And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
Paul’s afraid. Yes, this is the same Paul to whom the angel had recently said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.” (Romans 27:24)
Yes, this is the same Paul who wrote to these Romans, just a few years earlier, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— … And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 1:11, 8:28)
Now he’s almost there. The brothers come out to meet him, but on seeing them he’s not just happy; he’s relieved. He thanked God and took courage. Why does he need to “take courage”?
Earlier, when the angel told him to not be afraid, he obviously feared for his life. Everyone on the ship feared for their life. Paul had predicted that there would be loss of life if they sailed.
But that’s over and he’s back on track. What’s he worried about now?
The Bible doesn’t say, but the fact that he is worried yields an important lesson. Despite some awesome supernatural encouragement, he’s still not “as cool as a cucumber.”
This demonstrates some of the things that Christian eyes are not. They’re not perfect and they’re not perfectly confident. Paul may be wondering if his decision to appeal to Caesar was a blunder. Romans 8:28 doesn’t say we can’t make mistakes.
Paul will later say that he’s perfectly willing to die for Christ.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. — Philippians 1:21
That doesn’t mean he thinks it’ll be fun.
It’s OK to be scared.
While our relationship with God gives us certainty in some things, life in Christ is full of surprises—many of them painful. I like to say that Christians should love rollercoasters.
The plot twists God throws at people can be instructive, even amusing, when viewed from a distance. They get a lot more intense close up.
We’re called to a close-up relationship.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.