May 01, 2017

Hard Days to Come

Devotion for the Week...

We really like it when things are going well for us, don't we? Not only that, but we make a point of trying to avoid situations that we know aren't going to go well for us. It's human nature to consider our safety and comfort. It's human nature to look out for the safety and comfort of those we care about, too, and if we know of something bad that is going to happen to someone else, we warn them to stay out of that situation.

We see exactly that happening in Acts 21. Paul and his traveling companions are in Ceasarea when "a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to [them], he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’"
 
"When [they] heard this...the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem" (Acts 21:10-12).

Sent by the Holy Spirit, Agabus comes and tells Paul that the Jewish leaders will arrest him and hand him over to the authorities. Hearing that, everyone there tries to convince Paul not to go anywhere near Jerusalem, just as we would do if we heard that one of our friends were to be imprisoned. 

Does Paul listen to their arguments and stay away from Jerusalem? Not exactly. "Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (v. 13). There was no hesitation on Paul's part, no plan to avoid the hard times that were ahead for him. In fact, he was determined to head straight for those hard times, believing they were exactly what God had planned for him.

Now, there are those who think Paul was being disobedient at this point and that Agabus came to tell him not to go to Jerusalem. There are others who think Agabus came only to tell Paul what to expect, not to tell him to stay away. Obviously, I can't tell you for certain who is right, but I tend to agree with those who think Paul was right to go to Jerusalem, mostly because Jesus appeared to Paul after his arrest and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome" (Acts 23:11). That doesn't sound to me like Jesus was condemning Paul for being disobedient, but rather like He was simply filling Paul in on the next part of the plan. It's kind of like when Agabus came to tell Paul he'd be arrested, but this time Jesus appeared to Paul Himself rather than sending a prophet.

I don't think Paul actually wanted to be arrested, anymore than I would want to be arrested. We all want to avoid going through hard times and I don't think Paul looked forward to his imprisonment. But he was still willing to go to Jerusalem, even knowing that he would be arrested when he got there, all because he was convinced it was part of God's plan.

Bad things happen in every life, even the lives of God's people. And it's entirely possible that some of those bad things are actually God's plan for us, intended to further His kingdom in some way. Just look at what Paul had to say about the effect of his imprisonment:

"Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually 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. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear" (Philippians 1:12-14). What an attitude he had! Rather than whining and complaining about being in chains, he told everyone about Jesus. He watched the palace guard and noticed the effect his words had on them. He listened to stories about other believers who were daring to speak out more boldly and he celebrated that his chains were helping to spread the word about Jesus!
Weekly devotions on Christian living | DevotedQuilter.blogspot.com

I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to focus on myself and my comfort. I'm not so good at looking to see how God might be using my discomfort or my pain to reach others for His kingdom. I certainly have a thing or two to learn from Paul.

What about you? What is your attitude during hard times?

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