Lent Devotional: Acts 20:17-34
by Jonathan Haefs
Today’s devotional is authored by Brad Brown
Acts 20:17-34 (You can read the entire passage here)
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24)
It’s good to remember that the Apostle Paul lived with a lot of uncertainty. In our text for today Paul reveals that he is being guided by God to go towards Jerusalem. Yet, it is a journey of uncertainty. He does not know the exact purpose or what will happen to him. It seems that all he knows is that suffering awaits (If I had to pick one thing to know, I’m not sure that would be it).
Still…Paul does not know what will be the end of his suffering… Will this lead to death? Once again… He doesn’t know… but he is certainly prepared for that possibility.
One would think that this knowledge of suffering would lead Paul in a different direction. But it doesn’t… Why? Paul remarkably does not see his own life as a possession to hold onto at all costs. For Paul, what matters more than his own life is finishing the course that God has prepared for him… No matter the end.
As I read Paul’s speech here, he almost feels like an otherworldly figure… The call on his life, and the suffering he was faced with, feels so far removed from my daily christian existence (I type this as I sit in my office wishing the temperature was 72 degrees rather than 73).
I need to be careful though because to make this all about what Paul did would be to remove myself from God’s story of redemption… It would be to make myself an audience member instead of a fellow actor called to take up my cross.
I need to be reminded that God has gifted and placed all of us in a specific moment to accomplish his purposes in creation whether we are a student, stay at home mom, plumber or retired.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”
Here, Paul is telling the readers that when they become Christians it doesn’t mean that have to change what they are doing in their life – marriage, parenting, social station or job in order to live holy and pleasing lives before the Lord.
In the context of the chapter it’s clear that Paul is talking about everyday work. He uses the words “assigned” and “called” to refer to everyday tasks in society. Just as God calls people into faith and gifts them for building up the church so God calls and equips believers with various abilities and talents to work for the good of the community.
All of us, no matter how ordinary it may seem, are called with Paul to lay down our lives for the ministry that God has given us… All of us in our various vocations have a singular mission: the Glory of Jesus Christ. With this calling there will inevitably be uncertainty and a particular type of suffering.
So let’s mediate and wrestle with the reality that our lives are not our own. Lets ponder together what it looks like for us in our various vocations to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. All of us have been called. All of us have a race to run. All of it matters. Amen.