“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
If I had to choose a “life verse”, I would probably choose Acts 20:24. It’s equally challenging and encouraging. There’s this part of me that wants to really soak in every syllable, to bathe in the selflessness of it, to drink up the deep love for Jesus that drips from that statement. I mean isn’t this the goal, friends? The more time I have spent digging into it, I have come to love the verses leading up even more:
“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…”
Oh, that faith. Paul was well aware that he was walking into affliction. The Holy Spirit told him that suffering would come from what was next and Paul went anyway – dying to himself, totally engulfed in his mission of spreading the Gospel. If I am super honest, and maybe even semi cheesy….the very thought of a faith like this, lights my heart on fire. Can you relate?
I find myself in a season of life where I don’t know a lot of things. I feel God calling me into deeper waters, and painful levels of discomfort for His glory. A lot of things feel shaky, and uncertain. The ground I’m walking is foreign and doesn’t feel safe. And as I read this passage, I can’t help but consider all of the things that must have felt shaky and uncertain to Paul. Can you even imagine?
“I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, NOT KNOWING what will happen to me there…”
…and yet, he went anyway. The Spirit compelled him to move, and he was obedient. Paul is an amazing example of not shrinking back, of trusting God fully and having a willful obedience to Jesus. He wasn’t perfect, his past was muddy to say the least, but he was confident in who Christ called him to be, he understood redemption, and he was willing to die for the gospel.
Looking back on my short life and the “deep waters with Jesus” moments that I have missed, I am convicted to figure out why. What stood in my way of me digging in, of self-reflection, of cultivating a willing heart? And because I know that I am not alone there, I then begin to wonder what is the common denominator for all of us as we shrink back more into what feels safe and normal, and less of what feels like ocean waves. As I speak with other Christians, I have come to the conclusion that for most, it’s the fact that we enjoy our simple comforts. I mean, no one is saying openly that we choose those over sacrificial living for his kingdom, but when we dig in and we’re honest with ourselves, we find that is in fact what we are doing. Sure, we love Him, we pray to Him, we even work to be more grateful for His blessings. We pray for the ability to love others more, we increase our tithing, and begin memorizing more scripture. We look at our “Christian check-list” and we call it good enough. But, being madly in love with Jesus and living the confident life that He has called us to live is all of those great things…and it is so much more. It isn’t comfortable, it’s not glamorous or popular, and I’m learning it can be very lonely. It requires a ton of self-reflection and even more faith. Our flesh fights every bit of that and in our uncertainty, we make excuses for why bold faith and audacious living aren’t for us.
I can’t help but consider what we risk if we don’t color outside the lines — on smaller levels and on the larger levels. What relationships could be saved if we were willing to be bold for Jesus? What life-giving conversations could be had? And what about the Gospel? How many times have we missed out on sharing the Gospel because the fear of the waves overpowered our confidence in who Jesus says we are? What are we so afraid of? Failure? Rejection?
I love Matthew 5:13, it’s another one of my favorite verses, but again it’s the verses leading up to it that get my praise hands going.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The scripture not only promises that we will endure pain by following Him, but that we are blessed to do so. Blessed are we who experience pain for His glory, Blessed are we who walk the uncomfortable path for the sake of saving souls, blessed are we who point others to Him more than we point them to the latest deal at Target or our most recent obsession. (I mean, if we’re gonna get really real.) Blessed are we to walk in such company as Paul’s.
Friends, even as I edit this…I am thinking of a conversation that I had last week with a girlfriend, where she asked me to speak at a women’s gathering she was planning to put on…and how my immediate thought was “HELL NO”. haha. For the first time in my life, I am terrified of so many things. So.many.things. When I first began writing this piece earlier in the year, I didn’t understand fear, I didn’t understand why we wouldn’t just jump when Jesus said so, it all felt so simple to me. But now as I preare to re-share it, I’m editing from a deep place of raw understanding. I wrote this confidently 10 months ago, but the Lord knew I would need it now. Refinement is a gift, and no matter how I feel, I know that we have nothing to fear! Even if we “fail”, God is big enough to use that failure for his glory so long as we lay it all at his feet. He’s that big you guys, and because of his magnitude we get to run in freedom for his glory and know that he will meet us.
So when the ground feels shaky and the waves are large, remember that your God is colossal in comparison and His love is unrivaled. You are adored, you are enough, and you have been equipped for Kingdom work right where you are.