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Trust God, He knows what He's Doing - Life of Paul Part 81

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
April 16, 2021 7:00 am

Trust God, He knows what He's Doing - Life of Paul Part 81

So What? / Lon Solomon

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Well, if you brought a Bible today, I hope you'll open it with me to Acts chapter 22. We'll be coming there in a minute. By the way, with our children up here, don't forget we have a wonderful children's concert coming up on Friday night here at 8 and Saturday at 1 with our children's creative arts club in missions free. Hope you'd like to be a part of that.

You simply come and they'll be here. Hey, Acts chapter 22, we're going to be continuing in our study of the life of that great man, the apostle Paul, and we'll be coming there in just a moment. But first let me say that one of the greatest tragedies that I've ever been a part of was the death of my wife's youngest sister. Her name was Sandy.

In 1985 from cancer, at the time she was 27 years old, married, had a one-year-old little boy, and she died of a very aggressive form of cancer that took her life in 13 months. And you know, during those 13 months, I remember having several conversations with my father-in-law, and one of them I'll never forget. He said to me, you know, Lon, after you grow up and you raise your children and you get them through high school and you get them through college and they're still walking with Christ and they marry somebody walking with Christ and you get them married and launched and they're making it on their own, he said, you know, you kind of have the idea that at that point you're going to be able to sit back and relax and just kind of enjoy your life, your old age.

He said, but this has been the hardest year of my life. And then he said something to me that made an indelible impression upon me. He said, and I quote, what I've learned is that God never lets us get so old that we don't have to trust him for something. Folks, we're going to talk about this today. We're going to talk about walking by faith. We're going to talk about trusting God even though we don't understand why he's letting certain things happen in our lives.

And if you've got some things going on in your life today that you don't understand why they're happening and they don't seem to make any sense to you, then let me say that I believe you've come to the right place this morning, because that's what we're going to talk about. We're going to use an incident right out of the life of the Apostle Paul as our classroom. So let's dig in here in Acts chapter 22. But before we start, a little bit of background.

So we're all together. Remember here in Acts 22 that the Apostle Paul is in Jerusalem. He's finished his third missionary journey. It's the summer of 57 A.D. And Paul was at the temple worshiping when a bunch of Jewish people from the city of Ephesus who were in town recognized him. They had tried to kill him when he was in Ephesus and they had failed. And now they saw another opportunity to get him by accusing Paul of bringing a gentile into the temple courts.

Well, when they did this, a riot broke out. The mob grabbed Paul and began beating him to death. And the only thing that saved his life was the Roman army commander of Jerusalem showing up with a bunch of soldiers.

They grabbed Paul, put him in chains and led him away from the mob. As a matter of fact, they came from the Antonio fortress. I'll show you where that is. Here was the temple mountain in the upper right hand corner of the slide. You see the Antonio fortress. This is where the Roman army garrison was headquartered in Jerusalem.

They could see everything happening on the temple mount. They came out of here to rescue Paul and they carried him back into this fortress. As they were taking him up the steps and into the fortress, Paul asked the army commander if he could speak to the mob. Chapter 21 verse 40, and having received the tribune's permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When there was a great hush, he then spoke to them in Hebrew. And as we saw two weeks ago in the beginning of Acts 22, Paul talked to them first about his Jewish credentials, then about his conversion experience, and finally about his calling to the gentiles. Well, as soon as he said the gentiles, verse 22 of this chapter, the crowd listened to Paul till he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, rid the earth of him. He's not fit to live. And since the crowd was shouting and throwing their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered Paul to be taken into the fortress for his own protection.

Now that's where we've been, so let's pick up and see what happens next. Verse 24 of chapter 22. The tribune directed that Paul then be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting in him like this.

You say, Lon, what do you mean to understand why? I mean, all he had to do was listen to Paul's speech and he'd understand why. No, no, friends, remember, Paul spoke to the crowd in Hebrew.

This is a Roman military officer. He doesn't understand Hebrew. He doesn't have a clue what Paul said to the crowd. The only thing he knows is whatever Paul said, it made a man or a wet hen. That's all he knows. But he's in charge of Jerusalem.

