The End

   Written by on September 18, 2014 at 2:20 pm

The last five chapters of the Book of Acts in the Bible is the story of the apostle Paul’s life on his final journey to Rome.

One would expect the Jewish convert to Jesus Christ would be wreathed in honor, widely heralded for his writing, and retiring to live out his life in a Roman villa that offered a commanding view of the Mediterranean Sea.

word-Stephen CrottsYet it was not to be.

Acts 24 through 28 tells of Paul’s long incarceration in a Roman jail cell, an unfair trial before Felix, and later Festus—neither one willing to do the right thing. It tells of yet a third trial before Agrippa, and then a long sail to Rome for yet another trial. All the way Paul is in chains, his ship driven by an angry storm for several weeks. His boat sank and he had to swim for it. A castaway on an island, he was snake bitten. Then, finally after three months, he wearily walked into Rome.

But tradition has it he was soon beheaded by the Emperor Nero.

Not at all what one expects. Not what a man hopes for.

Yet Paul never complained. He was not depressed. He did not sink into despair. You see, Paul understood it was not all about him. It’s about what God wants, what Jesus needed him to be.

Contrast the Apostle Paul’s attitude with today’s Christian. We want a faith that works in this life that brings us blessings, that baptizes the American “good life” into our pocketbooks, home, health, and children. And if God does not produce, we quit in a pout.

I got a call the other week, some members of a parish I served 25 years ago said they missed my wife and me and wanted to gather for supper. Well, that we did—laughing, crying, remembering, giving thanks.

As I surveyed faces about the table I saw a beloved elder fighting cancer. I saw a man crippled in an accident. Another couple’s son died of cancer. A man struggled through years of unemployment. And I saw my wife who had suffered a serious stroke. I realized none of us gets a bye from suffering. Even God’s faithful are hurt, rejected, disappointed, and fail.

I used to think faith in Jesus meant trusting God to give me the life I’ve always dreamed of having. Now I realize faith is trusting God to give me the life, challenges, and results He deems necessary for His purposes. And those plans I cannot even imagine.

About Stephen Crotts

The Reverend Stephen Crotts is pastor of Village Presbyterian Church in Charlotte Court House, VA. He is also the director of the Carolina Study Center, Inc., a campus ministry, located in Chapel Hill, NC. Pastor Crotts may be reached at carolinastudycenter@msn.com.

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