Marriage seems like such a simple proposition. You promise to take each other for better or worse – but you know that worse isn’t going to happen. You promise to take each other in sickness and health, – but you know that sickness isn’t going to come. You promise to love each other and stay with each other as long as you both shall live – not realizing that at time you might want to shorten each other’s length of life. The pronouncement is made that you are now husband and wife. Then the ride begins. The worse comes, but you stick it out because you committed to God and to each other. Sickness happens and you support each other. Disagreements and arguments come up because, well, your spouse isn’t always right. But you stick it out because you know that God has brought the two of you together.
Sometimes, when you reflect on that, you think God has a great sense of humor. Today marks 38 years of marriage with my wife. Through the worst, through the recent bouts of sickness, we have been sustained by our love for each other and our commitment to living out God’s will every day. It seemed like an easy proposition: husband and wife as long as you both shall live. The rough part is in the details. I wonder if Paul understood that sitting in the Roman barracks in Jerusalem when God spoke. “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)
Paul went to Jerusalem in spite of pleas of fellow Christians to stay away because he would be captured. He knew that He was following God’s plan. Now the revelation came that one of the reasons Paul had to go to Jerusalem was that God would use this situation to testify in Rome. Such easy words to hear, and it’s always exciting to understand God’s goal for your life. I don’t think Paul had any misconceptions about the road ahead, though. If he suspected that this journey might end in a death sentence, he didn’t let on. He had already confessed his willingness to die for the sake of the gospel. Perhaps this is a spoiler to you, but when you read the story about his journey to Rome, it was full of hardships and close brushes with death. In every situation, though, Paul was able to use the hardships as opportunities to proclaim the gospel. Every Roman soldier, every Roman official that came into contact with Paul heard the gospel. Paul lived and was willing to die for the sake of the gospel. The hardships bound to come from the simple words of God did not surprise Paul. He welcomed them for the sake of the gospel.
The message to proclaim the gospel is one given to each Christian. How we share the gospel may be different for each believer since God made us all different. Within that simple message to tell others about Jesus, though, is a promise of hardships and blessings. Sometimes, friends may shy away as we talk about the forgiveness God offers since so many people don’t think about themselves as needing forgiveness. Sometimes we may run into difficulties at work because of our commitment to Christ. We still need to share the love of Christ with co-workers – but without interrupting our work. The simple call of God to proclaim the gospel contains many hidden details that include a call to hardship and sacrifice. Are we ready to be bound, or even die for the gospel? Are we ready to lose friends who reject us as they reject the message of mercy and grace? Are we ready to be shunned by family members who can’t understand why we’ve become so involved in sharing the love of God? Those hardships are in the details. Paul recognized that no hardship was too great to prevent him from sharing God’s love. May we follow his example.
Lord, there is a lost and hurting world that needs to know about Your forgiveness. Use me to share it.