He needs to know what's going on. And so assuming that Paul is some kind of common criminal, he did what was standard operating procedure for the Romans in those days. They assumed you wouldn't get the truth out of somebody unless you interrogated them and beat them up.

And so he routinely gave the order and said, well, just take him and flog him and question him and find out what's going on. Now, the flogging whip that the apostle Paul was about to have used on him is the very same flogging whip that if you saw the movie The Passion, you saw used on the Lord Jesus. With the rawhide strips and the little pieces of bone and metal in the end, this is what they were about to use on the apostle Paul. In Latin, it was called a flagellum. We get our English word flagellate from this word. F. F. Bruce writing in his commentary on the book of Acts said, and I quote, the flagellum was a fearful instrument of torture.

If a man did not actually die under it, which often happened, he would usually be crippled for life. Paul had been beaten with rods on three occasions and five times he'd been sentenced to the Jewish whip, but neither of these penalties had the murderous quality of the flagellum. So Paul was about to get it.

Verse 25. And as they were stretching Paul out to flog him, Paul sent to the centurion, who was a junior Roman officer there. Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty of anything? Well, when the centurion heard this, he immediately went to the tribune and said, what are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen. Have you completely lost your mind? And the tribune hurried to Paul and said, Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?

Yes, I am. Paul answered. The tribune said, Well, I acquired my citizenship with a large sum of money. Paul said, Ah, but I was actually born a Roman citizen. Well, folks, when they found this out that Paul was a Roman citizen, everything suddenly changed.

Verse 29. Therefore, those who are about to flog him immediately let go of him. Paul became like a hot potato, man.

Nobody wanted to touch him now. And the tribune was also afraid when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains and almost flogged him. You might ask, Well, Lon, why were these people so afraid? I mean, what was the big deal about treating a Roman citizen like that? Well, we need to understand some things about Roman citizenship in the days of the Apostle Paul. Folks, even though in the days of Paul there were millions of subjects under the control of the Roman Empire, we need to understand that just because you became a subject of Rome, you did not become a citizen of Rome. Roman citizenship was a privilege that was jealously guarded. As a result, there were very few people born outside of Italy who ever became Roman citizens. But it just so happened the Apostle Paul was one of them.

You say, Well, so okay. So what was the big deal about being a Roman citizen? Well, Roman citizens had rights.

They had privileges that were only given to them that the rest of the people in the empire didn't have. There were three I'm going to tell you about that applied in this situation. Number one, a Roman citizen by right was entitled to a formal trial before any form of punishment could be inflicted upon him. Now, did the Tribune give Paul that kind of trial?

No, he didn't. He just grabbed him, threw him in chains and dragged him into the Antonio fortress. He didn't even read him his Miranda rights, folks, before he arrested him. Second of all, a Roman citizen, even if he was convicted of a crime, couldn't be punished in any way that would cause him public humiliation.

And yet what did the Tribune done? He had slapped Paul in chains down on the Temple Mount in front of everybody. And like a common thief, dragged him around in a bunch of chains. He had violated this right. And third and finally, regardless of his crime, a Roman citizen was never allowed ever to be tied up and flogged.

And that's exactly what the Tribune had ordered done. They had already tied Paul up and they were already about to flog him when suddenly they stopped. We need to understand that there were severe penalties that were in place for violating the rights of a Roman citizen. Because of what he had done, this Roman commander could have been stripped of his command.

He could have been drummed out of the army for good. In fact, he could have been thrown in jail and flogged himself for what he had done to the apostle Paul. What the Tribune had done was serious and he knew it. And as we're going to see in the next couple of chapters, the Tribune from this point on made it his goal to become Paul's best friend. You understand what I'm saying? Because he knew if Paul decided to press charges, he was in big trouble. Now that's as far as we want to go right now in the passage because we want to stop and ask our most important question.

And I want to hear all you guys who are down in overflow, nice and loud, ready, here we go, one, two, three. So what? Yeah, so what? You say, Lon, so what? You know, I mean, what you've shared up to this point has been marginally interesting, you know.

