October 9, 2019
Acts 20:17-24 (NIV)
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 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.
Do you remember when we first met Paul back at the public execution of Stephen? Remember, he was the one who was holding the coats of the executioners. He made a name for himself dragging “Followers of the Way” out of their homes and to their deaths. On horseback en route to Damascus, arrest warrants in hand, the Spirit of God accosted him with a bright light and he found himself in a confrontation with none other than Jesus himself.
As we have made our way through this story I keep remembering what the Spirit of God said to Ananias, who would be God’s messenger to Paul:
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)
If there is a consistent message to Paul throughout the course of his ministry it is this one: how much he must suffer for Jesus’ name.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul expressed how he understood his calling: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24)
Look how he says it in today’s text: “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”
Why is Paul doing this? Is he trying to atone for his sins? After all, he considers himself the “chief of sinners.” No, he says it clearly—his life’s purpose is to testify to the good news of God’s grace. A warning like this would likely persuade me to run in the other direction. Not for Paul. He ran headlong into it.
Neither is this dutiful obedience. Paul is not gritting his teeth. He knew he could do all of this and if he did not have love, it was all for nothing.
That’s Paul’s secret—love. Not the soft, mushy, bland version of sentimentality we commonly associate with the word today. No, this is love in its purest and most holy form—the form of suffering. Paul offers a masterful illustration of what may be the most primary and compelling message of the gospel of Jesus Christ: The way of love is suffering. Love suffers, gladly, joyfully, willingly, and unconditionally.
Love is not soft. Love is hard.
It was true for Paul and it is true for us. Suffering is not punishment. Suffering for the sake of the love is all privilege.
Its’ why at Seedbed we are fond of the latin phrase, Sola Sancta Caritas! It means, “Only Holy Love!”
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
How do you explain the profound transformation in the life of Paul, from killing Christians to suffering for them? How does this shape your vision of love?
For the Awakening,