IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
"And so, with the tearful goodbyes behind us, we were on our way. We made a straight run to Cos, the next day reached Rhodes and then Patara. There we found a ship going direct to Phoenicia, got on board, and set sail. Cyprus came into view on our left, but was soon out of sight as we kept on course for Syria, and eventually docked in the port of Tyre. While the cargo was being unloaded, we looked up local disciples and stayed with them seven days. Their message to Paul, from insight given them by the Spirit, was "Don't go to Jerusalem.'" Acts 21:1-4 (The Message).
Was the Holy Spirit a bit mixed up? It looks like it at first reading. Did He give Paul one message and the believers in Tyre another? Since we know that the Holy Spirit would not do that, it is more likely that He was alerting Paul's friends to pray for him, rather than stop him from going to Jerusalem.
As well-meaning as they were, they could not deter Paul from the course he had chosen, regardless of the cost. He knew that God wanted him to go to Jerusalem. He obeyed, not knowing then that it was the way to Rome, and Rome was his goal. It might seem a devious route but God knew the reasons and implications of that way. There was no other way for Paul to gain entrance to the household of Caesar but through imprisonment and, through it, to influence the entire palace guard for Jesus.
"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of my brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Word of the Lord more courageously and fearlessly." Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV).
Paul did have to suffer hardship, danger and imprisonment but God was always with him, protecting him from the hatred of fanatical Jews and ensuring that he followed the right course for Rome. Plots to kill him were thwarted more than once and, strangely enough, it was the Roman government that protected him and gave him safe passage out of Jerusalem, offering him the benefits of a justice system that put the lid on the intentions of Jewish radicals.
Sometimes he was only a hairsbreadth from death, but he knew that, as long as he was in the hands of God, he was indestructible until he had fulfilled God's purpose for him. A long life of living on a knife edge but secure in the hands of a loving Father, had taught him to rest in Him in spite of his circumstances.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39 (NIV).
For Paul this was not theory, and there is no way he could have written these words had he not experienced the hard reality of the difficulties, suffering and trials that gave birth to such security in God. I
t is only a person, like Paul, who refuses to give credit to the devil for his circumstances and lives in the awareness of God's love, that can emerge from the worst that life can produce and still declare: 'I am convinced that nothing can separate me from the love of God.' There is a place of calm in the eye of the storm. We can only find that place if we choose to rest in the perfect love of God regardless of the whispered lies of the devil to discredit the intentions of our Father God.
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18 (NIV).
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