But honestly, what difference does any of this make to my life when I walk out of my house on a Monday morning? Well, let's see if we can answer that question. I want to go back to what Paul said to this Roman military officer. Remember the officer said, I bought my citizenship for a great deal of money. What did Paul say? Paul said, ah, he said, but I was born a Roman citizen. Now, I don't know about you, but it occurred to me, how did this nice Jewish boy name the apostle Paul? How in the world did he end up being born a Roman citizen?

So I went and did some work on it to try to figure out how in the world that happened. It all started 200 years before Acts 22, back in 171 BC. Let me tell you how he ended up becoming a citizen. In 171 BC, a guy named Antiochus was king over an empire that included all of modern day Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel. And he decided that he was going to make the sleepy little town of Tarsus, we'll show you a map so you see where it is. He was going to make that sleepy little town into one of his military garrison cities in southern Asia Minor.

He decided to do this, he wanted to swell the population of this town. And so what he did, for reasons that we don't know why, he moved hundreds of Jewish families out of the city of Jerusalem, forcibly, against their will. Now this included the apostle Paul's great great grandparents, and moved them all and resettled them in the city of Tarsus. To soften the blow, as a concession to them, he granted them automatic citizenship in this town of Tarsus. You say, okay, so now I understand how Paul's ancestors became citizens of Tarsus.

That still doesn't explain how the apostle Paul got born a Roman citizen. Okay, well, listen, does everybody here know who Brutus was? You say, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know who Brutus is, he's the guy who used to beat up Popeye in the cartoons. No, no, no. No, no, no, that is Blue Toe.

Blue Toe used to do that. We are talking about Brutus. Brutus was a Roman aristocrat who in 44 BC murdered Julius Caesar, because he didn't want him to become emperor. Immediately after that, a civil war broke out between Brutus and his forces, and the forces of Julius Caesar's nephew, Augustus Caesar. Well, Brutus took his troops and came to Tarsus and took over the city.

He seized the city and made it into his headquarters. But what you need to know is that the people of the city of Tarsus remained loyal to Augustus Caesar. Caesar won, became emperor, and after he defeated Brutus, Augustus Caesar, to thank the people of Tarsus for their loyalty, he immediately granted every citizen in Tarsus in 40 BC automatic Roman citizenship. Folks, the apostle Paul was not alive in 40 BC, but his grandparents were. They were citizens of Tarsus already, because of what King Antiochus had done, and now, because of what Augustus did, they automatically became Roman citizens, so that when Paul was born, some 50 years later, he was what?

Born a Roman citizen. Now I got a question for you. How do you think the apostle Paul's great-great-grandparents felt in 171 BC when the soldiers at Antiochus came into Jerusalem, grabbed them by the nape of the neck and said, Hey, guess what? You're moving to grab all your stuff.

We're taking you to some Gentile town 100 miles from here, 200 miles from here. How do you think they felt being ripped away from their family, their loved ones, their homes, their jobs, the city they loved, everything they were familiar with, and they're going to be carried off now to a city where they don't know anybody, to a Gentile city? Do you think they were confused? I do.

Do you think they were devastated? I do. Do you think they ever looked at God and said, God, what in the world are you doing to me?

I do. I think they said all of those things. But can't we see, and here's the critical point that I don't want you to miss, can't we see that in uprooting Paul's great-great-grandparents, and taking them to Tarsus, that God knew exactly what he was doing all the time? God was looking down the corridors of time, 200 years down the corridors of time, and seeing their great-great-grandson named Paul. God knew Paul was going to be the greatest missionary to the Roman Empire ever. He knew that in order not to be killed in Jerusalem, flogged to death, and not be able to complete his mission, he needed to be a Roman citizen, and God had everything orchestrated to make sure Paul got born a Roman citizen. Friends, God was so far ahead of the apostle Paul's great-great-grandparents, it wasn't even funny.

