‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.’ (Acts 20:22-24)
As I was asking the Lord what I might write for this month’s gazette, the phrase that popped in to my mind was ‘not knowing what will happen.’ There it is, above, in its context.
It is yet another phrase, from the Bible, that feels so appropriate for our times. Not knowing what will happen. Amen and Amen. In my sermon on Sunday I quoted some words from a therapist, referring to people’s mental and emotional states during this pandemic. Nearly all of it rang true, but most of all this line: ‘It is difficult to cope when . . . we see the finish line move farther and farther away.’ So true. It’s that same experience—‘not knowing what will happen.’ In the Western world we have grown used to having an extraordinary level of control over our circumstances and it has proved quite a shock to have that taken away.
So what gave Paul this bounding confidence to keep going? Surely, it was this deep conviction that he had an aim and a task in life—testifying to the gospel of God’s grace—that could not be prevented by any circumstances. Whether in prison or free, whether at ease or in hardship, whatever might happen, he could still testify to the gospel of God’s grace. And he did! I hope that I—and you—can grow in an assurance that even in these restricting times we can still serve the glorious gospel of Jesus. We still have a great purpose and reason to be on this earth!
Paul spoke these words some six or seven years (probably) before his execution in Rome. My only aim, he said, is to finish the race. Wonderfully, he did. Just before his death, in his last recorded piece of writing, he told Timothy, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the race.’ (2 Timothy 4:7) May God keep us through this present time—with all its ‘not knowing what will happen’—so that, by his grace, we might complete whatever it is he has given us to do.
Your brother in Christ