I love this anecdote about Oscar Wilde at a dinner party. Here’s how Interesting Literature tells…
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 20:24
One of the marks of the apostle Paul’s life was that he knew exactly what his purpose was. The Good News of the Gospel utterly controlled him. He believed it, loved it, preached it, and defended it often at the risk of his life.
In this passage, he is speaking to church leaders of his journey to Jerusalem, where trouble and suffering await him, just as it did for his Lord. He saw his life as in some way fulfilling or completing the sufferings of Christ, almost as a quota to be filled by those who follow Jesus in this world.
But he was never derailed by whatever troubles he encountered along the way, as though resistance and opposition were something strange and unexpected. Rather they were the confirmation that he was on the right track. He was called to speak the truth about the realities of human life and Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He found that whenever he opened his mouth about these matters, there was plenty of trouble as a result. It’s really no different for believers today.
For Paul, the Gospel was so important, so powerful, and so urgent that nothing else on earth mattered as much as it did. Not even his life. It’s not that he had some sort of oddball, religious death wish, or that he longed to be a martyr to gain extra credits in God’s eyes, but that he found so much life and hope in the Gospel that even his life didn’t really matter in comparison.
If we gained the vision that Paul had, if we could see earthly life so overwhelmingly saturated with divine purpose, then the troubles and difficulties, even the great suffering that some are called to face, would be considered minuscule in comparison. So rather than praying for less trouble and fewer trials, let’s try pumping up the purpose. Let’s put Jesus and his kingdom at the center of everything and see how our personal problems seem to fade in their importance, only through depending on him and the power of his Holy Spirit.
Photo by Mike Page @KaltenbergMike