He was trying to get to where God had called him to be.
Had started the journey weeks earlier.
But every time he turned around, there was a roadblock.
His friends thought this trip was a bad idea.
They even told him that God said it was a bad idea.
Or, at least, that God had shown them what fate awaited him at the end of the journey.
He traveled part of the way by ship – and that ship ran into a FOURTEEN-DAY storm before it was eventually shipwrecked.
Thankfully, it wrecked near an island and no lives were lost.
But then, on the island, he was bitten by a poisonous snake!
Have you figured out that the man was Paul?
He was heading for Rome.
Because he desperately wanted to share the good news of Jesus there.
You can read about his journey to get there in Acts 27 and 28.
But here’s the thing:
I fear that if we were to encounter as many obstacles today as Paul did then, our incredibly poor theology of suffering would have caused us to throw in the towel.
“There are so many roadblocks! This must not be the will of God!”
“If this was of the Lord it would be easier.”
“Look at these circumstances! God MUST be saying “no” to this.”
Our theological equations tend to run like this:
Good circumstances = Good God = this must be what He wants me to do.
But as I read my Bible there is only one part of that equation that is true.
God is a GOOD God.
No matter what my circumstances are.
He is a GOOD God.
And He has a good plan.
But in story after story in the Bible, His chosen ones, His heroes, the people He chose to record for our benefit, rarely enjoyed favorable circumstances.
I think of David.
Anointed by God to be the next king before he could shave.
And then things looked promising for that fulfillment!
He killed a giant in the name of the Lord.
Was shoulder tapped to play the harp for the current king.
Was beloved by the people.
Even married the king’s daughter!
But then, suddenly, he became a fugitive.
Forced to hide out for YEARS in the wilderness and among the enemies of God’s people.
By today’s theology, he was out of the will of God. Or in sin. Or he hadn’t given enough tithes and offerings. Or God didn’t love him. Or was against him.
All of that was untrue!
David was in the CENTER of the will of God even while he ran for his life.
Even when he was camping out in caves instead of reclining in the palace.
Or I think of the disciples.
How many times did Jesus say to them, “Get in the boat” and then a storm came?
Sometimes when Jesus was with them; sometimes when he was still on shore.
But more than once, the center of the will of God found them in a violent, terrifying, we-gonna-die storm!
Were they out of the will of God?
All of these people – Paul, David, the disciples – were EXACTLY where God wanted them to be.
In a shipwreck.
Why were they there if they were in the will of God?
Because God didn’t love them?
Because He had turned His back?
Because He had forgotten to be kind?
They were there because God had a bigger purpose than their comfort in mind.
He had lessons to teach them.
Lessons to teach the people with them.
And lessons to teach us!
They were there because miracles only happen when impossibilities define the circumstances.
So the next time you are in a storm…
Are falsely accused…
Are facing roadblocks…
Are in a sinking boat…
How will your theology interpret you circumstances?
Will your circumstances inform your view of God?
Or will your view of God put your circumstances in perspective?
Will you remember and remind yourself that you only see an inch where God sees infinity?
Will you remember and remind yourself that this life is just a dot on the radar screen of eternity?
Will you choose to trust the God who made you?
Will you choose to focus on His goodness instead of your grumpiness or grief or gut-wrenching pain?
Will you see the storm? Or the One who controls it?
Will you see the evil king? Or the enemy who is controlling him?
Will you see your circumstances? Or will you see the One who loved you enough to die for you?
The One who rose for you?
The One who lives inside of you, giving you power and strength and the ability to go on?
Paul, David, the disciples, and so many others in Scripture had to learn and demonstrate the lesson of perspective.
They had to choose to lift their eyes from what they could see to the Face of the One who sees all.
Paul put it this way:
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4)
Where is your gaze today?
The things we see that will soon be gone?
Or the things we cannot see that will last forever?