then the king rose, and the governor and bernice and those who were sitting with them. and when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “this man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” and agrippa said to festus, “this man could have been set free if he had not appealed to caesar.” [acts 28:30-32]


God’s plans are still firmly in place even when things don’t turn out the way you think they should.  even in our bible-believing church, many of us are swayed by the culture’s belief that the ends justify the means, and that the outcome going our way is evidence of God’s blessing. 


this theology is damaging for a host of reasons, because if we live this way, we are following a subtle health and wealth prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all.  paul’s appeal to caesar will put him on a trajectory to his beheading, and agrippa’s statement can seem like if paul was walking just a little more in step with God, he could retain his life. this isn’t how God works.


for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [matthew 5:45b]

and he said, “naked i came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall i return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [job 1:21]

and you shall know that i am the Lord, when i deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, o house of israel, declares the Lord God.” [ezekiel 20:44]


if we believe that we have control, and that every bad thing is preventable if we just do the right thing, then every ‘bad thing’ that occurs can be attributed to our individual actions. it is absolutely true that our sin has negative consequences, but ‘bad things’ that occur (someone dies of cancer, a car accident, a birth defect) aren’t always linked with individual sin. of course, bad things are linked with sin as a consequence of the fall generally, but if we second-guess ourselves at every negative outcome, we will always be blaming ourselves and  others,  living in the guilt and shame of not doing something perfectly, or differently, instead of resting in the sovereignty of God.


agrippa isn’t right–paul didn’t put himself on the trajectory to continue in his imprisonment, and later to his beheading in rome, God put paul on that trajectory before his birth, before the foundation of the world–he has authored our days, and it is our responsibility to walk in the light as we pursue God’s will, knowing that we can’t mess up God’s perfect plan. 11 of the 12 disciples (and paul) would all die brutal deaths advancing the gospel. they were tortured and killed for doing exactly what the Lord was asking them to do. john, who  escaped martyrdom and lived until he was very old (as Jesus prophesied in john 21:18-19), told us how we are to live as we wait for his coming:

the Spirit and the Bride say, “come.” and let the one who hears say, “come.” and let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. [revelation 22:16]


let us rest in his presence, hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of Christ, that he might receive more worship! if we can live our lives in that way, we can say–”come what may!” to the events in our lives, knowing that he is sovereign over all of them!