“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”
These comforting words to Paul came after some events that would have caused any human to get depressed.
Paul had ample warning from God that he was going to have trouble at Jerusalem…. in 21:4 the disciples told him through the Holy Spirit , that he should not go up to Jerusalem…. and again in Cesarea (21:11), the prophet Agabus said, thus saith the Holy Spirit, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this belt and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles…. and yet Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem so badly that he ignored these warnings and did what he wanted to do.
We ask ourselves….. what did God REALLY want Paul to do ?… did Paul disobey God by going to Jerusalem ?… if Paul felt he was pleasing God by going to Jerusalem what did he think was the purpose of the warnings ? did he believe the warnings were not actually from the Holy Spirit at all ?
We do not know the answer to all these questions…. but we certainly can imagine, that bound in prison Paul may have been thinking similar thoughts and DOUBTS…. perhaps he felt he had done wrong to come to Jerusalem ?…. maybe he felt he had let God down by not heeding those warnings ?
This comforting vision was just what he needed at that instant…. to re-assure him that God was still on his side.
this has happened to me also of several occasions…. God has prompted me in my spirit but I have ignored it…. mostly because I was not totally sure that it was HIS prompting and it might have been easy to convince myself otherwise particularly if my wishes were contrary.
Obviously when I realized (after the fact) that it was indeed his prompting, I then felt very sorry that I did not heed it….. and God has comforted me about that also.
My circumstances were never as serious as what happened to Paul…. but the principle is still the same.
God’s will versus our own wishes…. and (in some cases) our uncertainty about what His will actually is.
The wonderful thing is that God does not hit us with a big hammer when we make the mistake of choosing our will over His….. and He does not hold it against us.
He has given us free will…. and He wants us to seek His will voluntarily… He knows sometimes we are not sure of His will…. and He also knows sometimes we just want to do something so badly that we just want Him to approve it.
Even when we go our own way (for whatever reason), He is still there for us… comforting us and helping us get through our own mess (that we have found ourselves in)…. and giving us more opportunities to choose for Him.
If Paul had NOT gone to Jerusalem… the story would have been a little different…. but God would have used whatever choice Paul made for His purpose and His glory…. because Paul was dedicated to His service.
God does not hold our decisions against us…. because He is well able to make all things work together for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28… and Paul wrote it sometime AFTER this experience)
Remember today… God can do ANYTHING… there is NOTHING too hard for the LORD. (Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:27)
Sometimes I don’t think we fully realize just how AWESOME God is…. we put limits on what (we think) God can do for us… and this limits our faith to believe for the “impossible”.