‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there’ (Acts 20:22).
In his farewell address to the leaders of the Ephesian church in Miletus, Paul told them that the Holy Spirit has compelled him to go to Jerusalem. Although the Spirit had warned him that ‘imprisonments and afflictions’ await him (20:23), Paul didn’t really know what was the exact purpose of the journey.
Despite the uncertainties, Paul was determined to make the journey. God has asked him to go, and therefore he simply must obey.
Countless missionaries throughout the long history of the Church have followed in the footsteps of Paul. They have set aside wealth, security, comfort and safety to venture into the unknown because they were ‘compelled by the Spirit’.
Some of them have witnessed the marvellous ways in which God has blessed their ministries. Others have laboured for decades without seeing any fruit. Still others have lost their lives because of their obedience.
Like Paul, these missionaries do not count their lives as valuable or precious if they are not lived for the glory of God. And like the apostle, they are consumed by one thing and one thing only: ‘[that] I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God’ (20:24).
The world will surely condemn such behaviour as reckless and irresponsible. It will mock such an outlook as incredibly naïve, even foolish.
But the good news of God’s salvation in Christ is brought to the four corners of the earth by those who are willing to be ‘fools for Christ’ (1 Corinthians 4:10). And the Church of God is built on the sweat and tears and blood of these servants of the Lord, who, because they were compelled by the Spirit, have simply obeyed.
Gracious God, our Father, thank you for the examples of the apostle Paul and all your faithful servants. Teach us to be responsive to your call and to always be willing to avail ourselves for your use. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.