1. Paul had a Plan
Romans 15:30-32 – “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.”
Signing off on the letter, Paul contemplated his next move. He had spent years raising money from his gentile churches to bring as a gift to the church in Jerusalem which, if accepted, would unite the church and act as a platform to travel to Rome as a missionary.
2. Paul’s Plan Failed
Acts 21:30-31 – “Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.”
Unfortunately, Paul’s reputation for raising trouble arrived in Jerusalem before him, and he and his gift were ambushed in the temple. Paul was rejected, arrested, beaten and taken to Rome in chains, putting a red line through all of his hopes for the future.
3. Disappointment isn’t Definitive
2 Timothy 1:1 – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus”
In a final letter to his son in the faith, Paul doesn’t introduce himself as a failed fundraiser or a heretic rotting in jail. Paul is defined by WHO he serves, not HOW he serves and will stay an apostle of Jesus no matter how things turn out.
4. Disappointment Happens
2 Timothy 4:16 – “At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them!”
This is a bitter memory but there’s no way to pretend it didn’t happen. As Paul looks back on the moment his plans failed and all his supporters abandoned him, the best he can do is acknowledge it and pray for the people who let him down.
5. Disappointment is better than Regret
2 Timothy 4:6-7 – “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Does Paul regret going to Jerusalem? No way. Even if it didn’t work out, Paul would rather pour out his life as a sacrifice than prolong it in safety. At the end of the journey Paul has his disappointments, but not regrets.
6. Faithfulness is better than Success
John 12:24 – “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Paul died alone in a Roman prison without money, titles, or the respect of most of his generation. 2000 years later his letters are read in every language and in every church on the planet. Disappointment may have kept him from being successful, but his faithfulness changed the world.