I’ve been working through Acts 20 today in preparation for a sermon coming up. This chapter is packed with many good thoughts for church leaders, especially pastors and other vocational ministers. It also has some applications for all of us who are part of the community of faith, and what to do when times get hard.
Paul is talking to the elders at Ephesus, and it is worth noting that this speech is the only occasion where he addresses a Christian audience. He knows he won’t see them again after his departure, and adds, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there” (Acts 20.22). Paul does mention that he expects to find hardships and trouble ahead as he shares the gospel.
Charles Swindoll said it this way: “What an honest admission! Going. . . not knowing. That’s the Christian life in a nutshell, isn’t it? Our Lord leads us to many crossroads, each time pointing us in a clear direction–not necessarily logical or explainable, but clear. So–out of sheer obedience–we strike out, facing a future as uncertain as we are.”
This goes in the face of a lot of teaching I had growing up. I’d often heard that the safest place to be is “the center of God’s will.” I like how that sounds, as it reminds me of that refrain of being “safe and secure from all alarms.” I can still sing that, but with the caveat that safety doesn’t translate necessarily into physical safety. If this was the safest place to be, then why all the martyrs for the faith through the centuries? It wasn’t and isn’t always the safest course of action to testify for Christ through what we say and do. However, I do believe the best place to be is where the Lord wants us to be. Doing this, in one sense, does make it the safest place because nothing else that happens to us matters in comparison to living out our faith. Paul was able to view his circumstances from a different perspective, knowing what was most important to him was finishing what he had started.
Churches face decisions regarding what kind of future they are going to have, and of course none of them know what is out there. What I am hopeful about is that we don’t have to know all the details of what’s ahead, only that we have our course, speed, and heading in place and trust the rest to God. It is helpful to have a community of faith to share our stories and challenges with and anticipate what God is going to do in 2013.