I don’t know about you, but I normally have much better things to do than wait. Whether it’s waiting in line, in a traffic jam, or on hold, it’s not something that we normally look forward to.
The Apostle Paul knew all about waiting. At the very end of the Book of Acts, Paul is in a spot that could have easily been frustrating. The last 5 chapters of Acts were leading up to his arrival in Rome. However, before he arrived, the Jews plotted to kill him, he traveled thousand of miles, he survived a shipwreck and a snake bite, and much more. Finally, toward the end of Acts 28, he arrives…and then he waits…and waits…and waits.
Have you ever been there? I don’t mean Rome or a prison cell in particular, but have you ever been in that waiting period? You know what I’m talking about – the time of your life that’s not quite how it used to be, and you’re sure there’s change ahead, but you’re just not there yet. I call it the middle.
One thing (among many) that I learn from Paul is not to waste time in whatever stage of life we’re in – even when we’re in “the middle.” Paul didn’t just sit around – he met with the Jews, he received people, and he preached the Kingdom of God.
There are plenty of explanations for why Paul waited 2 years under house arrest once he arrived in Rome. Cases were probably backlogged, and getting in to see Caesar wasn’t exactly a “next day” event – there was probably a significant wait for everyone. Also, any paperwork that should have accompanied Paul to Rome for his trial was certainly lost in the shipwreck along the way (Acts 27-28). But I can think of 4 main reasons for Paul’s wait. You ready? Here they are…
Paul wrote those letters during his 2 years under house arrest in Rome. They’re known as his “prison epistles.” Had he not had those 2 years to wait or had he wasted the time that he did have, we wouldn’t have those 4 life-changing books of the Bible today!
There’s a lesson for us to learn from that. Sometimes life seems to stop for us when we find ourselves in “the middle.” Don’t sit around and twiddle your thumbs though. Just because you don’t want to listen doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to speak. In fact, I would say that Scripture proves that God speaks in unique ways when we’re in the middle. Here are a few examples…
When Paul was in the middle, he penned words like…
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11 – written as he watched Roman guards, in their armor, change in and out of their shifts)
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 – written while realizing that execution could happen at any moment)
meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains (Colossians 4:3 – written while seeking more opportunities to share the Gospel with the soldiers chained to him)
When David was in the middle, he penned words like…
I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:8 – written while running for his life from Saul, who was camped just on the other side of the mountain from David)
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. (Psalm 3:3 – written while running for his life from his son, Absalom)
When John was in the middle, he penned words like…
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place…. (the Book of Revelation – written while exiled to the island of Patmos)
When you find yourself in the middle, the easy thing to do is complain or just waste your time until change finally comes. Don’t forget that there are valuable lessons that you can learn right now as you wait for change to come – lessons that you may not be able to learn in any other place.
I know it’s not always easy being in the middle, but do your best to soak it in, learn from it, and enjoy it as much as possible.
Have you learned a lesson while you were in “the middle”? Leave a comment below and let me know about it!