Dr. Luke’s bird’s-eye view of Paul’s third missionary journey continues in Acts 20, which includes important details of people, places, days and times. I get excited about the connection of biblical content to historical events, and even physical places which can be visited today – this attests to the historicity of the events described and often allows for a better understanding of the context of the times. Grounding the Scripture in this way is important to me, perhaps because what I find “safe” are things that are logical and demonstrable.
Initially, this chapter settled me into my comfort zone – put on my old favorite sweatshirt, plop down in my slouchy couch with a cup of coffee, and enjoy the show. However, upon closer analysis, this text poured a bucket of ice-cold water on my previously-relaxed self. Acts 20:22–24 follows:
22 “And now I am bound by the Spiritto go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, 23 except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. 24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
Paul was in tune with the Holy Spirit, who was guiding his movements. Paul was “bound” (or compelled or constrained) by the Spirit to go. Even with the expectation of suffering ahead, he still went.
For me, it is one thing to understand managing through suffering when it is encountered; it is entirely another thing to proceed knowingly into suffering. Vibrantly illustrating this point is perhaps my most frequent, recurring prayer. Fundamentally, it is a heart-felt, fearful prayer for protection.
Although God’s protection isn’t a bad thing to pray for (it is often covered in Psalms), protection must not be the obsessive focus. Aligning with God’s will for my life may not result in the kind of protection I think I need for me and my family. This is a difficult truth for me to accept, yet the fact that I have even started this sentence in this way demonstrates I’m very much a work-in-progress.
While I will keep praying for protection, my simple desire is to listen more and follow more closely the leading of the Holy Spirit. I am strengthened, encouraged, and challenged by Paul’s perspective in verse 24 – I have been assigned work by Jesus, and I better get on with the business of finishing it!
What work has the Lord Jesus assigned to you? Are you making progress?