Summary: For Lent and for Black History Month, with a focus on Africa: the purposes of God will be accomplished, though not without difficulties and sacrifice. Examples of African Christians to show this truth.
I cannot imagine how Paul did it. Here he is, in prison, chained to a soldier, and he is talking about hope and making plans for the future. How can anyone with half a brain do that? Does he not understand how perilous is his predicament? Chained! Awaiting trial! And yet he can say, “It is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
It’s not fair, is it? You and I are sure that Paul’s imprisonment was an injustice, and, although the Bible does not report Paul’s death, tradition suggests that he was beheaded in Rome in the year 67 AD. It was, by our standards, a gross injustice.
And yet it is not only that Paul in chains speaks of hope; it is also that throughout his long ministry, a whole host of things happened that never should have happened at all. A chronicle of injustices. In one of his letters, he catalogs them for us: “Imprisonments … countless floggings, and often near death. Five times … the forty lashes minus one. Three times … beaten with rods. Once … a stoning. Three times … shipwrecked; for a night and a day … adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.”
Great day, what is this man? Is he stark raving mad? And still he persists after all of this. He puts himself into a position to be arrested once more, once more put into chains. And still he speaks of hope. Oh, let’s just go home; this cannot be someone worth listening to, can it?!
And as if all that were not enough, when the Book of Acts ends, Luke the historian says that Paul lived in Rome in chains, two years more, “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Without hindrance? Chains are no hindrance? Prison is no hindrance? That Roman soldier with one hand on his sword is no hindrance? The injustice of the system is no hindrance? What is this all about, “without hindrance?”
I propose to you today that the purposes of God will be accomplished. No human barrier will stop the work of God. No chain will hold back His word. No oppression will forever shackle His people. And no injustice need keep His church from working without hindrance.
Yes, of course there will be setbacks. Yes, I well recognize that our failures will slow the pace. Yes, surely I do know that evil empires and malice aforethought will triumph for a little while. But I am committed to this one great truth: that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. Beyond the chains, past the injustice, despite whatever barriers may be thrown up in the way, His truth is marching on. And the purposes of our God will be accomplished.
That means that God’s church should rejoice in apparent hindrances. That means that when we feel held back, we shall look for ways to break the chains, because eventually there will be an answer, and the purposes of God will be accomplished. Not without blood, sweat, and tears, even sacrifice, to be sure. But God’s justice will be done, God’s victory will come. Without hindrance.