My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Every mistake you make has a future.  It may be a good or a bad one.  Despite the outcome or consequences, it is still your mistake.  Sometimes it is bad because it is accepted in the wrong way.  I’ve had people to ask me after a sermon, “What did you mean when you said. . .?”  The best reply is, “What did it mean to you?”  This allows me to compare what the person thought I said with what I actually stated.  Sometimes an apology is needed, not because something was said to hurt the individual, but because it probably could have been worded differently so it would not be misunderstood.  James talks about the tongue and how it can cause trouble (James 3:1-2 NKJV).  A mistake may be innocent, but it still has a future, and some consequences!

One’s actions may be misunderstood.  The action within itself may not be wrong, but the error is found in the interpretation placed upon that action.  When Paul returned to Jerusalem, James and the elders met with him (Acts 21:18).  They were concerned because some brethren thought he had “forsaken Moses” by teaching that Jews did not have to “circumcise their children nor walk according to the customs” (Acts 21:21).  Paul was not guilty, but some thought he was.  Their misunderstanding led them to be guilty of gossip and failing to talk with Paul personally.  This caused a problem which neither James nor the elders should have been burdened with (Matthew 18:15-17).  The consequences of their mistaken understanding forecasted Paul’s future.

To solve that problem, Paul was willing to go to the Temple with four Jewish brethren and pay for their sacrifice and service.  On the way he was recognized by the Jewish crowd.  Their mistake was in believing Paul was bringing an uncircumcised Greek into the Temple to defile it (Acts 21:29).  The commander of the Roman garrison saw the problem but made a mistake by arresting the wrong person.  The commander ordered Paul to be bound and scourged (v.24).  Paul revealed his Roman citizenship causing the commander to recognize his blundering mistake before it worsened (v.25).  This would lead to other events motivating Paul to make decisions that would weigh upon his future.

Paul’s mistake was not sinful.  The Jews requested that Paul be turned over to them to be tried by the Jewish counsel in Jerusalem.  Paul used his right as a Roman citizen and appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11-12 NIV).  It appeared to be the best course of action under the circumstances.  However, after making his defense before Festus, the Roman Governor, he would have been released except for one problem.  Paul had appeal to Caesar.  Luke records this appeal’s decision on Festus and Agrippa’s part.

Festus said: ‘King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man!  The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer.  I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome.”  (Acts 25:24-25 NIV).

If Paul had waited about making that appeal, he would have been a free man and walked out of that Roman Court absolved of all charges against him.  His mistake, though innocent, was in making the appeal.  Governor Festus had no other choice than to send Paul to Rome to appear before the Emperor.  Isn’t it strange how such decisions can change the entire course of our life?  Innocent mistakes that seem to be the wisest choice at that time.  Innocent decisions that may even cause problems that would not have happened if the decision had been different?  Some might judge Paul for his decision, claiming he didn’t trust in God enough to wait.  Paul may have entertained such a thought himself.

It is true that Paul had opportunities to preach the Good News in Rome that would not have been available to him otherwise.  He would not have written that small letter to Philemon about Onesimus because he would not have been in Rome when Onesimus was there.  The Jewish council in Rome would not have gone to speak with him.  The Roman guards would not have heard the gospel.  The church in Rome would not have been strengthened by his presence.  The Emperor would not have had his opportunity to hear Paul’s teachings about Jesus.  God uses our mistakes, good or bad, innocent or guilty, to have His will done.  Paul’s mistake resulted in a good number of people celebrating because they were eternally benefited by his presence.  On the other hand, we sometimes beat ourselves to death with “what if” we had not made that decision, “but” decided differently?  Yes, our life could have been entirely different, and our influence and the influences upon us would have painted a different picture.  Isn’t that the story found in the movie, “A Wonderful Life”?

We all make mistakes.  We may not understand the “Why” to the outcome of some that we made.  However, God may use those mistakes to benefit you and thousands of others.  Paul’s mistakes did.