Paul is a great example of putting life into perspective, so let’s take a look at another portion of his life. He is someone who underwent more trials in his lifetime than most of us could tolerate, but he never felt sorry for himself. He instead looked at them with spiritual eyes, from God’s perspective. Take a look at Acts chapter 27. To briefly summarize, we see that Paul is on a ship, as a prisoner, sailing to Italy. That is the first unfortunate thing that happened to this good Christian man, but God wasn’t angry with Paul, by making him a prisoner; he had a reason for this. There was a terrible storm, and against Paul’s advice, they tried to make it to Crete for the winter. The storm did not let up, and they started throwing things overboard to lighten the ship. Paul was quick to remind them they should have listened to him in the first place. But an angel from God had told him that everyone would be spared, although the ship would not make it. After 14 days of being wind-tossed, they finally made it to Malta, and every one of the 276 people on board made it to shore safely. Okay, so now we have Paul being a prisoner, on a ship that shipwrecked. This doesn’t seem like a trip blessed by God, does it? Then after he made it safely to shore, the natives on Malta built a fire for the people who came ashore, and after gathering sticks for the fire, a viper came out of the fire and bit Paul. Even though the natives waited for Paul to swell up and die from the bite of this venomous snake, miraculously because of God that did not happen.
Put yourself in Paul’s sandals. I think if any one of us had all of these things happen to us, the natural reaction would be to question God and think that He had forgotten us, or think that we had done something wrong and he was punishing us. But let’s look at this from God’s perspective. Being a prisoner, Paul was able to represent God to prisoners, whom he would not normally get to reach. Then with the storms and his prophecy of everyone being spared actually coming true, this made him a believable witness for God to all 276 people on the ship. Finally, with Paul actually being bitten by the viper and surviving, even the natives could be reached to realize God is all powerful. Paul was able to in turn heal the sick on the island and be a witness for God. It all worked out for good.
If the trip had been smooth sailing all the way to Italy, would Paul have been able to reach all those people? If he hadn’t been bitten by the venomous snake, would those natives have been receptive to what he had to say about God? I don’t think so. God’s divine purpose outweighed all the bad that took place in the story. He does have a purpose for everything that happens. Do we see it when we are going through it? Not necessarily. Will we see it in this lifetime? Not necessarily. That is where faith comes in. So keep Paul’s story in mind when you recite Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”