Road Rules: Lessons from Paul’s Journey to Rome

I had the privilege to teach from Acts 28:1-16 at Pontiac Bible Church on November 6, 2016. I love studying and teaching God’s Word! I hope this message brings you encouragement to persevere in the Lord, as the great Apostle Paul did throughout his many journeys and struggles. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly if you have a though to share! God bless.

Have you ever been on an extended road trip, where the journey was at least, if not more, important than the destination?  One of the most common storytelling methods in all of literature is to tell of a journey, an adventure taken and how it changed the lives of those who travelled.  Just think of Gulliver’s TravelsThe Wizard of OzThe Voyage of the Dawn TreaderThe Life of Pi, or The Lord of the Rings (my all-time favorite).  The Book of Acts was written by Luke, the friend and traveling companion of the great Apostle Paul.  And Luke uses the journey motif to conclude Acts by spending the last eight chapters telling the story of Paul’s journey to Rome.

Paul’s odyssey began in Acts 21, when he was falsely accused of defiling the temple in Jerusalem.  This incited a riot in the city, and Paul was almost beaten to death.  Next, Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin, a sort of Jewish Supreme Court.  But this also ended in a riot that almost got Paul killed.  The following night the Lord appeared to Paul and promised him that he would testify in Rome.  The Roman commander sent Paul on to Caesarea to testify before the Roman governor, who dismissed Paul and left him to rot in prison for two years!  However, Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar in Rome.  So, in the custody of the Roman centurion and a contingent of Roman soldiers, Paul boarded a ship for Rome.  Luke, Paul’s faithful friend, was with him throughout the voyage.

They set sail in mid-October, and were engulfed in a massive storm that lasted over fourteen days, during which they lost most of their cargo, the lifeboat, the ship’s tackle, and their food.  But, God again spoke to Paul, reassuring him that he would, indeed, make it to Rome, and that every single person on the ship would be saved from the storm.  Eventually, their boat ran aground on a sandbar off the coast of the island of Malta, and was battered to pieces by the pounding waves.  They jumped overboard to swim for the shore, and they all made it!  Washing up on the beach, they were greeted by the native islanders, who built them a fire to warm up and dry off.  As Paul gathered a bundle of sticks to throw on the fire, a viper slithered out and bit him on the hand!  The islanders thought this was “justice” getting even with Paul, whom they assumed was a murderer.  However, when the snake’s venom had no affect on Paul, they changed their minds and said he was a god.  The chief of the island took them in and provided for their needs, and Paul healed his father, who was sick with dysentery.  Paul also healed many others who were sick, and they stayed on Malta for three months.

In mid-February, they hired another ship and again set sail for Rome.  After a few pit stops, they finally made it to the southern coast of Italy, and began a 137-mile walk up the Appian Way to the city of Rome. Christian congregations met them along the way, caring for their needs and encouraging them.  So, Paul, Luke, and their companions finally made it to the great city, as God had promised they would!

Luke records Paul’s arrival to Rome, and then spends just a few brief verses at the very end of the last chapter telling us what Paul did after he got to Rome.  Why would Luke spend eight chapters telling us about Paul’s journey to Rome, and only a few verses telling us about what happened once they reached the destination?  I think it’s because the journey matters, and here are a few “road rules” we can pick up from Paul’s journey to Rome that will help us endure the struggles of our own life’s journey.

1. Sometimes following God’s will leads you into a storm.

Even in the midst of the struggles, false accusations, floggings, storms, and poisonous snakes, Paul was exactly where God had called him to be.  Don’t immediately assume that a “storm” in life means that you have stepped out of God’s will.  God never promised health, wealth, and prosperity, but he did say he would never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

2. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

Nothing makes you feel weaker in life than finding out you or a loved one has a terminal illness.  Or being served divorce papers.  Or finding out your spouse committed adultery.  Or losing a child.  When the storms of life rage, the strongest thing we can do is to admit we are weak.  Only when we acknowledge that God is in control do we find strength in Christ.  As Paul himself said, when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

3. Struggles in life present opportunities to testify to the faithfulness of God.

Throughout his journey to Rome, Paul had many opportunities to point others to Christ.  He testified to governors, kings, soldiers, sailors, and islanders–people he never would’ve interacted with had he not experienced the challenges of the journey.  When life throws you a curve, don’t retreat inward, but look out to see who God is bringing into your path, and be prepared to witness (1 Peter 3:15).

4. Spiritual formation and character development happen through trials.

We actually need the challenges in life to make us into the people God calls us to be.  The reality is that overcoming obstacles develops our faith in God, our resolve, and our character.  That’s why the Bible says to consider it joy when we face various trials–God uses the storms to perfect us (James 1:2-4).

5. You don’t have to walk this road alone.

Paul was never alone on his journey. Luke and others travelled with him and encouraged him along the way. God established the Church precisely so that we wouldn’t have to walk through the challenges of life alone (see Romans 12:15).

6. God has a purpose for your journey.

Perhaps the most profound thing we learn from Paul’s journey is that God has a plan for the paths we walk in life. He is in control, guiding you and using the journey you are on for a higher purpose. We don’t suffer randomly or needlessly. God will use every pain, every doubt, every failure, every struggle to form you, shape you, teach you, and give you opportunities to speak into the lives of others around you.

We are all on the journey of life.  Paul’s own adventure gives us some “road rules” to guide our way, but we also need to think not just of the journey, but of the destination.  Where is your life taking you?  Are you traveling the road to eternal life, or the way of death?  We all start out our journey walking away from God, but changing your eternal destination is as simple as turning around, acknowledging Christ as Lord, and following him to life everlasting.

Video from Pontiac Bible Church, November 6, 2016
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