Can't travel? What Can You Do?
Are you a traveler? Have you been missing running around the world, seeing the sites, meeting new people, collecting new experiences?
It is hard today—nearly impossible—for anyone to plan a casual trip just for the fun of it without first thinking about the possibility of contracting the virus. One of our daughters told me the other day that there was a super reduced rate to go to the Grand Canyon. Tempting as that is, I will be staying put for quite some time.
That being said, I hope you are following the daily readings from the Acts of the Apostles that are covering Paul’s journeys around Asia. Because the content is so packed with the names of everywhere he went, I had to pull out the maps from my study bible in order to follow along.
His journeys are fascinating and they are dented with wonderful tidbits of his wisdom that are solid reminders of the purpose of his mission. If you have ever been bitten by the “it’s not real” bug, this will be the remedy you need.
What stands out for me in today’s reading from Chapter 20, Verses 17 and following, is the clarity Paul had about what he was supposed to do and why.
In today’s reading, he is warning people as he sets sail that they will never see his face again. Naturally, this was disheartening to those to whom he had been preaching for three years, bearing witness to the “gospel of God’s grace.” They didn’t want him to leave, but he had to.
Paul had his mission from God. He bravely went forward, knowing that he was facing “imprisonment and hardships” as he moved hurriedly towards Jerusalem, making several stops along the way.
He said, “I did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I bore witness . . . to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.”
Paul was “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem even though “What will happen to me there I do not know.” He had, however, been warned in “one city after another” by the Holy Spirit of the trials that lay ahead of him.
Now jump to the great prayer of Jesus in the Gospel of John, Chapter 17. Right at the beginning he begins praying to the Father and John gives us this definition of eternal life:
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
This “knowing” Jesus is not an academic knowing, brought about through study. Neither is it purely the fruits of a contemplative act of prayer or busyness in our service. Nobody goes on a trip like Paul did for those reasons alone.
This “knowing” comes from a unity that is greater than all of that. It is a shared life with God.
If we put Paul’s journeys together with the definition of eternal life we can see that nothing was going to stop Paul from fulfilling his mission, because his life was given over to God.
But what is interesting, when you think about it, is that it is evident in Paul’s mission that he had great concern for the benefit of others and he understood the necessity of being a witness.
In other words, how will others receive the good news of eternal life if those who can bear witness to it do not share it? If others are to benefit from hearing about Jesus, the Kingdom and all of that, somebody has to speak up!
Today—at least most of us—are not able to run all over Asia and set sail in order to spread the Word of God, but that shouldn’t stop us from listening to the Holy Spirit and discerning what we can do, wherever we are.
If Paul and the others worked so hard to do this, we must assume it is a matter of life and death. It certainly was for them.
And remember, it wasn’t about accolades or profit, as we hear so clearly from Jesus in the Gospel of John, when he said to the Father, “I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Accomplish the work that God gives you to do, so that you can glorify him, and then as Paul shows us, others will benefit from your witness.