Monday, June 29, 2020

God's Design for Us

"But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain" (Romans 15:23–24)

In the second half of Romans 15, Paul expresses his desire to visit the church in Rome. He says in verse 23 that for many years he has wanted to visit them, but that he has been prevented from doing so because of all the work God has given him to do elsewhere. Now that this work is finished, however, he hopes once more to be able to go.

It is interesting to reflect on Paul’s experience, because it is a lot like our own and can be a comfort to us. For years Paul had had a perfectly proper and spiritual desire to visit and encourage the church in Rome. Yet, though God had given him this hope, God frustrated it repeatedly. Has this kind of thing ever happened to you? In fact, Paul did finally get to Rome, but when he got there, it was in chains.

He states that he intends to visit them on his way to Spain, but he cannot come right away. The reason is that he is being compelled to go in the opposite direction: to Jerusalem. Great poverty had come upon the saints there as a result of persecution at the hands of the unconverted Jews. The saints in Macedonia and Achaia, however, were sending relief funds to them, and Paul was to be the messenger. The trip to Spain, therefore, had to be delayed.

“So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain, therefore, and visit you on the way” (verse 28). This was Paul’s plan. This was the burden God had put on his heart. But there is no evidence in history that Paul ever got to Spain. We don’t know for certain that he didn’t, but we have no evidence that he did, either.

We see here not only that God delayed some of the dreams He gave Paul, but also that God may never have granted some of the ambitions He put in the apostle’s mind. Yet the hope of going to Spain doubtless kept Paul going in times of stress and enabled him to be encouraged and to endure. Also, that hope must have lit fires of similar hopes in the breasts of others, so that if Paul did not get to Spain, somebody else did, and that somebody caught the vision from Paul.

Sometimes God gives us a vision that He uses to spark the vision in someone else. In fact, some people in the church seem to have the “gift of vision.” They are always seeing things that need to be done, and other people catch the vision from them. What visions have you had, and how have they worked out thus far?