“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. (Acts 20:22-24)
After Paul revisited the church that he had served before, the Holy Spirit urged him to go to Jerusalem, so he obeyed. Although Paul did not know what would happen to him in the future, he knew that the Holy Spirit was already present in these cities, and that he would encounter hardships and prison.
Paul knew that there were prison and hardships facing him on his previous journey, and this experience would be different from his previous prison disaster, and even mean that he would be unable to meet with brothers and sisters. This meant that what he was to face would far exceed his previous encounters, and this hardships was likely to cost him his life. Paul did not back down and didn't even care about his own life and chose to obey the Holy Spirit. The purpose was to insist on completing his journey, fulfilling the duties and missions he had received from God, so that the people could hear the gospel. From the subsequent biblical records, we can see that when Paul went to Jerusalem, he was falsely accused by the Jews in the temple, was arrested by soldiers, then was sent to Rome, and later martyred there.
Although Paul was finally martyred, he could face Christ without fear. He could do this because he had fulfilled the mission entrusted by Christ and was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. As he himself said: " I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Tim. 4:7) It was because Paul attached great importance to the call and the mission from God that he became the greatest missionary in the history of the church.
In every age, God calls people to participate in his great mission. But today there are not many people like Paul who are not afraid of the hardships because of their trust in God and are willing to sacrifice their lives for the mission of God. Because people often love themselves more than God and value their own affairs more than God's call, this leads to them to be ashamed and failure to trust God.
Today when many people choose to serve God, they often don’t bear the burden of the mission to which they are called. Instead, they check if the environment and conditions are comfortable. Some people are unwilling to respond to God's call, even may even try to escape. Some people can't escape, but they are unwilling to answer the call immediately. So they bargain with God and postpone their service to Him. Even if these people respond to the call, they will back down because of difficulties they may face, and they may even again want to escape God’s call. How can such a person be loyal to God's mission? And how can he not be afraid of the hardships that he encounters, or even disregard his life and safety?
Christians are called to follow a narrow path, a path of service to God that is more difficult. Naturally, there are more challenges and hardships. It is absolutely impossible that someone who serves God faithfully will not endure hardships. If a person who is called by God or entrusted by God, wants to fulfill the mission he has received and be qualified for his position, he must have Paul’s will. He must not be afraid of hardships, must be committed, and even disregard his own life and safety. Such faithful ministry is a matter of course, and is worthy of God's office.
(Note: The author of this article is a co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian)
-Translated by Abigail Wu