“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:22–24, AV)
Often in life, fears assail us. Long before the Lord saved me, while I was in college studying engineering, I was preparing to go into the military. It was during the Vietnam conflict. All of us who were seeking a commission in the United States Army at that time understood that we would likely be assigned to a combat unit in Vietnam after graduation. Honestly, the thoughts of this were a bit frightening. I remember watching the casualty reports on the evening news and the television images of caskets being flown into Dover Air Force Base. Some of the ROTC cadets that began with me as freshmen dropped out of the program within a couple years. Others did not. What was the difference? I would have to say, it was the degree of allegiance that the individual cadets had to our country and its cause. While fears come in this life, duty and commitment are aspects of faith that move people to act in spite of fear.
In the previous devotion, we saw that Paul summoned the Elders of Ephesus. In his discourse he indicated that he was on his way to Jerusalem and, that this would be his last opportunity to spend time with them. Paul explained that his destiny was uncertain, but in general, things did not look good. Paul would face prison and afflictions.
Paul faced things that drive fear into the best of us. The uncertainty of what lies ahead tends to frighten us. This is because we know that the future could bring both blessing and hardship. No one really knows what lies around the corner. However, Paul did have a general idea. The Holy Spirit revealed that he would endure hardship and prison. The word for affliction, thlipsis, literally means a pressing together, meaning something quite uncomfortable. In spite of this knowledge, Paul moved courageously forward into the unknown trials that await him. How does he do this? How does he conquer the natural fears and anxieties that come with such knowledge? He does so because Paul walked by faith and not by sight. Paul lived a life yielded to the control of the Spirit of God.
In the discourse, Paul stated, “I go bound in the spirit.” While there is some discussion as to whether the “spirit,” pneuma, in the Greek text refers to Paul’s spirit or the Spirit of God, it was the commission of God which compelled Paul. This commission and the enabling of the Spirit of God moved Paul to serve with great courage in the midst of uncertainty.
Courage marks the person of faith. While we naturally encounter fears as we negotiate the great adventure of life, the only way we can move forward is with courage by faith. We who trust God realize that He is sovereign over the affairs of our lives. He has an awesome purpose for our lives. Moreover, we also realize that He is actively engaged in our lives to bring about these purposes. Regardless of the circumstances we face, God is in control and He does work out these things for our good (Romans 8:28).
Paul’s courageous trip to Jerusalem stands as an example for us. It is an example of courage in the face of the unknown. Perhaps when you face the unknown and begin to fear, you should consider the example of Paul. Take some time to reflect upon the faith walk of Paul. Take some time to consider our Lord and our God who walks with us every step of the way and be courageous.