By Collin Ross
It was nothing like I had expected. When I signed up to lead a weekend discipleship camp, I did not expect to be in charge of an entire football team that was coerced into attending the camp in an effort to reform their deviant ways. I did not expect to be the shortest and skinniest person in our cabin. And yet, even though nothing was as I had expected, I was not disappointed. Even in the unexpected moments of that weekend, God was with us. He met those boys in powerful ways throughout the camp; and on that last night, we gathered around the gospel with tear-filled eyes, marveling together at the love of Christ.
I am betting that Paul did not expect that he would be defending his right to live before the king. When Jesus blinded him on the Damascus road and said, “I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and will see of me,” chances are good that Paul never thought he would be where he now stood (Acts 26:16). When Jesus promised, “I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles,” I doubt Paul expected to be in chains before a Gentile tribunal (Acts 26:17). And yet, here he was.
In this text we remember that Jesus does not always lead us down the road that we expect or even want to travel. The average bystander who sees Paul, accused and imprisoned, would be inclined to think that Paul’s life had been derailed. He was off the tracks. But we know that he is exactly where Jesus appointed him to be. He’s been given an incredibly influential platform to proclaim the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles.
Jesus often defies our expectations, but he never disappoints. The key is to ensure that our desires align with Christ’s. Paul and Jesus want the same thing: that people everywhere “turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18). Though Paul must now carry out his ministry in chains, his confidence in the fruitfulness of this work in Christ is not diminished. As the proverb says, “He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity” (Proverbs 2:7).
Do we have that same degree of confidence when our work in Christ takes an unexpected turn? No matter the circumstance, no matter how out of control we feel, may we be bold in our ministry, for the victory of God’s mission is already assured in Jesus Christ.