Paul Prays and God Answers…God’s Way

December 20, 2012 at 7:54 AM 2 comments

I was teaching on Romans 15:22-33 last night and church.  Initially, as I began to study the text, I must admit thinking along the lines that this was not the most exciting Scripture to teach on and I had to “fill” an hour.  The Lord understands our weaknesses and in my case, arrogance at believing there would not be enough in His Word to fill an hour.  Sorry, Lord.

I’m going to reprint the Scriptural text here for all of us so that we have the text in question right in front of us:

22 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; 23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while— 25 but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

30 Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; 32 so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

This is a very interesting section of Scripture and the Lord showed me that as I studied it.  It was initially very easy to think that this was not going to take me anywhere except the mundane “Paul wanted to visit the believers in Rome on his way to Spain” situation.  However, once you start getting into the text, it becomes clear that there is much more here solely because of the other biblical text that you are led to so that the blanks are filled in.

As we can see, it was Paul’s longing to visit the believers in Rome (vv. 22-23).  He used the word which in English means longing; he really had wanted to visit them for some time, years in fact.  It now looked as though that was finally going to be a reality.  What had changed?  Well, it appears that Paul had finally come to the point of realizing that he had spread the gospel around quite a bit after visiting the most recent place, Illyricum.  Paul had spent the past few years in Asia Minor and the Grecian Peninsula and he finally came to a point where he felt he could move on.

This is not to say that every person in those areas had actually received salvation.  Paul is not saying that.  Paul is saying that he could not think of a place where he had not shared the gospel.  It was out there and even though not everyone had received it, that did not mean that they would not receive it in the future.  Those who had received the gospel through Paul’s ministry would likely form small churches and continue to spread the gospel.  Paul was free to go to the next place and since the Lord had placed it on his heart to go to Spain via Rome, that seemed like the most logical place to go next.

However, as Paul states in verses 25 and 26, Paul speaks of going first to Jerusalem.  This was because he had received a gift specifically for the believers in Jerusalem (the poor among them) and it was his task to physically take it to them.  Paul also points out – again – that Gentiles owe a debt of gratitude to the Jews because of what we have from them.  What is that?  Salvation through Jesus Christ, who was born into this world through the nation of Israel.

Now, this is where it gets really interesting as far as I’m concerned.  Starting in verse 30, Paul asks the Roman believers to join him in earnest prayer.  Paul wants them to literally strive together with him in their prayers to God and he specifically asks them to pray a number of things (vv. 31-32):

  • That he would be rescued from the “disobedient”
  • That his service would be acceptable
  • That he would be able to go to Rome in joy, and
  • Be refreshed in their company

The disobedient were those Jews who were constantly attacking Paul, not only verbally, but physically.  They wanted Paul out of the way and they held nothing back.  Now, this portion of Romans actually refers us to the book of Acts, starting with chapter 22.  It is here we must turn to fill in the blanks and to learn just exactly how God answered Paul’s four-pronged prayer.  It is absolutely fascinating!

Briefly, here is how it looks, from Acts 22 to Acts 28:

  1. Paul does go to Jerusalem (Acts 21), but is no sooner seen in the Temple when he is arrested (Acts 22)
  2. Paul is brought before the Jewish Council – Acts 22 – 23
  3. A conspiracy to kill Paul is uncovered – Acts 23
  4. Paul is moved to Caesarea for his safety – Acts 23
  5. Paul goes before Felix – Acts 24
  6. Paul stands before Festus and Agrippa – Acts 25
  7. Paul gives a defense on his behalf before Agrippa – Acts 26
  8. Paul is sent to Rome to go before Caesar via ship – Acts 27
    – Paul is shipwrecked near Malta – Acts 27 – 28
    – A poisonous viper bites Paul’s hand; Paul is unhurt
    – God heals many on Malta through Paul
  9. Paul arrives in Rome – Acts 28
    – Still a prisoner
    – Given a guard
  10. Paul was allowed to work out of his own rented quarters and preached the gospel for two years in Rome! (Acts 28:30)

Now, was any of that in Paul’s original prayer?  The only part that I can see that was part of Paul’s actual prayer was that he would be saved from the “disobedient!”  Paul was successfully saved from their plot to kill him, but he was arrested in order to keep that from happening.

