Waiting, Obeying, Trusting God’s Providence
The bible talks about our salvation like this:
I have been saved (justified), I am being saved (sanctified) and I will be saved n(glorified).
If we are in Christ, we are in that “I am being saved” portion of our relationship with God.
The “I am being saved” state we find ourselves in, by God’s amazing grace, is hard.
This stage is hard because the kingdom of God overlaps the kingdom of the world for an appointed time. There is conflict between the two within and without.
No doubt the world system is coming to an end and Jesus will complete the task of fully establishing his rule among all nations. But we are in the conflict of that fight. We are being saved. We are fighting to advance the kingdom of God against the last gasps of the dark kingdom.
Just like David was anointed king and had to suffer at the hands of Saul until the appointed day of ascending to the throne, Jesus had to suffer until the appointed day of his resurrection and ascension as king (this is what Jesus meant in Luke 24:25-26 “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”), we too get the honor of suffering with/like Jesus until we either pass from life to life or live until the return of the King and the full establishment of his kingdom.
Therefore, living this Christian life requires waiting on the Lord, obedience and a strong trust in the good providence of God to weave together all things for our good and his glory.
This is exactly where Paul finds himself in Acts 25:1-12. He is being saved…waiting on the Lord (Where else is he going to go?), seeking to obey the gospel (What else does he have to do?) and trusting in the good providence of God (God has graciously removed all other options).
(Read the text)
Paul has been confined for 2 years, roughly AD 57-59 (Acts 21:27-Acts 25:1-12).
Paul has faithfully submitted to the Jewish and Roman authorities as he would teach in Romans 13.
Paul has faithfully preached the gospel to governors, guards, and fellow prisoners.
Paul knows his Roman government (he is socially, politically, governmentally astute and aware) and uses it to his advantage and the advancement of the gospel as he appeals to Caesar in Acts 25:11.
Paul knows the Lord’s will from Acts 23:11 and acts wisely about it looking for the opportunity according to the Lord’s word.
Paul never forces their hand! Paul uses the system and opportunity.
Paul does not run screaming that Jesus wants him in Rome. Paul waits, obeys and trusts God’s providential timing.
How in the world does Paul wait, obey and trust like this?
The text is quite straight forward. Paul’s in prison waiting, obeying and trusting in God’s providence.
I would like to make 5 observations about Paul’s situation and then spend our time on learning how to do these 5 things.
The following 5 observations are not explicitly stated in our text. Rather they are gleanings from observing Paul’s imprisonment and his preaching while imprisoned.
Paul knows God, his purposes and believes God is actively at work.
Paul knows God’s word.
Paul’s faith is strong.
Paul is being patient.
Paul knows the Lord’s leading voice.
How can we grow in that kind of waiting, obeying and trusting?
5 Keys to wisely waiting, obeying and trusting God’s providence
BEWARE! THERE ARE REDUNDANCIES BUILT INTO THESE KEYS AND THAT IS ON PURPOSE.
- Actively know God and his purposes, and believe God is working all things for your good and his glory (God’s providence)
- Know God (his character, his attributes and applications that come from those) and his ends. How can we know God? I’ll share that in “key” number 2.
- Work hard, do everything within your ability that is God-honoring and refuse to fret and worry. Trust God’s providential hand!
John Calvin’s Commentary on this passage:
“The second action is described in this place, wherein Paul hath as hard a combat, and is in no less danger than in the first. Seeing he was left in bonds, Festus might suspect that the cause was doubtful, and so gather an unjust prejudice. But there was another thing which was cause of great danger. We know that new rulers, because they will win the favour of those who are in the provinces, use to grant them many things at their first coming; so that it was to be thought that the death of Paul should be to Festus a fine means to win favour with all. Therefore, the faith of the holy man is assailed afresh with a new trial, as if the promise had been vain whereto he had hitherto trusted; but the grace of God doth so much the more plainly show itself in delivering him, because, contrary to all hope, he is delivered out of the jaws of death. The Jews present the governor with their false accusations, yet they do not as yet seek to have him punished, but they do only desire that he may not be brought into any foreign court to plead his cause. They desire that ambitiously as a great benefit, which was to look to equal. How is it then that they do not obtain, save only because God doth hold the mind of Festus, so that he doth stoutly deny that which he was afterward ready to grant? And as the Lord did then hold his mind bound with the secret bridle of his providence, so when he granted him freedom of will he bound his hands, that he could not execute that which he would. Let this confidence support us in dangers, and let it also stir us up to call upon God; and let this make our minds quiet and calm, in that the Lord, in stretching forth his hand, and breaking such a strong conspiracy, did show an eternal example of his power in defending his.”
