The Battle is the Lord’s

1 In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. 11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.

13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. Genesis 14:1-16 ESV

Abram and Lot have separated, with Lot taking up residence near the city of Sodom, while Abram continued his nomadic lifestyle, setting up a temporary camp by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron. But Abram’s separation from Lot would not last long. His nephew’s presence in the land would come back to haunt him.

This new season of Abram’s more independent life was going to be rocked by unexpected events that were outside of his control. What chapter 14 reveals is that Abram was far from alone in the land of Canaan. Up to this point in the narrative, there has been little mention of other nations, but the story recorded in this chapter will reveal that Abram has company and lots of it.

The chapter opens with news of a coalition of four kings whose nations lie outside the boundaries of Canaan. It’s difficult to determine with any certainty the exact locations of these ancient realms, but it seems that they each were located within the fertile crescent, an area known as the land of Shinar. It is important to recall that Shinar was the location of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11). It was there that God decided to confuse the language of the people who attempted to build a tower that would reach to the sky. As a result of the confusion caused by the proliferation of new languages, the region became known as “Babel,” a word that literally means “confusion.” This region would later bear the name of “Babylon” and play a vital role in the history of the Hebrew people.

These kings all hailed from the region of Mesopotamia that stretched from the northern tip of the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.  One of these kings, Chedorlaomer, had earlier invaded southern Canaan and forced its occupants to become his vassals. The people living in Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela (Zoar), had found themselves subjugated to a foreign power for 13 long years. But at one point their kings had decided to throw off the yoke of this foreign oppressor. And their decision had forced King Chedorlaomer to form a coalition with three of his fellow kings from Mesopotamia and invade Canaan yet again.  

This entire scene is meant to display the interconnected nature of all that has gone on before. Every event that has happened up to this point is linked together in God’s plan. There are reasons for everything. And there are repercussions for every decision made by men and consequences for every act of a sovereign God. Nothing happens by chance. The ill-fated decision of the people to disobey God and construct a tower to glorify their own greatness had produced a myriad of nations that were dispersed across the earth. And the confusion created by their disparate languages would eventually turn into conflict.

In chapter 13, Moses recorded God’s reiteration of His promise to Abram.

“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. – Genesis 13:14-15 ESV

And yet, here we have nine different kings vying for the right to control the land that God had given to Abram and his descendants. Ever since the gates to Eden had been slammed shut, mankind had been busy trying to grab up the remaining territory. Rather than steward that which belonged to God, they had been attempting to claim it as their own. Instead of acknowledging God as King, they had chosen to set up their own petty kingdoms here on earth. And here in this story, nine of these would-be gods were facing off in a battle of will and weapons, all in an effort to control what really belonged to God.

This coalition of four Mesopotamian kings slowly made their way south, defeating various clans, tribes, and nations along the way. They were successfully demonstrating their superior strength and telegraphing to the five kings of southern Canaan that their prospects for victory were dim. But refusing to consider surrender, the five kings joined forces and faced their enemy in the Valley of Siddim. Things did not go well. The tar pits that covered the valley floor proved to be their undoing. Many of the soldiers became mired in the sticky muck and were captured. As a result, the five kings were unable to put up a fight and their forces were easily defeated. And Moses provides a summary of this demoralizing debacle.

So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way. – Genesis 14:11-12 ESV

What makes this rather brief recap of the battle stand out is its focus on Sodom and Gomorrah, and its mention of Lot, the nephew of Abram. If you recall, chapter 13 chronicled Lot’s decision to choose the well-watered lands near Zoar as the place to pasture his flocks. But he actually “settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom” (Genesis 13:12 ESV). This nephew of Abram made a determined choice to seek refuge among “the men of Sodom,” who “were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13 ESV).

Somewhere along the way, Lot had given up his tent and sought shelter within the walls of Sodom. Moses makes it clear that he “was dwelling in Sodom” (Genesis 14:12 ESV). And that decision would prove to be far from wise. When the four Mesopotamian kings looted Sodom, Lot was taken captive along with all his possessions. He was enslaved.

