The Plot To Murder Paul

Thursday: The God of Our Circumstances

Acts 23:12-35 In this week’s studies we see God’s care during hard times.
Theme
The God of Our Circumstances

As we noted in yesterday’s study, God often uses the little things in life to accomplish His purposes. That is the way God operates, and it is worth reflecting on it. Why? Because if that is the way God is accustomed to operate, if God delights in using little things, then God can use us, however small or apparently insignificant we may be. Paul states this principle in 1 Corinthians 1, where he says to the church, 

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (vv. 26-29). 

If that is true, then there is hope for each of us. 

In this story, God used Paul’s nephew to save Paul. 

Don’t ever say, especially when you go through dark periods, “Things are really bad for me. I am not accomplishing anything. God cannot use somebody like me, especially not in the circumstances in which I find myself now.” What we often find is that it is usually people like us in circumstances like ours that God uses. 

And let’s think about those circumstances, not just about the seemingly insignificant things or people God uses, but about the circumstances too. In this story, not only was the boy in Jerusalem, which was significant in itself, but he also happened to be in the right place at just the right time. 

Do you think of circumstances as being things that are against you—something that God cannot control? Have you ever found yourself thinking, “If the circumstances of my life were different, perhaps then I could have been somebody or could have done something great for God or could have triumphed in the particular difficulty in which I am now”? Do not think that. Circumstances do not limit God. Circumstances are not independent of God. God creates circumstances. God is the master of circumstances. 

The greatest illustration of that in the Bible is the story of Joseph which is told in Genesis. Think of the amazing circumstances in Joseph’s life that God used to raise him from the pit of slavery, indeed, the pit of an imprisoned slave, to become the prime minister of Egypt. 

The circumstances are as small as the fancy coat his father gave him that provoked his brothers’ jealousy; the fact that the cistern in Shechem was dry at the season of the year he was thrown into it, so that he did not drown but his life was preserved; circumstances that involved the passing of the Midianite caravan at precisely that moment so that his brothers said, “Look, here’s a caravan on its way to Egypt. Let’s not kill him. Let’s sell him and make money out of this”; circumstances as small as his being purchased, not by a person of little importance in Egypt, but by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guards; the circumstance of the attachment that Potiphar’s wife had for him; the accusation that caused him to be thrown into prison—and not just any prison either, but the one where the political prisoners were kept; circumstances so small as the chief cupbearer and the chief baker being imprisoned along with him, and their having dreams, and the fact that he was able to interpret their dreams. 

When the chief cupbearer was restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court he forgot Joseph, who had interpreted his dream favorably. Two years had passed, two dark years for Joseph, who was languishing in prison. But one day Pharaoh himself had a dream and the cupbearer was there to remember that Joseph had been able to interpret his dream earlier, and so spoke about Joseph to Pharaoh. 

The civil servant said, “Ah, yes, I remember now. Several years ago when the Pharaoh was unhappy with me and I was in prison, there was a man there who was able to interpret dreams.” So they sent for Joseph, and he became what we would call “the prime minister,” the second highest power in the land. 

Little things. Insignificant circumstances? Yes, but circumstances that were created and were being used by God. So do not say, “God cannot deal with my circumstances; they are too complicated, too difficult, too depressing.” It is probably in those very circumstances that God wants to work through you. He has a way of using many diverse kinds of circumstances to bring people to faith and glorify His own great name. 

Study Questions
  1. How did God control the circumstances of Paul’s life?
  2. How did God do the same for Joseph?
Application

Reflection: How is it a comfort to you to know that God is the master of circumstances?

Prayer: Pray that the circumstances of your life will glorify God’s name, even as you look to Him with joy, thankfulness, and hope.

Key Point: It is usually people like us in circumstances like ours that God uses.

For Further Study: Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Hope for the Hopeless.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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