Summary: God's purposes prevail even when our plans don't.

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Expect the Unexpected

Romans 15:22-29

Rev. Brian Bill


When the unexpected happens, we’re prone to either become exasperated or to make excuses. Here are some actual unedited excuses received by a public school.

“My son is under the doctor’s care and should not take P.E. Please execute him.”

“Mary could not come to school today because she was bothered by very close veins.”

“Please excuse Ray Friday. He has loose vowels.”

“Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.”

“Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father’s fault.”

While quite different from these parent’s excuses, our text in Romans 15:22-29 is also an absence excuse as Paul answers the question, “Why haven’t you visited Rome yet?” He may have felt like the Roman Church wanted to give him an unexcused absence. Instead of making up some excuses, Paul believes it’s normal to expect the unexpected.

In one sense, this section of Scripture may not seem relevant to us because it appears to be just a record of Paul’s travel itinerary from 2,000 years ago. But I want to suggest that we can learn a lot about how God guides His people from how he led Paul. My guess is that some of us need help in making important decisions related to a relationship, a job change, a move, where to go to college, whether to purchase a home or a car or some cheese…the list is really endless.

This passage, while not exhaustive, will give us some insight into these matters. But more than that, these verses have given me great comfort in learning some principles to help me deal with the unexpected. After all, life is filled with the unplanned, whether it’s a health situation, a relational rupture, a parenting quandary, or a technological temper tantrum (I had one of those this week).

Last week we learned that when we get the gospel we will go with the gospel. Today we’ll see that God’s purposes prevail even when our plans don’t. Let’s look at six certainties that will help us prepare for the unexpected.

Six Certainties

1. Our plans are often hindered. We see this in verse 22: “This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.” This verse is really tied to what we learned last week. The reason Paul has been delayed is because as a pioneering church planter, verse 20 says that he was focused on preaching the gospel “where Christ was not known.” Earlier in Romans 1:11-13 Paul had made his plans pretty clear: “I long to see you…I planned many times to come to you…”

The word “hindered” means to cut in, to cut off, or to interrupt. Every way he turned his path to Rome was cut off. While it’s sometimes difficult to know in a specific situation why our plans are hindered, I can think of some possibilities.

• The Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-8)

• Satan (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

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