But news of his capture eventually reached the ears of his uncle. Abram was about to discover that his separation from Lot had been anything but permanent. And his decision to give Lot his choice of the land as his own had probably been a mistake. Now, Abram had a decision to make. Would he intervene and rescue Lot from his predicament or allow him to suffer the consequences? Moses records that Abram spent no time deliberating over his decision.

When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. – Genesis 14:14 ESV

One can debate the wisdom of Abram’s decision, but there is an overwhelming sense of God’s sovereignty woven throughout this entire event. The actions of the five kings, while autonomous and self-determined, are actually the byproducts of God’s providential will. Nothing happens outside His control or in opposition to His predetermined plan. These events came as no surprise to God. They were simply part of the sovereign strategy He was orchestrating so that His will might be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). What He had preordained was coming to fruition, just as He had planned.

Abram and his 318-man army went to battle against the coalition of kings and their superior forces, and he won. That outcome would have come as no surprise to Moses’ readership. They knew that, for them to exist as a people, Abram had to have won. His victory was assured because God had promised to make of him a great nation. And nothing was going to stand in the way of that promise being fulfilled. Whether the number of enemy kings was four or forty, it didn’t matter. Regardless of the size of the foe, God could give victory.

This story should bring to mind another battle fought by a servant of God against superior forces. Years later, Gideon, one of the judges of Israel, would find himself going up against the Midianites. He was outnumbered and outgunned. But much to Gideon’s surprise, God informed him that he had too many soldiers. In a series of bizarre events, God whittled down Gideon’s force until he only had 300 men left. And with that diminutive army, Gideon defeated the Midianites.

And, in a similar fashion, Abram defeated the five kings of Mesopotamia. His “surprising” victory allowed him to rescue Lot and bring back all the possessions that had been stolen. Lot had been redeemed by Abram. He didn’t deserve it and he hadn’t earned it. Abram simply extended unmerited mercy and grace to his young nephew. And this story provides a foreshadowing of another undeserved rescue that will take place in the lives of Abram’s descendants after another army from the north will invade Canaan and take God’s people captive. God will graciously and dramatically rescue them, returning them to the land and fulfilling the promise He had made to Abram.

This event is simply one of many illustrations of God’s goodness, grace, and sovereignty as displayed in the life of Abram. And there are many more to come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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The Many Faces of Faith.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. – Hebrews 11:32-38 ESV

The list goes on. The author of Hebrews draws this chapter to a close, but can’t help but add a few more names to his growing list of the faithful. He mentions Gideon, who lived in Israel during a time of spiritual apathy and moral depravity. God had given the Israelites over the the hands of the Midians as punishment. “For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey” (Judges 6:3-4 ESV). But when the people cried out to God, He sent them Gideon as a judge to deliver them. But Gideon was a reluctant deliverer. When God called him, his response was less than enthusiastic. “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15 ESV). And God’s response to him was simple and direct: “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16 ESV). Gideon would go on to accomplish great things for God, delivering His people from the oppression of the Midianites – by faith. Each step of the way, Gideon had to believe God’s promise that He would be with him.

This is true of each of the individuals listed in the verses above. Barak had to face the overwhelmingly superior armies of Sisera on the words of Deborah, a prophetess. The odds were against him, but He obeyed the word of the Lord and God gave Israel a great victory.

Then there was Samson, a somewhat surprising addition to the list. His story is a sad one and does not end well. He was driven by his desires and eventually defeated by them. But on the final day of his life, having been blinded by the Philistines and chained between two pillars, he called out to God in faith. “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28 ESV). That prayer of faith, lifted up in his most vulnerable, weak condition, was answered by God. “Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life” (Judges 16:30 ESV). He died in faith, trusting in His God and giving his last minutes of life to destroy the enemies of God.

