As we move towards the end of Acts we see a shift in tone. Until now we have been with Paul as he travels around, telling people about Jesus, and starting or building up churches.
If this was a movie, we would cue dramatic music. Something ominous is coming. We join Paul in a room with his friends in Ephesus. Dinner remains on the table. What before was festive has become significant.
“Friends, I am going to Jerusalem and I fear I will never see you again!” Paul says. God has told him that imprisonment and afflictions await him in Jerusalem. Instead of skirting his mission, being miserable, or making the moment about himself, Paul says he only wants to finish his course and do what the Lord commanded him to do.
While he is Tyre, some disciples try to convince Paul not to go to Jerusalem. It seems that God confirmed to more than just Paul that pain and trials awaited him in Jerusalem. With love and compassion, they tried to convince Paul not to go. Paul responds with a statement of faith: For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Paul goes to the temple and is arrested. Jews from Asia, disgusted with Paul’s teaching, worked the crowd into a mob who grabbed Paul with the intention to murder him. But an official learned of the riot and intervened, placing Paul under arrest.
In the next few chapters we see that those who condemned Paul could find nothing solid to charge him with. Realizing they had no case, they sought to murder him on his way to court. Paul was given extra protection and appeared before Felix.
Paul’s Unique Position
As we read Paul’s testimony in chapter 22 we see the truly unique position of Paul. He is absolutely Jewish. By birth and by education, Paul is a model citizen of that culture. The fact Paul was educated by Gamaliel means he knew the Old Testament inside and out. He was a Pharisee before God interrupted everything. Paul’s unique testimony is another quality only he possesses.
Paul is also fully a Roman citizen. This is unique, because most Jews at that time did not hold “dual citizenship.” By being a Roman citizen by birth, Paul is entitled to protections and additional benefits (the right to vote, hold office, own property) including the right to defend oneself in court and the ability to appeal to Caesar himself to hear their case.
He knew the law.
He had the benefits of citizenship.
He underwent a radical act of grace.
He was filling a position only he could. Remember, the other disciples were not educated men. They lacked the formal education Paul had. They knew Jesus, walked with Him, saw His miracles, saw Him resurrected! Their testimony to Jesus’ life and impact was something Paul did not have. But when it came time to sit in the temple and show how Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy in the Old Testament – Paul’s education prepared him for such a moment. In fact, before his conversion, Paul originally used many of the same arguments being made against him!
We all have a unique perspective on the world. We all come at things with a set of experiences, lessons, upbringing, etc. that is unique to us. We are shaped by the world around us, by the choices we make, and the decisions of others. And all of that can be used to share a story only we can tell.
Paul’s position allowed him to fulfill the calling God had for him.
God has a calling unique to you.
Your Unique Position
I cannot do your calling. I do not have your experience. I did not grow up in your place. We do not have the same education. We also have different passions and things we enjoy.
When we accept that we are all made for a unique role, it minimizes comparison. We are each called to make a unique contribution.
Paul could talk to people the apostles could not. Their difference in upbringing and shared understanding prevented it.
You are able to relate to people I cannot. I can try my best, but there is some niche that is carved just for you.
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?Mark 8:34-37
When we acknowledge we are not in the driver seat and look to God for our purpose, He unveils something that is too big for us to do on our own! I am not talking about scaling Everest or crossing the Grand Canyon, though that might be part of your story. I am talking about a mission! Go and love these people. Be My light here. Use the talents I gave you for this.
We can assume we are in control, live a life we enjoy, attain what we want and get to heaven and realize we ran the wrong race. Or we can surrender, let God lead and, while it might be harder and full of less, we will get to heaven with a good sweat for the right reason.
Our mission will be too big for us. It will something we cannot do on our own. God wants us to get to the of ourselves and then take the next step in faith. If we can control it, we don’t need Him and dare I say we are not aiming high enough. The mission God has for you should give you pause. You want me to do what?!?! Okay, God – you and me together.
Paul ran his race to the end of himself. He found his God-given purpose and was relentless in it!
What race has God called you to?
What do you love to do? What group of people does your heart leap for? How have your experiences given you a way to engage others? What hurts have you not let God heal? We want to reach heaven with the tread on our shoes almost gone from running so hard. Let’s make sure we are running a race that matters.
Lord, I get quiet before you – what is your mission for me? I stay quiet and let you pour a vision over me. I don’t want a life I can dictate and control. Lord, that is living safe and You call us to bold, radical, cross-bearing, life-changing, heaven bound lives. I lay down control and surrender. Lord, what do you have for me?
One week left! March 25 – 31: Acts 24 – 28