Jump Start # 2479
Acts 21:12 “And when we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.”
Our verse today is filled with emotions and hard to put into proper thinking for us. The apostle Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem. He also wanted to go to Rome. The path to Jerusalem would take him to Rome. But it wouldn’t be a comfortable journey. Persecuted, beaten, accused, arrested he would see Rome, but mostly from a prison cell. In Rome he would die.
And, sprinkled all through this chapter are warnings and pleadings not to go. The disciples warned him (21:4). A prophet even warned that he would be bound if he went. Our verse has both the disciples and the locals begging Paul not to go.
The following verse Paul says, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Was it faith? Was it being stubborn? Was it ignoring wise counsel and advice? Was it not being realistic? Paul was going. He was going even though others begged him to stay.
We know of a similar spirit when it comes to other things. A young man during wartimes is determined to join the military. His mother begs him not to. He feels it is a sense of duty and he ignores all risks and dangers to serve his country.
It’s hard to know when to listen to the advice of others and when to follow your heart. The brethren had Paul’s wellbeing in mind. Paul didn’t seem to care about his safety or even his life. The cause, the purpose was much greater than his life.
Here are some thoughts that I have:
First, you just have to love Paul’s faith and spirit. Far too many keep their boats close to the shoreline because it safe. Comfortable settings can make us lazy and not challenge us to do as God wants. Starting a new congregation, or moving to a struggling work both have a long list of reasons why this may not be a good idea. But the kingdom needs those who ignore what’s on those lists and will put faith and heart all in with God.
Second, now comes the opposite. The wisdom of brethren is not something to be ignored. Just because I want to do something doesn’t mean that I should. What we are dealing with here is Paul’s life and the work in the kingdom. This is much graver subject than taking on a new job or switching schools. One ought to listen to wisdom in those areas, but one is not likely to be killed for those things. This is one of the important roles of shepherds. We ought to seek their advice. We ought to listen to what they have to say. We ought to understand that they speak both from wisdom and from a spiritual standpoint. They may see things that we do not. They may know us and know how we will do in those situations. How many have taken a new job without thinking about the spiritual implications. Working Sundays? When are you going to worship? Did you think about that? Did you run that by anyone? Moving to an area where there is no congregation? Is that best for your family? Can you handle the spiritual demands of establishing a congregation? Taking a job that will put you on the road for weeks at a time? What about your marriage? What about the kids? We need to listen to others.
Third, how do you think these brethren knew about Paul and Jerusalem? He’d told them. He was open. He wasn’t keeping secrets. I’ve known people who let it be known for the first time, that today is my last day here. We are moving. They told no one. They sought no advice. They announced it and it was all signed, sealed and delivered. Paul let the brethren know. He was transparent with them. It’s hard to help one another when we keep our lives secret and our plans unknown to others.
Fourth, in the end, we must live with our decisions. Some will never be pleased. As a preacher I have moved a few times. Most of us preachers have. That’s always a hard decision. One must think about the work, the good that can be done, your family and so many factors. In every move, there have been tears of goodbyes. That’s hard. Opening new chapters, often means, closing others. The brethren wanted Paul to stay. They didn’t want to see him hurt any more. Paul listened. He made his choice and with it came consequences. Had he stayed where he was, he might have lived longer. Going allowed him to save some within Caesar’s household. His captivity and his coming death, has stirred hearts even ours with great courage, faith and hope in the Lord. Should he have stayed? Should he go? Sometimes the choice isn’t really clear. Sometimes it’s hard to know what God wants. Sometimes one must just trust his heart and do what he feels is right. For Paul, once he got to Rome, there was no going back. There was no changing his mind. His fate was now in the hands of Rome.
Finally, there may be times when we are standing in the shadows of these brethren. We beg. We cry. We don’t want someone to go. It’s not a matter of right and wrong. It’s not about sinful choices. Yet, one goes. They go, even though we’ve expressed ourselves as strongly as we could. Now, we must wish them God’s speed and hope for the best for them. We pray for them. We want them to do well. Sometimes a person will go against the advice we have for them. It’s time to put things in the Lord’s hands and want what is best for all.
Go or stay. Do what others want or do what you feel is best. Stay put or head to Jerusalem. Paul didn’t let crying brethren change his mind. He didn’t stay just to make them feel better. He had a purpose. He knew the dangers. He was aware of what was probably going to happen. Paul knew what Jesus went through on the cross. How could Paul not be willing to suffer for the cause of Christ?
I am ready is what Paul said. He went with his eyes wide open. That’s what faith will do for you.