ACTS 23 – A GPS 4 Life
What I found interesting about today’s chapter, is Paul’s third vision of Jesus. [v11] Paul’s journey since Acts 9 has been like a journey of discovery, one step at a time. First he’s told the “who”. He’ll carry the message before foreign people and their kings.[a] He’s also told “what” it’ll entail. He’ll know what it is to suffer for Jesus’ name.[b] Several chapters later, Paul’s told the “how and why” – how he’ll need to leave Jerusalem quickly because the people won’t believe the message.[c] Now, in v11 of today’s chapter, the Lord’s telling him “where”. This path that Paul is on will take him to the top – to the centre of the known world – he was to stand before the Emperor of Rome.
Just as the Creator’s Epic Storyline is like an unfolding revelation, so too are the life paths of those who choose to follow Him. His directives – even as far back as Abraham’s story [d] – have always been like a GPS that only tells you the next direction or instruction when it’s time to take that turn. I’d prefer it that Father God tells me more things and well ahead of time. Had I known back in 1984, for example, that I’d lose the last 15 years of my Dad’s life and the last 32 years of my Mum’s life; had I known that burying my son on the other side of the planet would almost certainly mean dying here myself (because I’d rather stay here now than leave), I almost certainly would have thought twice about “following the Lord wherever He asked me to go and at whatever cost”. Such words seemed easy to say at the start of my life-journey, when I was clueless at 20.
But it’s probably because I’d be like Jonah in the Bible (running in the opposite direction) that God hasn’t given me a crystal ball that will tell me upfront, what my life-path will include. Perhaps that’s why a GPS doesn’t give all instructions in advance – I’d be continually wanting to over-ride it! As hard as it is to trust my GPS – especially when I’m at a standstill in a traffic-jam – I’ve found that over-riding it, doesn’t work.
In just the same way, Father God holds in His hand our GPS 4 LIFE. But to program our Life GPS to avoid the traffic jams, the storms, the flood water and the bush fires would be to cut “Life” from the program and downgrade it to a simple GPS that can be found in any auto shop. When Father God guides us through this life, He’s preparing us for eternal LIFE in His Kingdom. The test run here on planet earth is more like the car adverts that takes in every terrain possible.
By following Paul’s life story over these past days, it’s like looking at a well-built SUV being put through its paces. When Father God takes us on the quickest route (straight up over the mountain), or when He guides us away from an accident waiting to happen (by leading us onto a winding unfamiliar trail), He knows what our original design capability really is. He takes us through various terrain, over the rough and smooth, through the storms and through the sunshine, through fire and through the flood, because He has full confidence in His own promises…
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you…”[Isaiah 43:2]
When Jesus told His followers: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so show yourselves to be as shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves…”[e], He was saying two things. First that it wouldn’t be an easy ride and second, we’re to remain upright no matter how bad it gets.
Paul hits his latest predicament head on with absolute confidence. [v1] And yet, Jesus also said, “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defence, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”[f] So, drawing from his past studies and basic knowledge of his audience, Paul received divine inspiration that would navigate him through the potholes in this chapter, and ultimately save his life once more.
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[a] Acts 9:15
[b] Acts 9:16
[c] Acts 22:18
[d] Genesis 12:1 and Acts 7:3
[e] Matthew 10:16
[f] Luke 12:11-12