TO CHEW ON: "...and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain I shall come to you." Romans 15:23,24
When Paul wrote Romans he had not yet met the Christians there. In his letter he introduces himself to them in anticipation of seeing them — and it sounds like he hopes it is soon.
Our reading today is full of his plans. He wants to go eventually to Spain and his visit of Rome will be on the way. Presently he is anticipating a trip to Jerusalem (from Corinth where scholars believe Romans was written). In the meantime, he asks them to help Phoebe a businesswomen from Cenchrea, and to give his greetings to fellow tentmakers Priscilla and Aquila.
It is a normal and good thing for us to make plans. They help us look toward to the future with expectation and optimism, and to tailor the present with realism. For example, our plan to buy a car next year will give us the discipline to live frugally this year so that we can save the needed money for our purchase.
Did Paul eventually get to Rome? Yes he did, but hardly in the way he anticipated. For his trip to Jerusalem ended in arrest and imprisonment. And though God affirmed to Paul in a dream that he would someday realize his goal of visiting Rome (Acts 23:11) it wasn't for a while.
To prevent the Jews from lynching him, his Roman captors soon transferred him to Caesarea. There he was held in prison for two years and when it looked like Felix's successor was going to hand him over to the Jews again — which would mean certain death — Paul appealed to Caesar (Acts 23-25). This meant traveling to Rome.
However, even the last leg of his journey wasn't straightforward. On his voyage from Caesarea to Rome, his ship met with a deadly storm at sea that saw him and his shipmates washed up on the island of Malta for the winter. Only in spring could they continue toward their destination.
So Paul eventually got to Rome, only several years later as a prisoner. And though the Acts history ends with him still in Rome, tradition would support a later trip to Spain before he was martyred by Nero in 67 A.D.
So though it may be normal, and healthy to make plans (and in fact for the Christian these plans may be divinely inspired and initiated — as it seems Paul's desire to visit Rome was) let's not be surprised when God modifies them, adding all manner of twists, turns, and adventures.
Two Bible passages come to mind.
"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps" - Proverbs 16:9, NLT.
"Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” - James 4:13-15, NLT
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your plan for my life. Help me to live in sync with your purposes, to catch Your vision, and to make plans according to Your promptings. Then help me to hang onto them loosely, allowing You to craft my circumstances in their fulfillment. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scriptures marked NLT are taken from the 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.