17 Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church. 18 When they came to him, he said to them, “You know, from the first day I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and during the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I did not avoid proclaiming to you anything that was profitable or from teaching you publicly and from house to house. 21 I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in every town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:17-24 CSB
The Apostle Paul is such an interesting historical figure. Before he became one of the primary people led by the Holy Spirit to write so much of the New Testament he was a deadly prosecutor of followers of Jesus. In Acts 9 we read about Jesus blinding Paul and told Paul to stop persecuting Him and sent him on a mission. He had an extremely dramatic conversion to following Jesus and his life certainly never ceased being dramatic.
22 I remained personally unknown to the Judean churches that are in Christ. 23 They simply kept hearing, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.” Galatians 1:22-23 CSB
Paul is one of my favorite people in scripture. He so boldly went wherever the Lord called, said what he needed to say, and did the work God led him to do. He was a bit harsh when it was necessary, and gentle in the right moments as well. He learned, by the Holy Spirit, to minister to different people groups in different circumstances. There is so much to learn from him about how to live as a follower of Jesus and minister to the world around us without shame over our faith or the mission we have been given.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 CSB
One of my favorite things, though, is actually that he led such a life of turmoil but understood that there was a purpose for all of it. Paul understood that his reward was not here, but was awaiting him in Heaven. He understood what it meant to be truly persecuted for the sake of Jesus and sharing the Gospel and didn’t run from it. He embraced discomfort, pain, imprisonment. He kept on in his God-given mission and kept trusting in the Lord to use his painful circumstances for His glory.
Paul is an incredible example of growing through discomfort. He teaches us so much about placing Jesus as our reason, priority and mission. He shows us as a fellow human being the depths we should be willing to go through, the lengths we should be willing to travel, the pain we should be willing to endure to further the mission and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to get uncomfortable so we can grow, but we can’t do that if we stay in our little bubble of protection. We cannot grow in faith if we never act in faith, or only leap when it is convenient.
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. Galatians 2:19-21 CSB
Paul says in Acts 20:24 “I consider my life as no value to myself;” - he understands his life belongs to the Lord. He goes on to say “my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” Friends, fam in Christ, we all share this exact mission. God has given you a mission to testify to the gospel, to share His Word, to plant seeds of faith into as many hearts as He gives you opportunity to. We are all on mission, all part of a shared ministry, and our lives are not our own.
My life is the Lords. I give myself over to Him every day, moment by moment, and seek His guidance in living through whatever pains and joys He brings me through so that I can serve, honor, glorify and testify every chance I get. I don’t always get it right, I never will, but I surrender again and again to His plan knowing His plans are bigger than me and I am blessed to be a part of it.
14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, 16 by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing. Philippians 2:14-16 CSB
Next time you read any of Paul’s letters take a deep look at how he gives his life over to be used for the Lord, whatever it means, and doesn’t let pain, persecution, imprisonment, difficulty or discomfort stop him, put his plans on pause, or excuse him from what God has called him to do.
7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, 8 because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. Galatians 6:7-10 CSB
Check out our reading plan that walks you through all of the Epistles of Paul and be encouraged by the lessons we can derive from this collection of letters.