Glory in the Shadows…Devotional
Daily Reading: (Acts 20:22-24):
“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.”
Sometimes when you know what you have to do next the battle to get there becomes that much harder (Acts 20:23). It’s like watching football where your team is at the one-yard line and it is fourth down, you need a touchdown to win. You are in a run formation where everyone in the stadium knows you are going to run it. The opponent knows where you are going, so to gain that one yard is going to be an incredible battle. So, the Holy Spirit who would be like Paul’s coach here says: “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” (Acts 20:23). This fourth down play is going to be tough but in this holy huddle I am getting you ready for it. On to Jerusalem, to the end zone we go.
In Acts 20:16 we are told that “ Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16). So, because Paul is in a hurry with some more stops along the way. The journey Paul is on will prepare him for when he reaches his destination and God will prepare Paul using unsung heroes.
Now you might ask why is Paul in such a hurry to reach Jerusalem?
A wrong interpretation is that Paul is under the obligation of the Mosaic law to observe this holiday in Jerusalem. Paul’s great desire to be at the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost was not in order to keep that feast, but that he might have an opportunity of preaching the Gospel to a great number of Jews who were coming to the feast (Acts 20:16).
Compare this text:
We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4).
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there (Acts 20:22).
There seems to be a conflicting message from the Holy Spirit. This is a tricky translation. What is happening is the Holy Spirit testified to the truth that if Paul went to Jerusalem, prison and hardships would come. The believers who love Paul, then out of their out of love for him, they advise him not to go. The persecution quite often is the platform for the message to be preached (Acts 21:40).
The prophetic warning from the Holy Spirit was intended to prepare Paul, not to prevent him (Acts 21:10-11). There is a scene in the movie Rocky where he goes to the arena the night before the fight. He looks up at the banners and is confronted with the challenge ahead. But for some reason just being there, getting a feeling for what it will be like, prepares Rocky for the fight ahead. This message gives Paul the advantage as he is ready for what will come and because of it he will not miss his opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.
Of all the things Paul could have said to the audience Paul tells the story of how he met Jesus and the calling he has to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21). The most powerful story you can tell others is how you became a Christian and what the Lord has done for you. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live” (Acts 22:22)! The results are not up to us. Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day” (Acts 23:1). Our mission is complete when we share Jesus (Acts 23:1).