Today we pick back up Paul’s story in Acts 20:1-21:16. At this time, the Spirit of God has impressed upon him that he needs to return to Jerusalem. After writing the letter to the Romans, he leaves Corinth and travels back through Greece and Macedonia, then sails along the coast down to Miletus.
Miletus was close to Ephesus, where Paul had spent much time evangelizing, teaching and discipling. Because the Spirit has warned him that hardship and prison lay ahead for him in Jerusalem, he takes the time to call the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him in Miletus, to say good-bye. He knows if he takes the time to visit Ephesus itself, he will not be able to leave easily or quickly, and his goal is to be in Jerusalem by the Feast of Pentecost.
This impresses me. Which would you choose? To take a detour to visit a group of beloved friends, where you know you will be welcomed and loved and cared for, or keep to the quicker, more direct path into the lion’s den of persecution waiting for you? It reminds me of the descriptions in the gospels when Jesus turned His feet toward Jerusalem as well, where He knew crucifixion awaited Him. The Spirit of God who directed Paul’s steps also gave him the courage and determination to face it with intentional boldness.
In his “good-bye speech” to his friends from Ephesus, Paul states his life’s purpose: “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.” (20:24) Because he had already determined his life’s mission statement, he did not waver when that mission took him into hard places. He faced it with calm assurance and faith in God’s sovereign plan, and if it ended with his death, he was ready.
Do you have a “life mission statement”? When your life is ended, what do you want to be remembered for? What do you want to have accomplished? A big bank account? Lots of possessions? What mark do you want to leave on your family? Your friends? Your neighbors? When people mention your name years after you’ve left this earth, what words will come to mind in your memory? When your obituary is read, it will be evident who you served in this life—yourself, others, or the Savior.
Maybe you’re just concerned with getting through the day with all that is on your plate. I understand, but if we’re not careful, we’ll look back when we’re almost done with this world and realize we’ve wasted our lives. I don’t want that to happen in my life, nor in yours.
If you’re wondering if you have a “life mission statement,” you do. The things you think about, spend your time on, use your energy, money, and resources to do…those define your life’s mission. Perhaps a good takeaway for us is to give some thought to it, asking God to show us where we need to “re-write” and “re-set” our life’s purpose so that, like Paul, we have the courage to face whatever awaits us, wherever God leads us.