Paul had intentioned to visit Rome on his way to Spain where he hoped to preach the Gospel and establish a church there. We read about this Romans 15:20-27 (King James Version)
20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:
21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.
23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;
24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your
25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
Paul made plans, but in the end, the Lord changed them. Man proposes, but God disposes. As we read in Acts 28:16 God led Paul to Rome in a different fashion. Let us read,
"But when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him" (Acts 28:16, NKJV).
What does this text tell us about how Paul finally got to Rome? What lesson can we draw from this for ourselves about the unexpected and unwanted things that so often come our way? Life can take some bizarre turns and usually God is behind it. How often our plans, even the ones formulated in the best of intentions, don't come out as we anticipated and hoped. The apostle Paul did, indeed, get to Rome, but it wasn't as he had expected.
When Paul reached Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey with his offering for the poor, which he collected from the congregations of Europe and Asia Minor, unexpected events awaited him. He was arrested and fettered. After being held a prisoner for two years at Caesarea, he appealed to Caesar. Some three years after his arrest, he arrived in Rome, and (we can assume) not in the manner that he intended to when he first wrote to the Roman church years before about his intention to visit them.
We know that Paul "strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation" (Romans 15:20). But, God saw fit that Paul did build a foundation in Rome. As mentioned above, Paul did reach Rome but not in the way he thought. The Romans paid for Paul's trip.
Paul's work also took a different turn. Paul humbly accepted his fate. He called himself a prisoner of Christ (Ephesians 3:1). Following are two Ellen White quotes that show how Paul's work was more effective now than before.
"While apparently cut off from active labor, Paul exerted a wider and more lasting influence than if he had been free to travel among the churches as in former years. As a prisoner of the Lord, he had a firmer hold upon the affections of his brethren; and his words, written by one under bonds for the sake of Christ, commanded greater attention and respect than they did when he was personally with them."—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 454.
"Not by Paul's sermon[s], but by his bonds, was the attention of the court attracted to Christianity. It was as a captive that he broke from so many souls the bonds that held them in the slavery of sin. Nor was this all. He declared: 'Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.' Philippians 1:14."—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 464.
Seemingly, Paul made it to Rome in God's timing and way. As we read from Ellen White's quotes, God's way was more effective than in the way Paul first planned it. Are we as willing as Paul to do God's will in His timing and way?