by Allison Martin
It’s hard to imagine the Apostle Paul as a new Christian. Our minds are quick to envision a battered old man who has known a life of suffering. We picture him in a damp prison cell, squinting through the darkness as he pens the words that will change the world. Sometimes we forget that his unshakeable faith that carried him through was not instantaneous upon his conversion. It was developed through a process of struggles. His faith was forged as faith always is - in the fire.
Acts 9 details Paul’s conversion and the start of his ministry. His effectiveness increased to the point that he caught the attention of the Jewish leaders. Beginning a common theme throughout Paul’s life, they plotted to kill him.
He knew this, but what was he to do? The city was surrounded.
Standing between Paul and the fulfillment of his ministry is a wall. In his later letters to the Corinthians, he describes this scene as a garrison - a heavily guarded military outpost. We are not provided insight into Paul's thoughts, but he was human after all. He knew this wall must be overcome. Given his knowledge of Scripture, he knew that walls were no formidable foe to our God.
Paul may have already developed that quiet, rock solid trust that marks his later epistles. Perhaps he chose not to struggle against the what if’s, but to just sit back and watch God work. Or maybe he did what I would do, and asked for the walls to fall.
It wouldn’t have been an unreasonable request, after all. At Jericho, an act of obedience and steps of faith reduced an obstacle into no more than a speed bump. Samson carried the gates of a city away on his shoulders. God had a track record of beating the odds when it came to walls.
Human nature loves routine, and most people thrive on it. There is something refreshing about predictability. In our faith, however, this doesn’t always translate well. We scrutinize every angle of our situation, and promptly come up with the easiest and most convenient solution. It’s usually based on how we have seen God work in the past and what we know He’s able to do. And many times, our solution and God’s look nothing alike.
Whether Paul ever expected God to bring those walls down, it was never what God intended. That was Joshua’s miracle. Paul was about to have his own testimony. Behind the scenes of what Paul could see, God had divinely orchestrated circumstances just as miraculous as what happened at Jericho.
Paul’s miracle looked a lot more ordinary. It wasn’t overly dramatic in comparison. But perfectly placed details point to nothing less than Providence.
The owner of the house on the wall never realized that its location was perfect shielded from soldiers’ eyes.
The craftsman didn't weave that basket intending for it to be used in a rescue mission.
An architect didn't strategically place a window in the perfect place for Paul to escape.
But God did.
I’ll be honest - I’ve had this thought tucked away on a note in my phone since February. I shelved it halfway through because, though I knew the truth of it, it just didn’t feel relatable. Fast forward three months - problem solved. It seems that very little has gone the way that I hoped or prayed it would. Some of the walls that I long since expected to crumble stand as strong as ever. But I take great comfort that God’s plan is higher than my plans.
He is not bound by the limits of how He has worked in the past.
There may be a miracle in play right now that will only be visible from hindsight.
Maybe you've seen walls fall before, and you're waiting to see them crumble again. Rest assured, God hasn't lost His power to bring them down. But don’t be shocked if He surprises you with a window.
In the meantime, remember that garrison that Paul found himself surrounded by? The military outpost guarded by soldiers? Perhaps he had this very scene in mind when he wrote his letter to the Philippians. He chose that word “garrison” one last time - “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7