Overcome Troubling Circumstances: the Promise of the Grace of God

Overcome Troubling Circumstances: the Promise of the Grace of God

Overcome Troubling Circumstances: the Promise of the Grace of God

Overcome troubling circumstances is the promise to every believer in Jesus Christ even in the midst of the disturbing circumstance.


In the opening statements of the letter to the Romans, Paul prays a powerful, positive prayer that reveals tremendous insights into the life and character of the apostle. The answer to that prayer is also a sobering challenge to understand the will of God in the midst of overcoming troubling circumstances. After the greetings and thanksgiving of his letter, he prays, “Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you” (1:10). The great apostle is nearing the end of what has been called his third missionary journey. According to scholars, he is probably residing briefly at Corinth during the year of A.D. 57 or 58 when he pens this letter to the Roman saints. The collection of relief aid for the poverty-stricken believers at Jerusalem has been gathered and he is preparing to return to Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 20:22. If the Corinthian date is correct for the writing of Romans, Paul has already been told by the Holy Spirit witnessing “in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions” (Acts 20:23) would meet him everywhere he went. In this milieu, Paul prays for a prosperous journey (Rom. 1:10).

The prayer seems harmless enough. It is simply expressing Paul’s desire to carry the gospel message to Rome. The prayer would be answered and answered in such a way that Paul could respond after his arrival in Rome, that his journey was indeed prosperous (2 Tim. 1:12). Paul’s concept of prosperity probably was a little different than the popular belief of the health, wealth, and prosperity cult of many twentieth century Christians.

Overcome troubling circumstances in Jerusalem.

After Paul penned his letter to the Romans in which he prayed for a prosperous journey, the prophet Agabus came to Paul at his last stop before entering Jerusalem and specifically prophesied that Paul would be placed in bonds and delivered “into the hands of the Gentiles” (Acts 21:11). Paul would get to Rome, but he would go as a prisoner. Moreover, his journey to Rome would be plagued with the events that most Christians would begin to really wonder if it were indeed God’s will for him to go to Rome. Within the first twelve days after entering Jerusalem, Paul would experience the following adversity: the Jews . . . stirred up all the people, [so that they] laid their hands on him . . . and drew him out of the temple . . . (Acts 21:27,30). The Jews intended to kill him by beating him to death (Acts 21:31-32). He was “bound with . . . chains” (Acts 21:33). He was mistaken for an Egyptian who was responsible for a band of four thousand murderers (Acts 21:38). Roman soldiers “bound him with thongs” intending to scourge him (Acts 22:24). “More than forty . . .” (Acts 23:13) “. . . Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (Acts 23:12).

Overcome troubling circumstances answered Paul’s prayer for a prosperous journey to Rome.

Needless to say, it would seem that Paul had a rough two weeks when he first arrived in Jerusalem. Remember, God is answering his prayer for a prosperous journey to Rome.

In addition, Paul spent the next two years bound as a prisoner (Acts 24:27) with the charges and counter-charges of the Jews. His plight to Rome, moreover, would still hold several hardships to endure even after his departure from Jerusalem. After having to undergo the “. . . many and grievous complaints against Paul . . .” (Acts 25:7) by the Jews, he would have to survive a severe storm at sea for many days (Acts 27:9-28). Paul also had to live through a shipwreck (Acts 27:29-44), and the bite of a venomous viper (Acts 28:1-6) before he ever arrived at his destination. Finally, even after arriving at Rome, he would remain under house-arrest for two years (Acts 28:16,17,20,30). It seems to overcome troubling circumstances was a way of life for Paul.

Overcome troubling circumstances, a prosperous journey?

What a prosperous journey! What would have most Christians deliriously talking to themselves and wondering if God was still in control, Paul seemed to understand all that was happening as God’s will. He, with profound insight, perceived the fact that being a prisoner to Rome was God’s means for his arrival and ministry in Rome.

For example, in one of his letters written while in bonds, he states, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord . . .” (Eph. 4:1). Paul never considered himself a prisoner of Rome, but a prisoner of the Lord. In another letter written while in prison, he writes, “For the which cause [his ministry] I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed [his ministry] unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). Finally, Paul writes in the same letter, “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds, but the word of God is not bound” (2 Tim. 2:9). The great apostle Paul could resound with a mighty “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever . . .” (1 Tim. 1:17) for a truly prosperous journey to Rome to overcome troubling circumstances.

Oh, the insights of the apostle Paul should challenge every Christian to higher heights of understanding the grace of God. Circumstances, good or bad, cannot be the sole indicator of whether one is living in the will of God. In fact, the important truth of this scenario is that it is not the circumstances a person faces, but how he faces the circumstances that determine the accomplishment of the will of God. Paul, instead of being down in the mouth and critical about the adversity he had to endure, took those potential calamities and, through the grace of God, turned them into greater opportunities for ministry.

Overcome troubling circumstances is always in how one faces the circumstances.

Instead of becoming the victim of the circumstances, Paul allowed God to use those circumstances to become the victor. Regardless of the slanderous remarks (Rom. 3:8), the bad things he had to take because of envy (Acts 13:45), and the trying experiences of Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:16), Paul knew “. . . that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Because his face was set upon the will of God, the terrifying circumstances that faced him could not deter him. The will of God would be accomplished not by deliverance out of the troubling circumstances, but in the very midst of them.

Prosperity must always be measured by the accomplishment of the will of God, and not by the conditions that surround the believer. It would seem that this truth was the essence of Paul’s life: “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:9,10). Paul’s understanding of the will of God should bring all of us to our knees of repentance begging God for forgiveness. How shallow our understanding to interpret God’s will by the circumstances we face instead of allowing the grace of God freedom to work in our circumstances.



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Dr. James Stone is the founder and President of Christian Ministries, Inc., a ministry for personal, family, and church growth. He travels extensively across America and several foreign countries sharing his experiences with Jesus. His over 40 year career in ministry has included individual counseling, family counseling, church pastor, Bible college/seminary professorships, leader of revivals, Christian growth seminars & church growth specialist.

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