It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island — an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead. Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three days. From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. There we found some believers, who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.
— Acts 28:11-14 NLT
While not the focus of today's verses, let me wish you a blessed Christmas today for those of you where it is Christmas and in two weeks for those who celebrate Christmas on the Orthodox calendar.
These four verses pack so much wonderful news into such a few words. We need to rejoice with the apostle Paul on the culmination of his long journey to Rome. He had longed to get there, and God had promised him that he would.* The journey was beyond difficult, yet the hardships he endured paled into insignificance compared to the good influence and blessings that he brought to others. Even though the apostle was a prisoner, under God's guidance Paul's influence and the blessings he brought to others enabled him to visit and encourage fellow believers in Jesus who lived in Puteoli. He was granted time to spend a week with these fellow followers of Jesus. His actions remind us just how important Christian encouragement and gathering with other believers are for all of us!**
Father, thank you for brothers and sisters in Christ who welcome and encourage other believers and stand by them in their times of trial. Forgive us, forgive me, when I take other followers of Christ for granted and do not value my need to be with them and my responsibility to welcome and encourage them. My heart is gladdened as I read these verses and see how people welcomed Paul and then how some even came from Rome to meet him and journeyed with him to Rome because he was a fellow Christian.^ Their examples challenge me to open my eyes to those believers around me who need friends to welcome them, walk beside them, and help them make it to their destination in life. In Jesus' name, I share my heart with you, O God. Amen.