Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"The sovereign God ... and the coming of His kingdom!"

Day #308

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?  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 you 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, 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.  Such a violent storm arose that Luke, the writer of this book of Acts, who was with Paul, wrote, "We finally gave up all hope of being saved" (27:20).  

After battling the storm for several days, 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 explained that an angel of the Lord had brought him a message that God wanted him to testify before Caesar and because of that, God 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 every day.  Sometimes those decisions may be good ones 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, 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.  

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).  Paul called the Jews who had been scattered to Rome to meet with him and explained, "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).  

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).  

God is still at work, calling people to Himself through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are called to persevere, to endure, to set our eyes on Jesus, knowing the kingdom of God will come in its fullness when Jesus returns.  Until then, we are ambassadors of Christ, calling people to believe in Him for forgiveness and salvation, even eternal life!!

"Heavenly Father, 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"

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