What about Jephthah? He had been born as a result of his father’s immoral affair with a prostitute, and when he became an adult, Jephthah was thrown out of the family by his brothers. He ended up living in a form of exile from his family and found himself in the companionship of “worthless men.” But when the Ammonites began to oppress the Israelites, they sought out Jephthah to deliver them because he was a mighty warrior. In his newfound position as the judge of Israel, Jephthah turned to the Lord, and he made a vow to God. “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord‘s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31 ESV). Jephthah believed that God could and would deliver His people. But he wrongly assumed that God would want something in return, so he bargained with God. I suggest that Jephthah fully believed that God would come through and that he would be required to follow through on his vow. But little did he know that after God had given him the victory over the Ammonites, it would be his own daughter who came out of the house to greet him. He would go on to sacrifice his daughter. This is a bizarre and disturbing story. It seems a bit strange to include this man in the Hall of Faith. But while Jephthah’s understanding of God was somewhat flawed, he did believe in the power and deliverance of God. He trusted that God would and would come through. His problem was that his faith in God was marred by a faulty understanding of God.

In the case of David, the stories that exemplify his faith in God are many. The psalms he wrote echo his belief in God and his unwavering faith that God was his savior and sustainer. From the moment David was anointed the next king of Israel, he had to live a life of faith in God, spending years trusting in the promise of God while running for his life from the wrath of King Saul. He had been anointed king by God, but Saul was still on the throne. David learned to wait on God, believe in God, trust in God, and rely on God. And his life reflects that faith.

From his earliest days as a young boy serving in the house of the Lord under the watchful eye of Eli the priest, Samuel developed a growing faith in God. He would become a prophet for God, speaking on his behalf and leading the people of Israel to obey the will and word of God. Samuel would eventually be called on by God to anoint Israel’s first king. And while he was reluctant to do so, he obeyed. Throughout his life, Samuel would learn to trust God. He had to believe that God knew what He was going, even when it seemed to make no sense. His faith is best seen in his faithful obedience to the will of God. What God said, he would do. What God declared, he would believe. Trusting that God knows what He is doing even when you can’t comprehend it or completely appreciate it is a hallmark of faith.

The author of Hebrews goes on to illustrate that faith is oftentimes accompanied by rousing success, including military victories, strength in the midst of weakness, deliverance by the hand of God, and mind-blowing miracles. But just as often faith can be accompanied by less-than-ideal circumstances. He mentions torture, mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, stoning, destitution and even death. Faith doesn’t always result in a happy ending. Samson died under the very rubble that destroyed the Philistines. David died never getting to build the temple he dreamed of constructing for God. Jephthah would see the accolades for the victory over the Ammonites go to a woman. The focus of our faith should always be God. Faith is trusting Him regardless of what we see happening or not happening around us. The presence of difficult does not mean the absence of God. The lack of answer is not proof of God’s lack of power or interest. Faith that is God-focused is willing to wait and comfortable accepting seemingly unacceptable outcomes knowing that God is not done yet.

 

Judges 7-8, Acts 21

Little Is Much.

Judges 7-8, Acts 21

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” ­– Judges 7:2 ESV

There is an old song in which the chorus begins, “Little is much when God is in it!” Those words aptly reflect the lesson given to Gideon and the people of Israel in chapter seven of Judges. As God’s chosen deliverer, Gideon is about to lead the people of Israel into battle against the Midianites. According to chapter 8, there were more than 135,000 enemy soldiers camped in the valley by the hill of Moreh. When Gideon gathered his own troops, he could only muster 32,000 men. Then God did something rather unexpected and, from Gideon’s perspective, a bit uncomfortable. He told Gideon to send home all those who were fearful and trembling. The result was that 22,000 men walked away, leaving Gideon with only 10,000 soldiers to do battle with 135,000 Midianites. But God was not done. He then told Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go” (Judges 7:4 ESV). God devised for Gideon a simple means of determining the men He wanted to take into battle. The test God devised had nothing to do with the caliber of the men chosen, but merely provided a means of trimming the number of men down to the bare minimum. Again, the result was that Gideon was left with only 300 men. From a human perspective, the odds were clearly against Gideon. His army was too small and his enemy was too great. But Gideon had God on his side.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had told Gideon, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judges 6:14 ESV). “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16 ESV). God had clearly called Gideon and given him a mission to accomplish. He had also confirmed for Gideon that He would be with Him and fight for him. God did not need Gideon or Gideon’s troops to accomplish His mission. But God chose to use them both. God allowed Gideon and his 300 men to witness an amazing victory that day, as God destroyed a superior army right in front of their eyes, as they stood, swords and torches in hand. God caused the enemy to attack themselves and all Gideon and his men had to do was stand and watch. When the time came, God allowed them to get in on the action. But the victory was His doing.

