I‘ve been reading the book of Acts. It’s the book of how the Church spreads in its very early days. And what an incredible book it is. Wow, what an account of God’s Kingdom advancing…
This morning I read chapters 21-28, the final 7 chapters.
On his way back to Jerusalem from Ephesus, Paul and his team stopped at the home of Philip the Evangelist in Caesarea (Acts 21:8). A man named Agabus with the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea.
Agabus warned Paul very clearly not to go to Jerusalem, saying that the Holy Spirit was behind the warning. So convincing was he, Luke writes: “When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” Begged. How often do you beg someone not to do something?
Paul didn’t say that what was said was not of the Lord! No, in fact, it appears it was a large group of believers, all in unison, saying, in effect, “Don’t go! Please don’t go to Jerusalem. Not now. It looks like a bad ending, Paul.”
Well, Paul heard them; considered it carefully; and I’m happy to report, decided not to go. Whew! What a relief. … Are you kidding? No, that’s not what Paul decided. He would not be dissuaded, no matter how big, sincere or persuasive the group. He would not be dissuaded — no how, no way.
Here, in fact, is Paul’s answer to those who said, “Don’t go”:
“Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.”
Pretty clear, wouldn’t you say? Luke then writes this great line: “When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.'” I love Luke’s understatement. One word comes to mind: Guts? … No kidding!!
So off to Jerusalem Paul goes. But very soon after arriving in Jerusalem, yep you guessed it, Paul was indeed arrested (just as he had been predicted and just as Paul had been warned).
And, well, the book of Acts comes to an end with Paul spending the next several years either in prison (In Caesarea along the Mediterranean coast just 40 miles west of Jerusalem) or in Rome, where he finally did arrive and was kept under house arrest for several years.
Oh, and by the way, in the midst of Paul being transferred from one prison to another, there’s a fantastic shipwreck and a poisonous snake bite on Paul’s hand thrown in, too. All in a days work, for the old warrior from Tarsus.
After all, the Lord had appeared to Paul one night when those in Jerusalem were plotting to kill him. “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” (Acts 23:11)
No question, Paul knew the Lord’s voice. … He and God had been doing plenty over the decades and Paul knew what he heard that night in Jerusalem was the Lord. Hey, the man had work to do in Rome. The Lord had told him so. So no worries, mate. Press on. Prison. Oh well. Shipwrecks. Oh well. Snake bites by venomous vipers. Yep, that too. Press on. And that’s exactly what Paul did. My goodness…
Well, what else is there to say? Paul knew that he knew that he was supposed to go to Jerusalem. And by gum, nothing was going to stop him.
Paul in fact did make it to Rome. The book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest: “For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.” (NLT)
Wow. … Walking with the Lord takes courage, humility, determination and sometimes going against everyone else, even well-meaning folks who tell you that God has spoken to them about what will happen to you.
So good warriors, what are you and God going to do today that you know with certainty will take some of those above mentioned virtues coupled with lots of God’s wonderful grace? Whatever it is, may God give you courage, wisdom and deep discernment, that does in fact far surpass your human understanding…