Act 21:27-30 – “… Some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.”… The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.” (NIV)
Here’s the sequence of events leading up to this passage. When the Lord called Paul to ministry, He told him he was going to preach to the Gentiles and to kings and rulers. Up to this point in Acts there is no mention of Paul preaching to kings or rulers. On his way to Jerusalem the Holy Spirit continues to tell Paul that chains and imprisonment await him in Jerusalem. When he gets to Jerusalem and visits with James, he’s told the Jews have heard a rumor that Paul is teaching Jews elsewhere to abandon certain laws and there was great unrest among the Jerusalem Jews. Then we get to this passage where the tensions rise to a breaking point and the city is in an uproar because of Paul, and Paul is arrested and put in chains.
In the natural it seems everything is against Paul. How did he get into this trouble? Did he make poor decisions along the way that now he’s paying the price for? Or are these challenges part of God’s sovereign plan to move Paul in the direction where God has chosen to bless him?
Because we know the end of the story it’s easy to realize all of this is according to God’s will. God either created or allowed the unrest among the Jews in Jerusalem. God either created or allowed the visiting Jews to get the city in an uproar. Why? Because God’s plan was to get Paul to preach to kings and rulers, and this is how he was going to get him those audiences. Through imprisonment.
How does this apply to us?
It’s easy to look at circumstances in our life in the microcosm and get afraid or depressed that you really screwed up. You made a decision that created a chain of events that now put you into a crisis. Was it your fault, or did God actually cause you to make those “bad decisions” for his ultimate purpose?
As Christians we frequently fall back on Romans 8:28 that says “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” I think sometimes we sweep under the rug, so to speak, the circumstances in our life and say, “I made a bad decision but, oh well, God can make something good out of it anyway.”
But is that really what happened? Could it be that God may have brought those circumstances in your life purposely to accomplish His greater will for you? Did He coordinate those decisions you made that you think were wrong that then created a chain of events that got you where you are now?
From my understanding of the scriptures, here is my conclusion. The more you are in close, intimate fellowship with the Lord, constantly seeking him and spending time in his word and prayer, the more every step you take is guided by the Lord (Pro 20:24, Psa 32:8-9, Psa 37:23, Psa 139:1-5). And the more everything you do is guided by Him, the more everything that happens in your life is directly His will for you. Therefore, if your heart does not condemn you and you know you’ve been seeking him diligently and faithfully, living your life righteously before Him, then you can rest at ease knowing the circumstances you find yourself in are likely guided by the Lord and therefore according to His will. And the safest place to be is in the center of his will, even if it’s in the middle of the lion’s den as happened with Daniel.