Summary: We can Discern the Will of God through 1) Providence (v. 22), and 2) Planning (vv. 23–24)
Events over that past week have derailed many plans. For the people of Suncor, Target, Sony and others, mass layoffs have radically changed family directions. For a provincial and federal standpoint, fallings prices of Oil have meant the readjustment of budgets and plans. From individual families to government offices, they have expressed difficulty in planning for the future with so many sudden and unexpected roadblocks thrown in their path.
In Romans 15, the Apostle Paul comments about his ministry, especially his plans and hopes for future work in the Lord’s service. As Paul bares his heart to a group of believers, most of whom he has never met and who lived in a place where he had never been, he provides some valuable principles for all who read.
Underlying the surface of this very personal passage is the basic principle that was the foundation of Paul’s life, the principle that directed everything he thought, said, wrote, and did. He articulates that truth in (verse 32: “by the will of God.” The rest of the passage leads up to that statement and reveals in an intimate and unique way the attitudes, perceptions, and purposes of a believer who lives wholly in the knowledge of God’s will.
For all who seek to discern God's will, we must realize that true success in the Lord’s work can be attained only as we wholly accept our divine calling and diligently commit our heart, mind, time, abilities, and spiritual gifts to fulfilling that calling. Genuine success sometimes can fail as much from trying to do more than we are called to do as from doing less. Paul did not try to do the work of several apostles but only the work to which the Lord had specifically called him. He demonstrated the same kind of economy of effort as Jesus, whose ministry was strictly focused on His Father’s calling and will. He did not cure every illness in Palestine, nor did He attempt to preach to every Jew, much less every Gentile. Yet, after only three years of ministry, He could say to His Father in the Upper Room, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You hast given Me to do” (John 17:4), and could say on the cross before the world, “It is finished” (19:30).
In Romans 15:22–32, Paul demonstrates in his own life six characteristics, or elements, of his own ministry that should be evidenced in the life and ministry of every believer who is committed to doing God’s will. We can Discern the Will of God through 1) Providence (v. 22), and 2) Planning (vv. 23–24)
First, we can Discern God's will through:
1) Providence (Romans 15: 22)
Romans 15:22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. (ESV)
This reason refers to Paul’s fulfilling his divine calling as “a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles,… from Jerusalem and roundabout as far as Illyricum,” in order that “they who had not news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand” (Romans 15:16, 19, 21). The agency that has hindered him was not stated. It could have been God, Satan, evil people, or other gospel opportunities. Remember Paul wrote Romans while he was in Corinth. In Corinth Paul’s opponents attacked him because he had not been able to fulfill his travel plans. Paul was surely affected by the attacks from within the Corinthian church. (Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 15:22). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.)
As he says that it has happened "so often", it is expressed in the Imperfect tense, it is denoting continuousness, and implying a succession of hindrances (Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 175). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.).
• In Discerning the Will of God we must not mistake the first roadblock as a sign of divine halting. We may mistake a roadblock, tire, or be confused. If God wants us to change course, He will repeatedly make it clear as we shall see.
What Paul is saying is that He has been hindered in coming to them because he was concentrating on “fulfilling the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum.” It was the needs of ministry in these regions that “hindered” Paul “many times” from coming to Rome (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 899). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
• Last week we considered the general calling that believers have on their lives with the universal holiness mandates in scripture specified in prefix: "This is the will of God"...
• Now we must consider how this mandate plays out in particular actions. Before we understand the particular directive movements from God, we must understand what we are generally called to do.