“Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify about me in Rome” (Acts 23:11).
When God calls a person to service, it is not always immediate nor is it a straight path to their place of ministry. God declared that Abraham would be the roots a great nation, but it took twenty-five years for the child of promise to be born and a couple of generations for the nation to grow. Young Joseph had a vision from the Lord of himself in a high position, but he got there after several years of treachery, slavery and prison. Samuel anointed David as king of Israel, but he tended sheep, served in battle and was on the run for many years before actually taking the throne.
And then there is Paul. The scene in Acts 23 has Paul under arrest for declaring the name of Jesus. For years he has been harassed and persecuted for the Gospel, now he is a prisoner, accused by the Romans of inciting riots and by the Jews of blasphemy. To truly understand Paul’s call, you have to go all the way back to Acts 9:15, when God declared that this man would carry His name before Jews, Gentiles and kings. At this moment, he is a long way from fulfilling his destiny. As he sits in his cell, the Lord Jesus comes to him and speaks our key verse to encourage Paul.
Does this mean the apostle will be released and travel directly to Rome to preach in the great halls of the palace? Not exactly. Acts tells us that Paul escaped a murderous plot through a midnight run, endured multiple trials under Roman kings, faced a storm at sea, and was shipwrecked and snake bitten along the way. But Acts 28:14 says, “And so we came to Rome.” God was faithful to His promise to Paul, and the rest of Acts and church history tells us that Paul did indeed preach the Gospel and declare the name of Jesus in Rome, despite doing so from prison. But there was a lot of space between the promise and the fulfillment.
I’m going to be bare-bones honest with you – I’m living in that empty “in-between” space right now. More than ten years ago I heard God’s call to ministry, but in the waiting I’ve nearly lost hope. I’ve been pursuing seminary to prepare for God’s work. But as I walk through the aisles of Publix at my job every day, I wonder if I’ll ever get there. That’s when I return to the stories of Abraham, Joseph, David, and especially Paul. And that’s when I recall V. Raymond Edman’s words: “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” My friend, I don’t know what God has spoken over you, nor how long you’ve waited to see it come to fruition. But I do know that the God who spoke over your life and mine is faithful. His word never returns void. I am praying that you and I will stand firm in the faithful nature of the Lord and believe that what He has declared in the light, will be fulfilled despite the darkness.
“And so we came to . . .”