He knew what he was doing. Every Tuesday for the last 24 years since I've been pastor here, that I'm not out of town, I try to take appointments on Tuesday afternoons in my office. And you know, I've had people come in and over those years ask all kinds of different questions about all kinds of different things. But without a doubt, the most commonly asked question that I get on a Tuesday is this. And that is, Lon, why would God let this happen to me? Why would God let this happen to me? I don't understand. I don't get it. It makes no sense. And friends, the reason people ask that question in my office is because even in our modern world today, lots of things happen in our lives that make no more sense to us than getting ripped up and moved to Tarsus made sense to the apostle Paul's great-great-grandparents. Things happen to us at work. Things happen in our families.

Things happen at school. We run into tragedies and losses and defeats. We run into financial problems and health problems.

And I'm single and I wish I were married problems. And we can't figure out what God's doing. But every week in my office on Tuesdays, I assure people, and I'm here to assure you today of one critical truth, and that is God makes no mistakes. He didn't make a mistake with the apostle Paul's great-great-grandparents.

He knew what he was doing all the time. And friends, he has not made a mistake with you. I love the verse of Scripture, Jeremiah 29-11. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope. And what God is promising us in this verse, my friends, is that whatever He's allowing to happen to you, it's all part of His divinely scripted plan for your life. God has already worked it out for His glory, your benefit. It doesn't matter whether you can understand, doesn't matter whether you can figure it out, because God made you a promise and God can't lie. And folks, He didn't make a mistake with the apostle Paul's great-great-grandparents. He's not making a mistake with you. What we have to be careful about is anger. What we have to be careful about is bitterness.

And letting those things take root in our life because we're confused, instead God challenges us to walk by faith, to trust Him and believe He knows what He's doing, whether we can figure it out at this moment in time or whether we can't. You know, the year was 1873 and Chicago had burned to the ground. And there was a man living in Chicago at the time, his name was Horatio G. Spafford. And Mr. Spafford had a wife and four daughters and he decided that this would be a good chance to take them on a vacation. And so he booked passage on a ship from New York going to England and was going to spend a few weeks in England. But when he got to New York, there were some business items that actually came up and so he got delayed. And he sent his wife and he sent his four daughters on ahead to England and he said, I'll join you, give me a couple of days.

And so they set off. Well, they sailed across the North Atlantic and as they were going in the middle of the night, one night they were rammed accidentally by another vessel and their ship was sunk. Only 28 people survived. Mr. Spafford's wife was one of them. But all four of his daughters died. They drowned in the North Atlantic. When she was rescued, Mrs. Spafford, and taken to England, she cabled back to her husband in New York.

Two words. She said, saved alone. Well, Mr. Spafford immediately went and got on a ship to sail to England and meet her. It was following the same path as the ship his wife had been on. And he said to the captain, he said, Captain, I don't care what time of day or night it is, when we get to the spot where that accident happened, when we get to the longitude and the latitude where my four daughters drowned, you find me and I want to know. It was two o'clock in the morning one night and the knock came on his door. And the steward said, Mr. Spafford, the captain wants you to know that in 15 minutes we'll be at your spot. Well, Mr. Spafford got his coat on and went up on deck. And there under the dim lights of the ship as they sailed over the watery grave of his four daughters, he found that in his pocket he had an old envelope from one of the hotels he had stayed at and he had a pencil. And so he took out this envelope and he took out the pencil and he began to write down his feelings at that moment. He wrote, when peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Lord, you have taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul. What was Horatio Jesus Spafford really saying? He was saying, you know what, standing here on the deck of this ship, I don't understand why God did what he did. It makes no sense to me why God would take my four daughters. But I'm not going to be angry and I'm not going to be bitter.

I'm going to trust God that God knows what he's doing. And that's what he wrote down. In fact, let me show you a picture of that original envelope.

It's in Jerusalem today at the American Colony Hotel. If you ever go with me, I'll take and show it to you. And that's the envelope on which the hymn was written. Do you know when my daughter, as you know, who has severe mental retardation, and for a long time we weren't sure whether she was going to live or die, when she would be in the hospital and I would go in and rock her there in the hospital. This was the most precious hymn I knew.

