"But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about the extravagant generosity of God." Acts 20:23-24 (The Message).
So Paul did know what was up ahead for him!
Like any other human being in a similar situation, Paul had one of two options -- run from the trouble ahead or embrace it like Jesus did.
Why did God tell Paul beforehand what was going to happen? I think it was to enable him to set a steady course because he was sure of God's will. Was he fazed by the revelation? Not at all! Long years of walking with Him had strengthened Paul's confidence in God. He had suffered more hardship than many another person, but he had learned through experience that "those who put their trust in Him will never be disappointed."
Like Jesus, Paul set his face like a flint to go to Jerusalem because Jerusalem was in the mix for him. He could deal with whatever was to happen in Jerusalem because God was already there, preparing the way for him.
We all have our own "Jerusalem", the place of trouble and testing and we are very often not aware of what is happening and caught off guard. Most of the time our first reaction is to blame the devil, or someone else, or ask the question, "Why me, God? What have I done to deserve this?"
Our outrage stems from the belief that we don't deserve this kind of treatment -- the "Job" response. With that kind of attitude, God will remain as silent with us as He did with Job. The quickest way to get an answer is not to ask "Why?" but "What?" God is sovereign. He is not obliged to respond to our whining but He gladly answers an honest question, "What's this all about so that I can co-operate with your plan?"
Our answer comes from Peter who had his own "Jerusalem" to contend with and came out a humbler and wiser man. This was his conclusion: "In this you greatly rejoice (all the benefits of God's salvation), though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed." 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV).
God is passionate about the quality of our confidence in Him. It's all we have to link us to the resources of grace He provides for us to live this life. He has to do something to alert us to the "what ifs" and "if onlys" we hold onto that dilute our trust and make us wobbly and insecure. What better way to expose our insecurities than to orchestrate circumstances that show up what we are actually thinking and believing?
Instead of blaming God or life for giving us a bad deal, let's use these times to ditch our suspicions and mistrust of God by owning our faulty thinking and changing our minds about God and His ways. Isn't it true that, up to this point in our lives, many of us have wasted our trials by going the same route over and over again? We get upset and ask "Why?" In true "Dr Phil" style, how has that worked for you?
The height of folly is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different outcome! I know a way that works -- admit to God that you mistrust Him and ask Him to reveal His ways. You'll be surprised at the relief you will feel and the newfound confidence you will have in Him when you realise that He is at work in your circumstances to change you from the inside through what is happening on the outside!
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