- Know and delight in the testimonies of God (know God’s word cover to cover)
Several lessons kept surfacing for me in India a few weeks ago. One such lesson is that Scripture is sufficient to reveal God, his will, his character and his glory. The Spirit gave us passages that addressed their situation as new followers of Jesus in a context not Christian and what they are to do. Scripture alone is sufficient!
We can’t afford to not know Scripture.
27 times alone in the Psalms, the writer speaks of God’s testimonies.
23 of those are in the Psalm 119 alone. Psalm 119 is all about God’s work.
Psalm 119 is broken down into 22 sections of 8 verses each. Each section of 8 beginning with the letter of the Hebrew alphabet to which is corresponds. It’s all about the word of God. And God’s word gives voice to the “testimonies” of God which are the records of his acts in salvation history with and in his people.
Psalms 119:14 (ESV) In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
Psalms 119:24 (ESV) Your testimonies are my delight;
they are my counselors.
Psalms 119:31 (ESV) I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
Psalms 119:36 (ESV) Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
In other words, know God’s word and specifically how God worked in his people because that is how he is at work in us!!!
- Strengthen your faith
How? Let’s let Georg Muller tell us.
Let not Satan deceive you in making you think that you could not have the same faith but that it is only for persons who are situated as I am. When I lose such a thing as a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have made an appointment does not come, according to the fixed time, and I begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me and I look for an answer; when I do not understand a passage of the word of God, I lift up my heart to the Lord, that He would be pleased, by His Holy Spirit to instruct me, and I expect to be taught, though I do not fix the time when, and the manner how it should be; when I am going to minister in the Word, I seek help from the Lord, and while I, in the consciousness of natural inability as well as utter unworthiness begin this His service, I am not cast down, but of good cheer, because I look for His assistance, and believe that He, for His dear Son’s sake will help me. And thus in other of my temporal and spiritual concerns I pray to the Lord, and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader?
Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God’s dear children, which they cannot have; nor look on my way of acting as something that would not do for other believers. Make but trial! Do but stand still in the hour of trial, and you will see the help of God, if you trust in Him. But there is so often a forsaking the ways of the Lord in the hour of trial, and thus the food of faith, the means whereby our faith may be increased, is lost. This leads me to the following important point.
How to strengthen one’s faith:
- The careful reading of the word of God, combined with meditation on it.
- As with reference to the growth of every grace of the Spirit, it is of the utmost importance that we seek to maintain an upright heart and a good conscience.
- We should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and, therefore, through the trial, be strengthened.
- We let God work for us, when the hour of the trial of our faith comes, and do not work a deliverance of our own.
- Exercise patience. Patience is freely given as a fruit of the indwelling Spirit.
Refuse to be a deliverer of yourself by waiting on God!!!
“It is a mistake to be in a hurry or to grow impatient with God. It took him about 2,000 years to fulfill his promise to Abraham in the birth of Christ. It took him eighty years to prepare Moses for his life work. It takes him about twenty-five years to make a mature human being. So then, if we “have” to make a decision by a certain deadline, we must make it. But if not, and the way forward is still uncertain, it is wiser to wait. I think God says to us what he said to Joseph and Mary when sending them into Egypt with the child Jesus: ‘Stay there until I tell you’ (Mt. 2:13).” – John Stott
- Grow in discerning the leading, speaking, voice of God
We are a naturalistic people who are uncomfortable with things not quantifiable. So much so that we’ll say things like, “if you want to hear God’s voice, read the bible out loud.” That’s not wrong but it’s also not completely true.
Jesus told us in John 14-16 that the Spirit would counsel us into truth and remind us of all Jesus taught. There is a component of “hearing” God we need to get comfortable with.
Should we test what we hear by Scripture? Of course. Should we be hearing? Of course.
- We must grow in discernment/sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading.
We are not given a lot of instruction on “how to” regarding discerning the Spirit. In fact we are told we can know and he will lead. The Scriptures assume we will know because it’s evident. If it’s not evident, it’s not God.
It’s often us, our busyness, our inability to listen and focus, our loudness, our isolation from the fellowship and our general lack of discipline regarding spiritual things that keep us from knowing the Spirit’s leading.
- We have to want to hear.
- We have to be active listeners.
Mrs. Green used to say in 8th grade: “Listen with your eyes, your ears and your body.”
Spiritual listening is not much different. Tune in with the eyes of your head and your body tuned to Jesus. Look at Scripture and read Scripture while you are seeking to hear.
Tune in your physical ears and your soul to sense God’s movement. Do this by getting quiet, settling your mind.
Finally, get in a posture to receive. I like to listen with my hands lifted up in some manner like a child wanting to be picked up by their daddy.
 Muller, George. A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Muller. Muskegon, MI: Dust & Ashes Publications, 2003.