HONED BY SUFFERING
"From Claudius Lysias to the Most Honourable Governor Felix: Greetings!
"I rescued this man from a Jewish mob. They had seized him and were about to kill him when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. So I sent in my soldiers. Wanting to know what he had done wrong, I had him brought before their council. It turned out to be a squabble turned vicious over some of their religious differences, but nothing remotely criminal.
"The next thing I knew, they had cooked up a plot to murder him. I decided that for his own safety I'd better get him out of here in a hurry. So I'm sending him to you. I'm informing his accusers that he's now under your jurisdiction." Acts 23:25-30 (The Message).
In the mercy and plan of God, the plot of the Jews to ambush and kill Paul had moved him a little closer to his final destination, Rome. The Roman captain had acted quickly to get Paul out of Jerusalem and away from the angry mob. He was now handing him over to the man who had the authority to send him to Rome for trial by Caesar himself.
"The soldiers, following orders, took Paul that same night to safety in Antipatris. In the morning, the soldiers returned to their barracks in Jerusalem, sending Paul on to Caesarea under guard of the cavalry. The cavalry entered Caesarea and handed Paul and the letter over to the governor.
"After reading the letter, the governor asked Paul what province he came from and was told 'Cilicia.' Then he said, 'I'll take up your case when your accusers show up.' He ordered him locked up for the meantime in Herod's official quarters." Acts 23:31-35 (The Message).
Paul must have breathed a sigh of relief to know that he was now in the hands of the governor himself and out of reach of his enemies. The next time he had to face them it would be in a Roman court where the Jews would not be able to lay a finger on him. He would be able to speak for himself without the mob shouting him down. The governor would be a disinterested party who was not personally involved in the religious quarrel that had sparked this mess.
For the moment Paul was imprisoned in the quarters of King Herod himself - a far cry from the deprivation he had suffered over the years of his missionary service. Wow! God knew how to care for His servant in his time of need. After his years of hardship and travel, he had respite and time to recover and prepare himself for the next phase of his journey with the Lord.
How did Paul view what was happening to him right then? He did not say, but in his letter to the Philippian church from his prison in Rome, he characteristically looked on the bright side, recognising his opportunity to be a witness for Jesus right among the royal palace guard where he was being held.
How should we view the adversities that come our way? We have one of two options -- blame the devil and see ourselves as helpless victims waiting to be rescued, or embrace the truth that God has promised that He is always with us and He will work everything out for our good and for His glory.
Hardships are the times when we are being honed and polished to be true sons of God. Without the disciplines of life, we would be as flabby and spineless as jellyfish. God is passionate about training us to be sons, serenely confident in our Father's love and His purpose to put His glory on display through us. The real test comes when we have no crutches to lean on.
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