Consider just a few of the earthly, human-driven events that take place in this narrative. Taken by themselves, we'd thing this new faith is doomed:
- Religious leaders plot against the preacher Stephen and stone him. This leads to the disciples in Jerusalem to flee elsewhere for safety as persecution intensifies.
- A man named Saul goes north to expand persecution into Syria.
- A ship's captain insists on sailing during hurricane season, leading to a shipwreck off the island of Malta.
But the divine intentions and sovereign plan of God to work out the extension of his kingdom are also evident in every single chapter of this book:
- As the disciples flee from Jerusalem, they find people in the cities they have found refuge in who are willing to hear the gospel message.
- Saul is stopped from carrying out his plans to arrest believers by a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ. He is recruited to become the greatest Christian missionary the world has ever known.
- All 276 passengers on the ship survive; the people of Malta hear the gospel for the first time and have three months of ministry from Saul, now known as Paul. Eventually Paul makes it to Rome, where he's kept under the type of house arrest that allows him many freedoms, including visitors who come to hear him preach and teach.
This account of events in the early church can remind us that the everyday sorts of things which we struggle with, or which may seem unconnected or even random, actually do work together for a greater purpose. With eyes of faith, we may see them advancing God's grace in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
The words from Michael W. Smith's song "Sovereign Over Us" (2014) remind us:
Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn in for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You're working for our good
Your working for our good and for Your glory