As I’ve mentioned a few times, we’re currently studying through Romans together with the church. We’ve had some great discussions so far, and I’ve learned alot and been encouraged and challenged by my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Romans is a very interesting letter to me. Paul had never visited Rome, and he knew (or knew about) only a few of the believers who were in Rome. Besides Colossians, this is the only letter that Paul wrote to believers in a city he had never visited.
And, even more interesting, Paul was planning to visit Rome. As Paul was on that trip to Rome, crossing the Mediterranean in the midst of a storm, do you think he wondered what kind of welcome he would receive? To be honest, I would wonder that. But, I don’t think Paul did. Why? Because he trusted God to take care of him regardless of what kind of welcome he received.
So, what kind of welcome did Paul receive when we reached Italy and Rome? This is what Luke records:
Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. (Acts 28:12-15 ESV)
So, apparently these brothers and sisters in Christ gave Paul a wonderful welcome – a welcome that strengthened him and caused him to praise God.
I love it when God “surprised” us with strangers who turn out to be brothers and sisters in Christ. The fellowship that follows is always special, even if it’s short.
I experienced that last Sunday during my first marathon. I was somewhere around the 18 mile mark (which is the farthest I had ever run before the marathon), and I was struggling. I run up on a man who I had seen before. For the first half of the marathon, we ran together in the same pace group. But, since the group was large, we had not talked with one another.
I fell back out of the group before him, but now I had caught up with him. I introduced myself, and he told me his name was John. It turns out that John was from New York and that he had come to Cary, NC just to run this marathon. He was having cramps in both legs, so he had to slow alot.
I asked John what he did for a living, and he told me that he was a lawyer for a charitable organization. I asked him which organization, and he explained that it was associated with a certain Christian organization and that they worked with underprivileged people in their area to provide housing.
Next, I asked John if he just worked for that organization or if he was part of the denomination too.
He response was enthusiastic: “Oh no! I’m a born again Christian!” I immediate replied, “Me too!”
For the next several minutes – and a couple of miles – we shared our testimonies with each other. John shared several very interesting stories including how God brought him out of a background of Santería.
Soon, John had to slow even more – his legs were cramping more than before. We thanked each other for the fellowship and thanked God for the fellowship and encouragement that he gave us through each other.
What about you? Has God ever encouraged you through a “stranger” who turned out to be a brother or sister in Christ?