When we look at the life of the apostle Paul, we have to conclude that being a follower of Jesus Christ is not a ticket to an easy life. Paul was anointed by God to spread the gospel and he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, yet his life was one struggle after another. Here is a man who was highly favored by God and the path he traveled was a difficult one. God clearly does not want us to skate through life unimpeded. Challenging conflicts seem to be the order of the day in our walk with Christ. It seems to me safe to say if we are not facing difficulties, we have lost our way.
In chapters 18 – 20 of the Book of Acts, the apostle Paul continues his missionary journey spreading the gospel. Paul travels with a small group of disciples and together they share the saving grace of Jesus with Jews and Gentiles, having some success with both. They travel through city after city and often encounter Jews who saw Paul’s new teaching as a threat which would cause him to focus his efforts on the Gentiles. In one city, a group of craftsman challenged Paul because he was considered a threat to their business of making statues of the gods and goddesses they worshiped. After some tense moments, Paul was able to extricate himself from a near riot and continue on his way. Throughout his journey, Paul was performing miracles that served as a magnet for new followers.
“I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Acts 20:21 (NIV)
After traveling through many cities, and converting many Jews and Gentiles to Christianity, Paul made plans to return to Jerusalem. In all his travels, Paul was always dodging prison and he knew that when he returned to Jerusalem there was a good chance he would eventually end up in jail. Nevertheless, he soldiered on feeling compelled by the Holy Spirit to follow this route.
Keep in mind Paul did not travel with a large bank account and guaranteed accommodations. Paul worked his way from city-to-city as a tent maker (Acts 18:3). He never knew where his next meal was coming from or where he would find a warm bed to sleep. And when he was about to leave those he brought to Christ behind and return to Jerusalem, he knew full well false teachers would come after him and attempt to destroy his work.
“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” Acts 20:30-31 (NIV)
God was with the apostle Paul every step of the way just as he is with all believers. That doesn’t mean we won’t have a difficult journey. God wants us to grow in knowledge and wisdom. To that end, struggle is a main ingredient. I leave you with the message Paul gave to his followers before returning to Jerusalem. Remain strong in your faith.
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32 (NIV)
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