Acts 20:22-24 And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
That is the Apostle Paul laying it out pretty clearly. He was willing to go to prison and give up his own life in order to fulfill the job that Jesus had given him. And of course he did go to prison, and he did lose his life. But what an impact he had, and even more so because of his willingness to put the gospel above his own safety. That is one of the reasons his message stood out.
How far are you willing to go to stand for Christ? Christians have not suffered very dire persecution in this country yet. Some slight persecution, yes, but nothing like what Paul had to endure. And nothing like what many Christians in Africa, China and other areas of the world have to endure today. There is a book called Jesus Freaks that details the stories of many modern martyrs for Christ. It’s a tough read. As I read it, I wondered if I would have the strength and courage to continue to stand for Christ in the face of the consequences they faced. I kind of doubted it because I am not a big fan of being tortured. I don’t even like feeling hunger pains from missing a meal. I’m pretty spoiled.
But focusing on the momentary pain is holding the wrong point of view. What is a moment compared to eternity? Paul was focused on his goal to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus had given him. The greeting that Jesus is likely to give Paul upon the Apostle’s resurrection is “Well done good and faithful servant.” Sometimes I wonder if my greeting will be “I hardly knew you,” due to some of the choices I make in my life.
It is far too easy to deny Christ in little ways here and there. Such as not telling a coworker you are praying for them for fear of offending them. Not telling someone something like “May God Bless You” so that you don’t look too “Christiany.” (If that’s even a word – spell check doesn’t think so.) Or maybe if you are not willing to stand up and call a behavior wrong within a group of people that is calling that behavior right.
We as Christians are going to have a LOT of opportunities for that last one in particular in the days to come. For example, I can envision attempts to begin to categorize sections of scripture as hate speech under our country’s current direction. What do we do then?
So how far will you go in those types of situations? Will you stand up for the truth of God’s word, even if it perhaps meant going to jail? What are the lines you are going to draw in the proverbial sand? I encourage you to draw the lines now and stick to them. God’s word does not change. What you know to be true, or right or good now, is also going to be true or right or good in five years, and then again in ten years. But society will likely say it isn’t true or right or good any more over that time span. When that happens, we are more likely to change our own stance. I and you have already seen this in action in the church at large in the last two to three decades at least. That is why it is important to think upon these things now and and decide to make a stand in our minds.
Acts 21:12-14 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
May we all have the courage and fortitude of Paul, because the temporary pleasures of this life and this time are not worthy to be compared to the eternal gift of kingdom living. Times are only going to get tougher for Christians in this world and in this country. Don’t deny Christ in order to experience the current age longer at the risk of losing entry into the next age later.
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 20:4-23:35.
Tomorrow we will read Acts 24-26.