God had said!
We and the people around us make decisions all the time. Sometimes those decisions may be good decisions from our perspective and other times we may change our minds, but God never makes a mistake. Knowing the outcome of all of our decisions, God can and does at times stop people from doing things that would affect His set purposes, while at other times allowing them to go the wrong direction, knowing how He will at a later time turn the events to work according to His plan. As Moses said all the way back in Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." God shows His people that He is sovereign, that He is faithful, that He always keeps His promises, and then He calls us to trust and obey. As the old hymn says, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!"
Finally, the ship arrived at Malta and though the ship was destroyed, all the people on the ship, some 276 of them, made it safely to shore. As God had told Paul, not one person was lost. Even here we see God's sovereign purpose in the lives of the people of Malta. What appeared to men as a "chance" happening, immediately touched the people there as Paul healed the sick and preached the Gospel. We will not know until eternity how many of the people on the island were saved because Paul "accidentally" arrived there because of the storms. What circumstances in your life seem to have happened by chance but are, in reality, the very hand of God at work drawing you to Him?!
After three months on the island, they set sail from Malta and Paul finally arrived in Rome (God's destination). Luke writes, "When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him" (28:16). It was still Paul's desire to reach out to the Jews, even though it was because of them that he had been put in jail for two years in Caesarea and almost killed. He called the Jews who had been scattered to Rome to meet with him and explained that "it is because of the hope of Israel (the promise of the Messiah) that I am bound with this chain" (28:20). They listened as he shared the Gospel, explaining and declaring to them "the kingdom of God" (28:23), but while some believed, most remained unconvinced that Jesus was the Christ, the fulfillment of what the prophets had written.
Paul quoted to them the passage from Isaiah 6:9-10 that explained the stubborn unbelief of Israel and how even that was part of God's plan and then declared, "Therefore, I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles and THEY will listen!" (28:28). In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believer; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" (Romans 1:16). This was God's plan to fulfill His promise to Abraham that in His "Seed" all nations on the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). God was and is calling some to Himself through the Gospel of Christ, God's chosen means to bring His chosen ones from death to life!
The book of Acts ends with these words: "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ" (28:30-31). According to tradition, Paul would eventually die for his faith in Jesus, but not until he had fulfilled God's purpose for his life - to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles and to write all that God intended for him to write. Even from his imprisonment in Rome Paul continued to write to the churches that God had used him to establish throughout Asia Minor, and to Timothy, Titus and others. He told the Philippian believers not to be ashamed of his chains, explaining,
" … what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly" (Philippians 1:12-14). If Paul had not known and believed in the sovereign God who ruled over the events of his life, he may have become discouraged and frustrated and others would have done the same, but instead, in the midst of his struggles and trials he continued to testify that God was at work, His kingdom was advancing and that those who trusted in Him need never be ashamed.
Can you and I say the same? We live in a world that is in so many ways radically different than that of the first century believers. Yet, the reality is that people are just the same. God is still at work, calling people to Himself through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the world and even some within the church (like the Jews) fight against us and the Gospel. We are called to persevere, to endure, to set our eyes on Jesus, believing that the kingdom of God will not come in its fulness until Jesus returns. Until then, we are ambassadors of Christ, calling people to believe in Him for forgiveness and salvation, even eternal life.
There is a group of churches that have taken the name, "Acts 29." In essence, all true believers are part of the "Acts 29" church … that which comes after Acts 28! There must be more to do, for when the last one of Jesus' sheep, those whom God has given to Him, has believed, THEN the end will come. We will know the work is done when we hear trumpets and are gathered together to meet the Lord in the air. Until then there is more to do and we have been chosen, called, adopted, redeemed and sent to accomplish all that God intends.
We do not devise earthly means to bring people to Christ as some may do, but rather, preach the Word, believing what God said to the prophet Isaiah so long ago, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11).
It has been and continues to be my prayer that in reading through God's Word this year you have heard the voice of God speaking to you and have been drawn into a deeper relationship of trust and obedience with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. I know that only by the work of His Spirit within you can that happen, so I continue to pray for you and all who may read these words, that through my testimony and that of others who believe, you may know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and discover the joy, the peace and the hope of LIFE in Him!
… to be continued …
"Heavenly Father, what a joy and privilege to be able to share Your Word with my brothers and sisters in Christ who have read through Your Word seeking truth this past year. Thank You for the health and strength to persevere, not only in writing, but in reading and in living with You and for You. By Your grace alone we are united to Christ and by Your Spirit I renew my commitment to the work of Your kingdom, desiring to see Your kingdom advance and Your Name be exalted. To You, O Lord my God, be glory and honor and praise, now and forever, in Jesus' name, Amen"