One night God spoke to the Apostle Paul. He said, “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” (Acts 23:11) The promise that God gave to Paul was unsolicited. Therefore, there were no conditions attached to it. Of necessity, Paul would one day be in Rome. That promise implied that nothing could happen to Paul to cut short his life until he had reached Rome and testified of Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, a conspiracy of over 40 Jews had formed, binging themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed the apostle. Having gone to the chief priests and elders, they informed them of their plan and asked their assistance in bringing Paul out of prison to them for further “questioning.” I just so happened that Paul’s nephew was in earshot of these conspirators as they were hatching their plot and reported the plan to Paul.
Having the promise that nothing could happen to him until he came to Rome, Paul could have easily dismissed the plans of the Jews as useless before God. But instead, he had his nephew report the plot to the chief captain of the guard who then provided for his safety. Some might say that Paul acted faithlessly. I suggest though, that Paul acted faithfully. God not only ordains “the ends” but He also ordains the means to “the ends.” Paul’s nephew being in the place that he would hear the plot of the Jews was no accident. His being there was not a coincidence. He was there by the divine sovereignty of God in order that the promise of God might be fulfilled.
Concerning the promises of God, many people believe that no human responsibility exists. A popular catch phrase is “Let go and let God.” Equally erroneous though, is the thought, “God helps those who help themselves.” An accurate statement is, “God provides for those who come to the end of themselves.” Consider a couple of examples:
God promises to provide materially for believers. If all human responsibility was removed from this promise then every Christian should just be able to sit around the house doing nothing but “enjoying life” all day long. But Scripture also states that, “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) The verse does not refer to those who CAN not work, but those who voluntarily chose (would) not to.
God promises to progressively transform the believer into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Philippians 1:6, 1 John 3:2). But there is a means to that end. The believer must take in the Word of God and then practice it in day to day living. Failure to do either leaves the believer unchanged.
All of God’s promises are designed not to alleviate the believer from any personal responsibility, but to motivate them to do what is within their ability to see the fulfillment of the promise.