In reading the history of the spread of the church recorded by Luke in the book of Acts, it is amazing to consider just how rapidly and aggressively it all happened through the efforts of a relatively small number of individuals. We read of Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, John Mark and a handful of others who were used by God to spread the Good News around the known world at that time. In a relatively short period of time, thousands upon thousands of people came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the efforts of these men. Paul alone had a tremendous impact on the spread of the Gospel. He was one man traveling through enemy territory, taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and facing constant opposition from pagans and Jews alike. But God accomplished the impossible through him. His faithfulness and God’s power were no match for the enemy. What Paul brought to the table was his determination to do God’s will at all costs. When warned by Agabus the prophet that he would face certain arrest and imprisonment if he returned to Jerusalem, Paul simply replied, “For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13 ESV). He knew he was simply a vessel in the hands of God, and was willing to be used up in His service in order to accomplish God’s will.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We are all about the numbers. If we had been in Gideon’s sandals and been asked by God to do battle against a superior foe with a handful of soldiers, we would have thought the idea was crazy. It would have made no sense. We live in a society in which “little is much” makes no sense. We firmly hold to the idea that there is strength in numbers. More is better than less. Strength trumps weakness every time. But for the believer, victory doesn’t come as a result of our effort or effectiveness. It has nothing to do with our numbers or the abundance of our resources. The battle is the Lord’s. And the sooner we realize that the odds are always in our favor because God is always on our side, the quicker we will experience the peace that Paul had. And the sooner we will be able to say, “Let the will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14 ESV). Gideon had no idea how that day was going to turn out. Paul had no idea just how things were going to unfold when he arrived in Jerusalem. But both had the assurance that God was with them. They also knew that God was going to have the victory one way or the other – either with them or without them.

But even when God gives the victory, it is so easy for us to try and claim credit. After their amazing defeat of the Midianites, the people of Israel attempt to make Gideon king. They saw him as the source of their victory. They mistakenly thought that if they could make him king, future victories would be assured. But what they didn’t realize was that their future success was based solely on their present faithfulness to God. And we read that “As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals nad made Baal-berith their god” (Judges 8:33 ESV). Even Gideon, before he died, was guilty of apostasy, worshiping an ephod he had made from the gold won in his God-given victory over the Midianites. Unlike Paul, Gideon proved to be unfaithful and unreliable. He lost his focus. He made it all about himself, rather than all about the will of God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Little is much when God is in it. God is able to do far more with far less. He is able to accomplish the impossible using the improbable. Paul wrote, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV). He knew that God was far more capable than he was. He knew that God was able to what no man could have ever done. God wants to do the impossible in our lives today. He wants to give us victories over the greatest of enemies. He wants to provide us with inexplicable success over insurmountable foes. But we must trust Him. We must long for His will to be done. We must leave the outcome to Him, and give all the praise, glory and honor to Him when all is said and done.

Father, You don’t need much to do great things. You can even use me and I find that amazing and humbling. Forgive me for thinking that more is better. Forgive me for thinking that numbers are the key to success. Help me learn to trust You more. Help me have the faith and focus of Paul. I want to watch You work in and around my life in ways that are beyond imagination and way outside human explanation. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Judges 5-6, Acts 20

The Mystery of God’s Ways.

