BY NADINE MITCHELL
My life verse is Acts 20:24. I want to soak every syllable, I want to bathe in the selflessness of it, to drink up the love for Jesus that drips from that statement. What I’ve come to love more about this scripture is the verses leading to it.
“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value…”
Paul was well aware that he was walking into affliction. The Holy Spirit told him that suffering would come from what was next and Paul went anyway-- no shrinking back, totally engulfed in his mission of spreading the Gospel. The very thought lights my heart on fire. Can you relate?
I find myself in a season of life where I don’t know a lot of things. I feel God calling me into deeper waters, and painful levels of uncomfort for His glory. A lot of things feel shaky, and uncertain. The ground I’m walking is foreign and doesn’t feel safe. As I read this passage, I can’t help but consider all of the things that felt shaky and uncertain to Paul.
“I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, NOT KNOWING what will happen to me there…” And yet, he went anyway. The Spirit compelled him to move, and he was obedient. Paul is an amazing example of not shrinking back, of trusting God fully and having a willful obedience to Jesus. He wasn’t perfect, his past was muddy, but he was confident in who Christ called him to be and he was willing to die for that.
As I look back on my life and the “deep water with Jesus” moments that I have missed, I am convicted to figure out why. What stood in my way of digging in, of self-reflection, of cultivating a willing heart? And because I know that I am not alone there, I then begin to wonder what is the common denominator for all of us as we shrink back more into what feels safe, and less of what feels like ocean waves. As I speak with other Christians, I have come to the conclusion that for most, it’s the fact that we enjoy our comforts. Sure, we love Him, we pray to Him, we even work to be more grateful for His blessings, and pray for the ability to love more, we start tithing more, and memorizing more scripture. But, being madly in love with Jesus and living the confident life that He has called us to live is all of those great things, and also so much more. It isn’t comfortable, it’s not glamorous or popular, and I'm learning it can be very lonely. It requires a ton of self reflection and even more faith. Our flesh fights every bit of that and in our uncertainty, we make excuses for why bold faith and audacious living aren’t for us.
I can’t help but consider what we risk if we don’t color outside the lines -- on smaller levels and on the larger levels. What relationships could be saved if we were willing to be bold for Jesus? What life-giving conversations could be had? What Holy Spirit truth could be shared? And what about the Gospel? How many times have we missed out on sharing the Gospel because fear of the waves overpowered our confidence in who Jesus says we are?
I love Matthew 5:13, but again it’s the verses leading up that gets my praise hands going.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The scripture not only promises that we will endure pain by following Him, but that we are blessed to do so. Blessed are we who experience pain for His glory, Blessed are we who walk the uncomfortable path for the sake of saving souls, blessed are we who point others to Him more than we point them to the latest deal at Target or our most recent obsession. Blessed are we to walk in such company as Paul’s.
So when the ground feels shaky and the waves are large, remember that your God is colossal in comparison and His love is unrivaled. You are adored, you are enough, and you have been equipped for Kingdom work right where you are.