Summary: The Apostle Paul knew the 1) Priority of (Romans 15:25–28) & 2) Prosperity of (Romans 15:29 ) Living in God's Will.
Open Doors International released its World Watch List earlier this month, ranking the top 50 most dangerous and difficult countries for Christians to live in. “We have seen the sharpest jump in violent attacks against Christians in the modern era,” says Curry, estimating that upwards of 100 million Christians worldwide are suffering persecution as we speak. “[And] while the year 2014 will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era,” Open Doors elaborated, “current conditions suggest the worst is yet to come.” (http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/26724)
It seems easy to Live in God's will when we have all the human support and resources, including free time. But how to we live out God's mandate for us when we are most stretched, with seemingly conflicting demands and under pressure to follow a different course?
The Apostle Paul understood His primary calling and mandate to preach where the Gospel had not yet taken root (v.20). He did not either neglect or be side tracked by the needs of the moment, and was able to properly prioritize his activities given seemingly conflicting demands in different directions. He knew that being in the center of God's will is not only the most challenging, but reaps the greatest blessing.
1) Priority (Romans 15:25–28)
Romans 15:25-28 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. (ESV)
(We will spend most of our time this morning on this first point)
Paul illustrates a third element characteristic of a believer who faithfully fulfills their calling, namely that of setting clear priorities. He is doing all this while moving. His expression of this, is how he is at present...going. It is an attempt to catch the present tense of the verb (poreuomai), meaning that his departure is imminent; it has even virtually begun (Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (p. 385). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).
• Planning for future ministry must never cause a present ministry to suffer. Just as we have seen how discovering and discerning the will of God comes though action, Paul's Living in God's Will is occurring through his action.
Before Paul would be free to go to Rome, much less Spain, it was necessary for him to go about a thousand miles in the opposite direction to Jerusalem, in order to serve the saints there. This “bringing aid/collection for the saints” was a major focus of Paul on his so-called “third missionary journey”; each letter he wrote on the journey mentions it (cf. also 1 Cor. 16:1–2; 2 Cor. 8–9). By speaking of the aid/collection as a “ministry” (2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12, 13) Paul points to the fact that it was a means by which Gentile Christians could express in a very practical way their love and concern for their less well-off brothers and sisters (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 902). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
• A key element of Living in God's Will is to see all activity as ministry. Our spending of talent, time, money, and God given gifts are intended by Him to be seen in the light of spiritual ministry. All activity is to be seen as our spiritual service/ministry.
The specific word that Paul uses for the aid/collection one from which we get the word deacon. It occurs just a few verses further on in chapter 16, where Phoebe is commended as a “servant” or “deaconess” of the church in Cenchrea. We recognize that caring for the poor is a legitimate function of the diaconate. But since Paul was not a deacon but rather an apostle and yet is saying here that his role in collecting and delivering this offering for the saints at Jerusalem was a diaconal service, we learn that we are all to be engaged in this kind of service. In other words, the role of the deacons is not to minister in our place, so we do not have to care for the needs of others, but rather to show us how to minister—just as ruling elders show us how to exercise spiritual oversight of one another, and teaching elders lead us in how to study and understand the Bible. Caring for other people is every Christian’s job (Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The New Humanity (Vol. 4, pp. 1879–1880). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)