The Real Issue
25 October 2017
Reading: Job 15; Acts 21-23
12 When we heard that, we and everyone there that day begged Paul not to be stubborn and persist in going to Jerusalem. 13 But Paul wouldn’t budge: “Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?” 14 We saw that we weren’t making even a dent in his resolve, and gave up. “It’s in God’s hands now,” we said. “Master, you handle it.” (Acts 21:12-14 MSG)
I get frustrated over this part of the story. Acts 21 tells of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem after saying goodbye to the Ephesian elders. Paul and his team arrived in Caesarea and stayed in the home of Philip, one of the original Acts 6 deacons. God had already spoken through Spirit-filled believers and warned him that if he went to Jerusalem trouble was in store. Now the prophet Agabus arrived and dramatically declared that Paul would be arrested by the Jews and handed over to the Romans.
The warnings were accurate, and it played out just the way God told Paul it would. It makes me think that there could be lots more chapters in the book of Acts if Paul had just heeded the warnings. However, if Paul had heeded the warnings, taken the safer option, and avoided Jerusalem, we might not have Paul’s prison letters that give us the New Testament theology of Christ, Grace, and God’s plan for the church.
The real issue is how you look at it! The issue for Paul’s friends was that they were concerned about what would happen to him. The issue for Paul is that he was anticipating how Jesus would use him if he followed through on his determination to reach Jerusalem. I think Paul was right to obey and Paul’s friends got it right when they said, “It’s in God’s hands now. Master, you handle it.”
I’ve got to ask myself, “Am I more concerned about what may happen to me if I take the risk of faith, or about how God will use me if I act in obedient faith?”
Father, I need your help on this one. I find myself thinking way too much about what might happen to me if I take risks and “faith-steps.” Help me to remember that it’s not what people do to me, but what you do in me and through me that really matters! Amen.