The Paradox of Ministry
Loving Lord, You are more to me than the blessings You have provided. Thank You for being a generous God.
Consider: "Work as if there is no such thing as prayer, and pray as if there is no such thing as work" (author unknown). The Lord calls us to do both.
Paul's predicament is like a good thriller: an assassination plot by a group of extremists, secretly supported by corrupt officials; a powerful army coming to the rescue, secretly guided by a vulnerable boy. But this is no novel; Paul faced a real and present danger. Some Christians think that if they are truly following God they shouldn't have to use human strategies to accomplish ministry--just let go and let God! But here, even as a prisoner, Paul takes the initiative to save himself; he schemes with his nephew and a centurion to gain freedom and continue his mission to Rome.
So was it God's plan or human effort that made the difference? The answer is both, and that's the paradox of ministry. Taking initiative in the challenges of life and ministry doesn't always indicate that we are using the ways of the world. If we've taken time genuinely to seek God's will, and if we have his peace about it, then action is a way of showing our trust in God. That's what a step of faith is all about.
Buried in this passage is an important detail: Paul had a sister (16). That means he was part of a family system, even though the Bible doesn't tell us much about it. A loving, supportive family is a tremendous blessing, especially for those in ministry. We should be mindful of those who aren't blessed in that way and welcome them into our families and church events. But in the end, God used Paul's family to save him from assassination. No sister, no nephew, no way to alert the commander, no more mission to Rome. As this story comes to an end, we are left to wonder if the plotters kept their word (14)!
What kind of family did you grow up in? What kind of family system are you in now? Spend some time praying for your family.
Holy One, I may not understand the mysteries of Your providence, but I am so glad that You are in control and You will have the last word.