Last night I expounded on Romans 1.3-15. In this blog I'll focus on one part of the passage; let's consider the following Scriptures:
"Indeed, my witness is God, whom I serve in my spirit by telling the good news about His Son, that I never fail to mention you every time I pray, always entreating God that somehow by His will I may some day at last succeed in getting to see you. For I am longing to see you, to impart to you some spiritual gift, that you may be strengthened; in other words, that we may be mutually encouraged, while I am with you, by one another's faith, yours and mine. Furthermore, I want you to know, brothers, that I have often planned to come to see you (though until now I have been prevented), in order that I may gather some fruit among you too, as I have among the rest of the heathen. To Greeks and to all the other nations, to cultured and to uncultured people alike, I owe a duty. So, as far as I can, I am eager to preach the good news to you at Rome, too." (Rom 1.9-15)
This expresses the Apostle Paul's desire to visit the Church of God in Rome; he has never done so, though he knows several individuals in the congregation (chapter 16). Constant prayers have been prayed that he may be allowed to visit them, first so they can share fellowship and then Paul hopes that they will be a financial base of operations for missionary work in Spain (Romans 15.20-24). Paul mentions that he has one thing to do before joining them--he must drop off an offering in Jerusalem for the needy Christians (Romans 15.25-28).
As we know, though, history records that things didn't go the way Paul wanted them to go. After his arrest in Jerusalem through the instigation of some fellow Jews, Paul was imprisoned for a few years before he finally arrived in Rome; however, he came as a prisoner--having appealed his case to the emperor--and not as a free man.
Life often doesn't go the way we plan it, does it? We may pray continually about some concern, hoping God will give us what we ask and how we ask it. However, God is sovereign and he keeps his own counsel as to what he will allow in our lives.
John Wesley comments on Romans 15.28 in his Explanatory Notes:
"When I have sealed to them this fruit - When I have safely delivered to them, as under seal, this fruit of their brethren's love. I will go by you into Spain - Such was his design; but it does not appear that Paul went into Spain. There are often holy purposes in the minds of good men, which are overruled by the providence of God so as never to take effect. And yet they are precious in the sight of God."
Being a Christian, then, means that we have to learn how to deal with disappointment. I'm not trying to say that God is unfair or unjust or any other "un" I can recollect. I simply submit to you that what he pray for and what we receive may be two different things. Since the judge of all the earth does right (Genesis 18.25) we can rest assured that we do not receive evil from the Lord though we may receive evil from the world. Sometimes, we must rest in God's unfathomable sovereignty, often inscrutable.