After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. "After I have been there," he said, "I must visit Rome also." He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.
Thoughts for Today:Paul did eventually go to Rome just as he planned, however he went as a prisoner which I'm sure was not what he had in mind. How many times have I built grandiose plans to arrive at some destination or goal, only to find myself there just not quite in the way I expected?
A number of years ago (when I was in my mid-thirties), a friend of mine asked if I would join him in a 10k race for charity. Being somewhat of an athlete my entire life I readily agreed. As the weeks leading toward race day rapidly approached, he asked if I wanted to get out and run a little. Life can be a little hectic -- between church, my daughter's soccer practice (I was coaching), softball games (I was playing), work, travel and everything else -- quite frankly I didn't have the time or think I needed to.
On race day I showed up suitably attired in my matching Nike running shirt, shorts, and New Balance shoes -- I certainly looked like a runner -- and joined my friend at the starting line. The gun sounded to start the race; we ran at very leisurely pace, allowing faster runners to pass us; eventually ending up in the back third of the pack. My older friend was an avid although slower runner and after a while he sensed my frustration with the number of people who passed us. Much to my delight he asked if I would like to go on ahead. I thanked him and immediately took off, committed to finishing in a reasonable time. As the miles wore on the faster pace began to take its toll as my breathing became heavier and more labored and the sweat began to soak through my shirt -- but I was gaining ground. As I rounded a bend I looked ahead and there along a tree lined road were hundreds of people cheering us along. In the distance, perhaps a half a mile ahead, I saw what I thought was the finish line. I said to myself, "Mike -- don't leave anything on the course -- kick it into high gear!" And off I took at full speed. I sprinted until I was near collapse, so you can imagine my distress when what I found was not at the finish line, but the half way point. The rest of the race was a blur as somehow through sheer grit and determination I managed to finish.
In what seemed liked seconds after crossing the finish line my friend joined me -- looking almost as fresh as when he started the race. I on the other hand threw up, almost passed out from heat exhaustion and needed to spend the next couple of days on the couch recuperating. My friend's wife took a picture of us that day: me sitting in a lawn chair pale faced, slacked jawed, sweat soaked, and clearly exhausted; while her husband stood tall with one hand on his hip and the other around my shoulder -- a great big smile on his face. They still have that framed picture of us on the mantle in their living room to this day. My humility -- the fable of the tortoise and the hare comes to mind -- not always do things turn out the way we envision.
The point I wanted to make as it relates to our passage today, Paul had plans to go to Rome -- big plans, and I'm sure he envisioned a city and perhaps an entire empire transformed by his ministry. But God used him in a completely different way, one he probably didn't see coming -- just as I didn't see in my race experience. Also like the race experience we only see the finish line from our own perspective while God sees eternally. That's why I try not to get caught up in the "why" of events in life, or become too bound by my own plans and intentions. God invariably has something else in mind -- I need to plan and prepare always, but willingly find joy in any outcome. Sometimes that's hard when your tongue is literally dragging on the ground. I have found many years of humility in that picture on my friend's mantle. Somehow I think that was a part of God's plan.
Questions to Ponder:What have been some of the big plans you have made for your life that didn't turn as you expected? Have you found joy in the outcome or are you still bound by the disappointment? This is where being a Christian becomes difficult -- are you up to it? Is your faith strong enough? Sometimes we have to let go of the disappointment and our own plan to find joy and perhaps see a glimpse of God's master plan.