Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Wednesday, December 26th
Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 John
23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.
Paul did not intend to go to Rome to stay. But he did intend to stop by Rome on his way to Spain - to visit them, to encourage them, and to allow them to assist him (likely in his preparations for Spain) and to be refreshed by them.
Paul knew his calling was evangelism, and he had plan. He had a plan and desire to go to Spain, and he hopes to stop in Rome along the way. That was his plan.
But here's the amazing thing.
Though Paul's plan was to go to Spain, and though that plan completely filled the calling God had placed on his life - God had a more pressing priority for Paul to deal with first, and Paul remained open to that. Paul did not let his plan to go to Spain interfere with what God wanted him to do first - and that was to go minister to the believers in Jerusalem.
But get this - Jerusalem is more than a thousand miles, going in the opposite direction from Spain. That is a long, hard journey - and it's not even close to on the way to his heart's desire. Not even close.
But the church in Jerusalem was suffering financially and so Paul brought financial gifts and personal representatives from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia. Guess what that showed? Unity in the church! The Gentile church was more than happy to help out the Jewish church in Jerusalem. They did it because they wanted to do it, because of love. But they did also owe it to them. After all, the gospel message came through the Jews - it was a fulfillment of OT Jewish prophecy, Jesus was a Jew, the church was originally Jewish, the first missionaries were Jewish. The entire Gentile church - including you and I - are indebted to the Jewish church. But you can have a debt, and still do it out of love, and that was the case here.
And so, despite Paul's desire to go to Spain, he wants to first deal with this present priority. He doesn't get so distracted by his end goal and he fails to notice what God has for him now. How often are we guilty of doing that?
So, Paul says that he needs to first deliver this gift of love, this fruit proving the genuineness of Gentile salvation, to the believers in Jerusalem, and only once that has been done will he be able to go to Spain and visit the Romans along the way.
Do we follow God's call in the immediate even when we don't know how that relates to what He's called us to do long term? Even when it goes against the desires or our heart? Do we live a life of obedience?
v29 is a pretty awesome verse and is the way I want to live my life.
29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.
Paul knew that if he did come to Rome he would be coming blessed. That doesn't mean life would be roses. It means that he would be living under the blessing of God because he was living in obedience to what God had called him to do - both long term and short term. And obedience to God always brings blessing. Always. It may also bring adversity. But it will always bring blessing.
True positive thinking says, "I live in submission to Christ, I live in obedience to His Word so I know wherever I am I'll enjoy the fullness of the blessing of Christ." Marvelous way to live. By the way, as it turned out, he did get to Rome. That's right, only he got there as a prisoner. But this still came true. He got there as a prisoner and even as a prisoner he wrote the Philippians. And in writing to the Philippians, chapter 1, he talks about the difficulties, chains and some people are criticizing him and so forth and so on. And he says that doesn't matter to me, verse 18, "Christ is preached and in that I do rejoice, yea and I will continue to rejoice." I'm in prison, people are criticizing me, people are saying God had to put me on the shelf because of sin in my life, whatever, I'm getting it from every angle, not only from my enemies but my friends, but I'm just going to tell you this, it doesn't matter to me, I'm going to rejoice continually. Yes, always in the place of blessing because he was always in the place of obedience. It didn't matter what the circumstances were.
And at any point in time he could say the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:7. He knew the peace of God. It didn't matter what the situation was. Later on in that fourth chapter he says, "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus," you know those verses. So he knew prosperity. And listen, beloved, hear me, prosperity in the spiritual sense is the mark of ministry in the will of God. Not necessarily larger crowds, not necessarily greater popularity or reputation. It doesn't necessarily mean that the publisher is going to print your book. It doesn't necessarily mean that your church is going to double in the first six months, it doesn't necessarily mean the people are going to crowd in to hear you, they're going to raise your salary, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to become well known, it doesn't necessarily mean there are going to be a lot of folks saved, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to build a great ministry long remembered. I'll tell you what it does mean. It does mean that in the spiritual dimension between you and God, you will be blessed. That's what it's all about...prosperity, true riches, spiritual riches.
You see, Paul's joy was never tied to his circumstance...it was never tied to the occasion. His joy was tied to his obedience.
Do we have that joy? True joy that is tied to our obedience?