The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11).
The person working for a corporation has choices when presented with a transfer to a new location. Those in the Armed Forces do not.
The civilian worker may be able to simply decline the opportunity and remain where he is. At the very worst, he may lose his job. The warrior who refuses orders to deploy is in a heap of trouble. He may spend time behind bars.
We understand that. How good would America’s security be if everyone in our military would only transfer to a new location if he wanted to? Instead, troops are sent where they are needed. We appreciate when a person can indicate preferences for where to serve. But the bottom line is that he or she will end up where Command decides.
Christians, whose lives are controlled by the Commander-in-Chief of heaven and earth, also end up where Command decides. It just isn’t usually so obvious.
The Apostle Paul was in Jerusalem on trial for his life. His Jewish enemies were so incensed against him that the Roman centurion in charge of his security detail pulled him out of the courtroom and put him into his barracks for safety.
Some might say that Saint Paul had nothing to fear. After all, he had been arrested before for spreading the good news about Jesus. God had always stepped in to free him.
This time that did not happen. This time he would stay in chains. This time he would look out at the world through prison bars in Rome. Eventually, there he would be executed.
Lest we say that he was just unlucky, the Scriptures give us the full story: Saint Paul was deployed to Rome. He would not return. But he would accomplish his mission. The news of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Savior of the World was carried to that heathen capital. From there, it would spread far and wide.
If we are honest, we must admit that we are not in control of our lives, either. If it isn’t orders that determine where we will serve, it is circumstances. We find ourselves at places throughout our lives where we never expected to be—sometimes, never wanted to be.
But the path of our life is not subject to aimless wandering. It is planned for us. It is prepared for us. God has a reason for us to be where we are, and it is a good reason.
It took faith for the Apostle to accept the fact that God was sending him to Rome because that is where he needed to be.
Sometimes it takes a special measure of faith to accept the fact that we end up where we are because God has a plan to use us there.
But since he has called us by name, since he has promised never to desert us, and since he will be with us on every step of the way until we get home to heaven—why doubt him?
Should we not thank him for deploying us where we are needed?
Lord of my life and Source of my salvation, I cannot detect your unseen hand guiding the course of my life. I tend to think that I am in control, but I know that is foolish. When I need to make decisions, point me to the right answers. When I doubt the direction you are leading me, point me to the Cross. When I grow tired and worried, point me to heaven. I pray this boldly because Jesus is my Savior. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military