22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[d] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 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)
Through the Bible: Acts 20-23
As I write this, my wife and I are packing for a cruise. We’ve never been on a cruise before. We’ve watched YouTube videos, we’ve talked to other people who have been on a cruise, we’ve done our best to be prepared. But we still don’t know what to expect. All we know is that we expect it to be wonderful.
When Paul said goodbye to the believers in Ephesus, he was also getting ready for a cruise. Acts 21 tells us he would have ports of call at Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Tyre (and that’s just in the first 3 verses!).
Paul expressed some of the same things to the Ephesians that Trish and I are feeling about this trip. He also did not know what to expect. He didn’t know what would happen to him on the way to Jerusalem.
But unlike Trish and me, Paul was not anticipating something wonderful. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that at every port of call there would be imprisonments and afflictions. Once he set sail, he continued to receive warnings from the believers he met in each city (see 21:4, 10-12).
I think that if the Holy Spirit had told Trish and me that we would face imprisonment and affliction every day of our trip, we might have rethought this vacation. Certainly if the deacons and elders at our church told us through the Spirit not to go (see 21:4), we would have tried to get our money back. If a prophet borrowed my belt, tied it around my wrists, and said “Thus says the Holy Spirit: this is how the people at Nassau will bind the man who owns this belt” (see 21:10-12), we would absolutely stay home.
But what was Paul’s response? “You’re breaking my heart! I’m ready not just to be imprisoned, but to die in Jerusalem” (21:13).
The key to Paul’s attitude is his statement in 20:24: “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.”
So I guess my prayer is a little conflicted today. On one hand, it’s, Lord, give me that kind of perspective! Even if I don’t know what my future holds, help me be laser focused on finishing my course and testifying to the gospel.
At the same time, Lord, I really pray that affliction doesn’t await me in the Bahamas.