God responded to Paul’s prayers in His way that He knew was best for Paul and would bring Him (God) much glory.  Paul thought he would go to Jerusalem, give them the gift from those in Macedonia and Achaia, hang out with them for a bit, then travel to Rome where he would visit the Roman believers.  He also wanted to be refreshed while there, which is another way of saying that he hoped to simply spend some quality time with them relaxing.  After a short time, Paul believed he would then continue his travels to Spain.  That was Paul’s prayer.

God responded to Paul with plans of His own.  Yes, he kept Paul safe, but in His divine wisdom, God chose to have Paul arrested.  Why?  Because this fulfilled what God first revealed to Paul about the fact that Paul was a chosen vessel to “to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel,” (Acts 9:15b).  God was fulfilling that promise.

On his way to Rome, Paul would testify before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa!  These were very important people and who also needed Jesus as Savior!  They needed to realize that though they ruled over men, Jesus ruled over them.  They needed to learn that salvation was also being offered to them and through it, they might have eternal life.

What struck me was that we see the stalwart prayer of the apostle Paul and yet, even Paul did not choose to answer Paul the way Paul expected and hoped.  However, it is equally clear (because of Paul’s response to his incarceration) that he fully accepted what the Lord threw his way!  He did not recoil.  He did not “kick against the goads,” so to speak.  He submitted himself to God’s revealed will wholeheartedly.

Here’s what we learn from this very short section of Scripture regarding prayer, our expectations, along with God’s freedom to respond the way He chooses to respond:

  • God does things in His way and in His time
  • His ways are not our ways
  • He does what is best for us and brings him the most glory
  • He always glorifies himself!

Folks, I don’t know about you, but I am thoroughly encouraged!  I have – at times – been completely flummoxed, not knowing how to pray.  What this teaches me from Romans 15 is that I should simply pray, making my requests known to God (Philippians 4:4-7), and then allow Him to be Lord of my life, responding to my requests as He sees fit!

This is the message.  We should always pray even if we are not sure what it is that God is going to do.  Along with the desire to pray at all times for everything, we should always be prepared to see the Lord respond to our requests in the way He chooses to do so.  Ultimately, He will respond to our prayers in a way that is best for us and brings Him much glory.

We cannot see all things and we aren’t meant to see all things.  What we cannot see, we must simply give to God so that He will do whatever He deems to be the best possible course of action.  The authentic Christian will always come to a point of recognizing God’s hand and accept His will even when it is not exactly that for which we originally prayed.

I had never really noticed this about Paul before.  It was a simple prayer and a heartfelt one.  He asked others to join him in that same prayer and I’m sure they did.  Initially, it might have been a shock to Paul to find himself in the middle of something that was not part of his original prayer, yet knowing Paul, it was likely not long before he saw God’s hand and submitted himself to God.

That is the reality for the Christian.  That is what fully defines all authentic Christians.  Where do you stand here?  Do you gladly receive what God puts in your path or do you rebel?  Do you gladly submit yourself to Him even when the events that transpire in your life are way off from what you had originally prayed?

We – all authentic Christians – need to get to that point of simply, humble acceptance of how God leads us.  We need to appreciate the fact that because we have been purchased by Him (through His shed blood), we are no longer our own.  We are His slaves whether we like it or not.  It’s certainly best to like it because there is no greater Master that we could ever hope to have in this life or the next.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Do you believe that?  Do you live that?  Paul did.

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Finishing the Race What is a Christian to Do?

2 Comments

  • 1. Silvia DeRuvo  |  December 20, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    Great message. It is fascinating to see how God does give us the desire of our hearts, but it is not always the way we envision God doing it. Good reminder Dr. Fred:)

    • 2. modres  |  December 20, 2012 at 8:49 AM

      Yes, but you are supposed to agree with me 🙂


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