I would hum as I would sit there rocking her. It is well, it is well with my soul. I've done funerals for 24 years without a doubt. The most commonly sung hymn for comfort at the funerals of Christians is It Is Well With My Soul. When Lisa Beemer, she says in her book, went to visit the crash site in Pennsylvania of United Flight 93 where her husband Todd died.

She said, I walked around that crash site humming. It is well with my soul. And even though all of America was watching the funeral, I insisted this song be played at my husband's funeral. This hymn has probably brought more comfort and more hope to more followers of Christ than maybe any other hymn that's ever been written, but it would never have been written if it had not been for the tragedy that happened to Horatio G. Spafford and to the fact that he decided to trust God through that tragedy. Now today, can't we see that with him and his girls safely in heaven and with this hymn still encouraging the hearts of thousands of people every day, can't we see God knew what he was doing the whole time?

Friends, the message of the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, and the message of Paul's Roman citizenship is the same, and that is trust God. He knows what he's doing. Now sitting here today, let me say in closing, do you understand everything that God's allowing in your life? I bet you don't. I bet you don't. Friends, I don't understand everything God's allowing in my life.

Do I understand why a beautiful 27-year-old girl who was a sincere follower of Christ, why God would allow her to die of cancer? No, I don't. But I believe God knows what he's doing.

Do I understand why I've got a severely mentally retarded little girl? No, I don't. But I believe God knows what he's doing.

Do I understand why several weeks ago I was driving on the interstate and doing 70 like everybody else and I was the one that got the ticket? No, I don't. I don't understand that.

And honestly, I don't think it's fair to be honest with you. But I believe God knows what he's doing. Yeah, sort of.

I do. No, I believe that. Folks, lots of things happen in our life that we don't believe. We don't understand rather why God's doing them. And as human beings, you know, we want to see everything. We want to understand everything.

We want to know how it all fits together. And we say, God, show me all that and I'll trust you. And God says, uh-uh, no, sorry, you got it backwards. You trust me and then I'll show you how it all fits together. And this is why the apostle Paul said, we walk by faith, not by sight.

If we could see everything and understand everything, we'd be walking by sight. God says, I'm never going to allow you to do that. I'm always, no matter how old you get, remember what my father-in-law said, I'm going to make you trust me for something because that's the way I want you walking.

Like little children who simply hold their father's hand and believe that he knows what's best. If you're here today and you've got some situations like that in your life where maybe you're a little angry or maybe you're a little bitter and maybe you're real confused, I'm going to give you a moment in just a second to trade that confusion, that bitterness and that anger in for a childlike trust in Jesus Christ because that's where God wants us to be. Folks, if we can say it is well with my soul no matter what happens in our life, then we can face anything with Jesus Christ. But let me say as we get ready to bow our head and do that, if you're here and you've never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way, friends, one of the great things that happen when you come into a relationship with Christ is you get the assurance that God now has a plan mapped out for your life and he's going to work it out.

All you got to do is follow. Hey, it's great to know that, that you don't have to figure out your way through this world. God's going to do that for you. So if you're here and you've never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way, while those of us who have bow our head to talk to God about our issues, I want to challenge you to bow your head and ask Jesus Christ to become part of your life. Whatever you need to talk to God about, let's bow our heads and do it now. Lord Jesus, you know that we're just human and we want to know everything, we want to understand everything, we want to see how it all fits.

We want to walk by sight. And when we're not able to do that, it's really easy for us to get angry with you. It's really easy for us to become bitter and accuse you of letting us down, Lord.

We're human that way and I pray that you'd forgive us for that. And that as a result of the Word of God to our hearts today, that you would teach us a different way to live, that you would teach us to walk by faith, that you would teach us to be like little children, holding the hand of our Heavenly Father and simply saying, my Father knows where we're going, I don't need to know, I just need to follow. So Lord, change the way we live because we were here today. Change the way we react to the circumstances of life because we were here today. And take the anger and the bitterness out of our hearts and replace it with the sweet peace of God that comes from saying it is well with my soul because God has a plan for my life and I can trust Him. Lord, thanks for talking to us today. Change our lives because we were here, I pray in Jesus' name. And God's people said, Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-11 05:46:01 / 2023-06-11 05:57:18 / 11

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