Judges 5-6, Acts 20

And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” ­– Judges 6:13 ESV

It is sometimes difficult to understand how God works. Because of our limited perspective and somewhat myopic, self-centered viewpoint, we can find ourselves looking at the events taking place around us and come to the wrong conclusions. Gideon did. He was secretly threshing grain down in a wine press just to keep the Midianites from knowing about it. As he assessed the circumstances surrounding the people of God, he couldn’t help but conclude that God had abandoned them. He had a hard time understanding why they were under constant attack from their enemies and living in fear for their lives. Of course, we know that it was because “the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (Judges 6:1 ESV). This was all part of the cycle of rebellion that marked the lives of the Israelites during the period of the judges. But for Gideon, it was all a mystery. He wanted to know where the great God his ancestors worshiped had gone to. From Gideon’s perspective, it was God who had left them, not the other way around. But in spite of Gideon’s faulty assumptions, God was going to use him to deliver His people. God even referred to Gideon as a “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12 ESV). Which I find interesting, because at that very moment, Gideon was hidden away in a wine press beating out grain and hoping the Midianites didn’t discover him. But God had a job for Gideon that was going to be way out of his comfort zone. He was going to accomplish His will through Gideon and reveal that He had never really forsaken His people at all. But again, Gideon’s limited perspective prevented him from seeing how any of this could work. His response to the angel of the Lord was, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15 ESV). None of this made sense to Gideon. As far as he was concerned, he made a highly unlikely hero.

What does this passage reveal about God?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8 ESV). God rarely does things the way we think He should. And sometimes, like Gideon, we can misread God’s actions and draw faulty conclusions regarding what it is He is doing. There was no doubt that God was punishing Israel for its unfaithfulness. But God had not abandoned them. He had already made plans to send a deliverer. But His choice for a deliverer was going to be a surprise for everyone, including Gideon himself. The presence of trouble wasn’t proof of the absence of God. It was evidence of the unfaithfulness of men. But God had a plan. Unbeknownst to Gideon and the rest of the Israelites, the days of the Midianites were numbered. The suffering of the people of Israel was going to come to an end. How? No one had a clue. When? God had not yet revealed His timeline. But it was wrong for Gideon to assume that God was not at work and that He had no plan in place for the salvation of the people of Israel. It was also wrong for Gideon to conclude that he was the wrong man for the job. He was about to learn that God’s ways were quite different than anything he could ever have imagined.

It’s interesting to note that when Paul spoke to the elders in Ephesus, he revealed that there was much about God’s plan for his life that he didn’t know or understand. He told them, “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained bythe Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:22-23 ESV). All Paul knew was that he was headed to Jerusalem, having been given clear direction to do so by the Holy Spirit. But he didn’t have any idea what was going to happen to him when he got there. Except for the fact that the Holy Spirit seemed to let him know that imprisonment and afflictions were on the agenda. It would have been easy for Paul to ask God why. He could have questioned the wisdom behind God’s plan. But rather than doubt, question and fear, Paul simply responded, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24 ESV). Paul may not have completely understood what was going on, but he completely trusted that God’s will for his life was best and could be trusted.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We have an insatiable desire to know and understand. We want to have an explanation for everything. But God is not obligated to explain Himself or His ways to us. He does not owe us an explanation. He is God. His ways are not our ways. His methodology does not always make sense to us, but He can always be trusted. Paul knew that. Gideon was going to learn it through personal experience. Every time Paul got on a ship, set out on a journey, walked into a new town or opened up his mouth to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God,” he was venturing into the unknown. He never knew how people would respond. In some cases, they gladly received his message and placed their faith in Christ. Other times, they responded in anger, hurling accusations and throwing stones. Paul’s obedience to the will of God was not based on the response of his audience, but on his willingness to do what God had called him to do. He was content to trust God with the outcome whether he fully understood what was going to happen or not.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

So much about our life on this earth as followers of Christ is a mystery. We don’t know what the day holds. We have no idea what is going to happen in the next half hour, let alone the next decade. There is much about God’s will we know and understand, but there is also much of it hidden from our view. We suffer from a limited perspective and a distorted viewpoint. But we must constantly learn to trust God. He knows what He is doing. Paul told the elders at Ephesus, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32 ESV). Paul encouraged them to trust God. He wanted them to understand that it was God who would care for them, protect them, and ultimately, provide for them their future inheritance as His children. Their trust needed to remain in God. Their hope needed to based on the character of God. Circumstances change. God doesn’t.

Father, thank You for this reassurance this morning. Forgive me for making snap judgments about You based on what I see happening around me. May I have the mind of Paul, that whatever mystery I may face in life, I keep moving forward, trusting in You and resting in Your faithfulness to me and love for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org