Taken out of context, biblical promises can have the earmarks of prosperity preaching or even bad political propaganda. Presidential-election years inundate us with overhyped propaganda, delivered through yard signs, billboards, commercials, hats and T-shirts—all promising a brighter future.
The gospel promise that’s become precious to me, however, has more grit and hope than any election propaganda or prosperity sermon could offer:
[Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:30–31)
In the last few chapters of Acts, Paul moves from jail to jail and trial to trial as various officials sort out what to do with him. But here’s what I love: Luke signs off by letting us know that the gospel of the kingdom is being proclaimed “with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31).
But didn’t Paul have many hindrances? He’s imprisoned! Sure, house arrest is no maximum-security prison, but Paul still had to rent his own room as well as buy his own food and clothes and ministry supplies. These sure sound like hindrances, especially if you can’t leave the house. Not to mention that many people were aligned against him, nor his harrowing journey to Rome, which involved a shipwreck and snakebite (Acts 27–28).
We’ll have plenty of hindrances next year, but none too great for God’s love and power to overcome.
Plenty of hindrances plagued Paul and the early church.
What Luke must mean by saying that the kingdom of God was proclaimed “with all boldness and without hindrance” is that, in God’s power and providence, his love is never hindered from expanding. Every seeming hindrance stacked against God in this world—our sin and weakness, the world’s brokenness, every evil power—cannot ultimately stop the steamroller of God’s love from advancing in our lives and to the nations. Consider his promise through Malachi: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations” (Mal. 1:11).
God’s name “will be great among the nations”—not because he removes every earthly hindrance, but because no single hindrance we experience is strong enough to impede the gospel’s spread. God wills and works for his gospel to be cherished, and even hell’s gates can’t hinder his church’s advance (Matt. 16:18).
Such hope should change how we live. Recently, my family was waiting in line at an amusement park. Our youngest child was screaming from the long day. We asked an employee if we’d make it on the next round of the ride or if we’d have to wait another 20 minutes. We’d already waited 40. “Well, I’m not sure,” she said. “The cutoff usually happens around here. You might make it, you might not.”
Her words unleashed anxiety on all within earshot. Pleasant conversations stopped. People began subtly jockeying for position, attempting to scoot up when others weren’t looking. I got sucked into this as well. A mother with her family gave me a look that said, “Don’t cut in front of me!” as though seats on the train were the last scraps of bread in a besieged city. Meanwhile, my child continued wailing.
When the train arrived and the line moved, it turned out there were plenty of seats with room to spare. Think what would’ve happened if the employee had told us, “Actually, I’ve counted the number of seats on the ride, and the number of people in line, and—trust me—nothing will hinder you from getting on.” That information would’ve stopped my stress and the infighting in the line.
Our view of the future changes how we live.
I don’t know what hindrances plague you as one year ends and the next begins. You might have more debt than surplus in your bank account, or more cancer than health in your body. You might have an empty bed where your spouse used to sleep. You might not see how 2020 could be a happy year, particularly with all the drama and changes that presidential elections can bring.
Let the last words in Acts encourage you. Despite all the hindrances Paul experienced, he thrived in evangelism (Acts 28:23) and wrote letters from jail we now call Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Two millennia later, these letters are nourishing believers everywhere the sun rises.
We’ll have plenty of hindrances next year, but none too great for God’s love and power to overcome. As Paul says elsewhere, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). A “no hindrances” mentality in 2020 means something more gritty than prosperity preachers teach and something more glorious than any politician can offer.