“Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I also would like to hear the man myself.’” (Acts 25:22)
God’s will for our lives often seems like a jumbled fusion of circumstances that are out of our hands. We must remember, however, that such an assessment on our part does not come from true spiritual wisdom. Our natural minds cannot comprehend the working of God on our own.
If we were to imagine God’s divine planning on our behalf, we would concoct a vision of grandeur: a life in which our every word is converting sinners, and our every effort is bearing fruit immediately before our eyes. Inconvenient circumstances would all be cast into the midst of the sea. We would not have pictured the array of pressures, challenges, unplanned events, and prolonged waiting periods, which so often characterize our experience, while the plans of sinful people often seem to prosper. Clearly, we have a hard time seeing God’s hand in things at times, and may find ourselves tempted to tell God what His hand in things ought to look like!
Usually, the root issue is that our interests are different from God’s. Even in a surrendered life, obeying our call and being a faithful witness of Christ to a lost world, our interests may not be God’s. Even pure, upright desires may simply differ from how the Holy Spirit plans to work.
This can cause distress or discouragement, until God gives us light on the interests of the Holy Spirit and we see to our great relief that God is still accomplishing His will. The Spirit’s interests include leading us into all truth (John 16:13), convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (16:8), and testifying about Jesus (15:26). Of course, we can block the interests of the Holy Spirit through unrepentant sin. But if there is nothing between us and the Lord, then every circumstance outside our control works for our good, as well as for His interests (Romans 8:28).
If our lives are submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and the interests of the Holy Spirit, we should not pay too much attention to the reactions of earthly-minded folks. Agrippa’s assessment after hearing Paul was that, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (26:32). Yet, this statement presumes that God’s will for Paul should be physical freedom. Agrippa could not see that the Holy Spirit was spreading far and wide the testimony of what the Lord Jesus had done in and through Paul. Paul was wise, not foolish, to appeal to Caesar. He avoided a death trap from the Jewish leaders, because the Spirit had interest in keeping him alive. Had Paul not appealed to Caesar, Agrippa would have never heard the man’s convincing defense of Jesus Christ! In his own interest, Agrippa had a curiosity to hear the testimony of an unusual prisoner. Yet, the Holy Spirit had an interest in testifying to Agrippa that Jesus Christ is risen!
As a sister in Christ recently observed, Paul had once been free to do as he pleased but was a slave of the devil. Now, as a physical prisoner, what a glorious freedom he had! Freedom to love God, to love people, to declare the resurrection of Jesus Christ, even in chains. This freedom is yours and mine, no matter what circumstances arise in this life. Paul wrote, “I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9). If you and I find our treasure in the Word of God, there is no prison on earth that can overcome us.
The Rock Church