June 11, 2009

On a Need to Know Basis

Romans 15:23-32

But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them.

For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.



bout five years ago I had a unique opportunity to travel to Italy with my husband and several others in our church for a missions trip to serve the Western European Missionaries with ABWE. Lance and I were on the children’s ministry team. The conference was held at a resort on the Isle of Sicily in Terrasini. Our team flew into Rome for a two-day stayover on the trip in, and a one day stayover on the trip back. The first day we toured as a group and viewed a lot of the historic ruins in Rome. How incredible it was to see with my own eyes the places that the early saints saw! Some of them probably watched the construction of these ruins.

Early the next morning in my hotel room, I read through the last few chapters of Acts to get a feel for what the Apostle Paul must have felt upon his arrival. I read that the Roman believers met Paul on the Appian Way and they rejoiced together. The next day, instead of visiting the Sistine Chapel, Lance and I went alone to the catacombs, and walked down the Appian Way. I saw inside the catacombs and felt the determination and terror that many believers experienced in the early days of the church.

I can see why Paul was anxious to meet with these believers, because their legacy has endured for centuries. They still boldly proclaim their faith from the grave even today in the historic streets of Rome. It affected my faith greatly to be there be where so many believers stood strong for the gospel.

Not long ago I blogged about Paul’s shipwreck on the way to Rome. I postulated that Paul had a personal, emotional desire to go to Rome, more than a missionary zeal, and I think this passage from Romans supports that theory, especially this phrase, “so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.”

There are some key phrases in this passage that are stunning when you look ahead to Paul’s journey to Rome. We know what happened, but Paul had not been given the full story about his trip to Rome when he wrote this letter. The only thing he confidently knew was, “when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” He appealed to Roman believers, “to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea.” He had no idea how critical that prayer was, but think about it. The Roman guard that protected Paul was an answer to prayer as a result of this communication with the believers in Rome. WOW!

St. Paul in Prison, by Rembrandt

Paul was placed under house arrest for two years, but he was able to receive visitors and minister in the presence of these Roman believers, and receive their refreshment, for which they also prayed. No more beatings in the synagogues. No more riots. No more shipwrecks—just refreshment for two years. That morning in Rome, I wrote a note in the margin of my Bible: “God says to Paul, ‘You have worked hard for Me and endured much for the sake of the gospel. Now it’s time to rest and refresh.’“

Paul had no idea what he would endure, but God did. Paul did not know what awaited him on his journey to Rome: the arrest, the trial, the shipwreck. God only gave him enough information to make it to the next “layover.” I see that God does that with us, too. At times we scream for more information, don’t we? But do you suppose most of us would have the strength to continue on if we knew what struggles lie ahead? And we would never have the joy of exercising and growing in our faith if we knew the outcome, now would we? By His grace, and for His glory, He lovingly gives us what we need to know to get us to the next leg of the journey.

Take courage, friends, God has it all mapped out. We just need to trust and obey as we journey on a “need to know” basis.


  1. Wow, Rich, thanks for dressing this up!! Looks great!

  2. You're welcome, Mary. And thanks for not calling me a formatting "freak." I just can't help myself.

  3. No way, I showed it to Lance when he got up (before you did your wizardry) and complained that it was "just plain." I knew you were going to be in DC and decided just to post it and not bother you.

    Now, if only I could train myself to tap the spacebar just ONCE after a period so I wouldn't have to fix up the html before I post, I'd be happy enough!!

  4. Old habits die hard. I imagine those chiseler people had a tough time switching to pencil use as well.


    One of these days I'll teach you some HTML/CSS formatting tricks and you can play around with the formatting yourself. It's loads of fun.

  5. Reading through some of my old posts today, I came across this one and just chuckled. I am on a "need to know" basis right now. I have all I need to know because I know the One navigating the ship. I know that He will do great things in spite of the frailty of our flesh. It is HIS glory that matters. It reminds me of the passage we read in family devotions last night. I want to be like Joab, who fought bravely, then invited David to finish so that the king could receive the glory for the battle. 2 Samuel 12:26-28:
    "Meanwhile, Joab was fighting against Rabbah, the capital of Ammon, and he captured the royal fortifications. Joab sent messengers to tell David, “I have fought against Rabbah and captured its water supply. Now bring the rest of the army and capture the city. Otherwise, I will capture it and get credit for the victory.”


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