Act 20:24 (NIV)
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.
Our Verse of the Day shares a deep introspection from the Apostle Paul … a perspective on the “meaning of life” that each of us search to find at some point on our journey of faith. Indeed, living out and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ IS the task of every believer … regardless of our vocation, location, or situation in life. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And so, we have been saved to do the good works ordained for us. As Paul reminded the Colossians: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) Likewise, he preached to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Cf. Galatians 2:20) Like Paul, we too are to complete the tasks God has given us to do … “being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus. (Cf. Philippians 1:6)
Up to this point in Acts 20, Luke has been documenting the missionary journey undertaken by Paul and the evangelical opportunities for ministry afforded to him along the way. It has been a fruitful journey, but there have been hardships and challenges in the midst of preaching the Gospel and discipling elders in the churches he labored to establish. This is the backdrop when we reach our passage:
Acts 20:17-24 (NIV)
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 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.
Paul is in route to Jerusalem. His mind is made up … his determination will not be thwarted. Regardless of the dangers and hardships that await him along the journey, Paul is committed to complete the task that he received from the Lord Jesus. Though he is convinced in his own spirit that the end of his life and mission draws nigh, none of what the Holy Spirit has revealed to him alters his decision. He confides: “I do not count my life of any value or dear to myself. I must finish my course … I must run this race. I must complete the work and ministry that was given to me by the Lord Jesus … to preach the Gospel.” What incredible resolve! What an awesome testimony of faithfulness! We would all do well to follow the example of Paul….
I found his use of the word “race” a salient metaphor. To me, the word conjures images of physical exertion; the need for both strength and conservation of energy in order to endure; and a sense of urgency to finish in a short amount of time. This should be our focus as well … as we look to fulfill our mission as the Church. There should be a sense of urgency for us to share the Gospel of grace as well. Like Paul, we need to hear the direction of the Holy Spirit and be under compulsion to advance the Gospel. Indeed, there is a race for each of us to run, not in vain competition, but to advance the Kingdom of God with the utmost imperative to act promptly, decisively, and without delay.
Paul declared, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus Christ as given me.” He indicates that this “mission” … this “purpose” … surpasses everything else once deemed important in his life. Paul counts his life and previous ambitions as worthless in comparison to the work he became commissioned to do. In essence, Paul was saying that nothing (prison or hardships) would deter him from completing the good work he was created in Christ Jesus to do. He reasoned: whatever the risks of following the Lord Jesus and accomplishing His will for my life is more important than my own inward, personal aspirations I used to have in life. It represents a complete surrender to the will of God, and I believe this is an important principle for us to embrace in our walk of faith….
I sometimes wonder if we ever feel the same way? Do we purpose for every action and activity done over the course of the day to be integral to the ministry which we have received from the Lord Jesus? That was the heart of Jesus. That was the practice of the Apostles. That is the challenge to the Body of Christ! Will we endeavor to let what we do demonstrate who we are in Christ? As you can see, this verse has challenged me to look inwardly … to ask what value my life brings to the Kingdom of God? Is my aim to grow a larger business or to have greater impact on the spread of the Gospel? The question explores which purpose or objective is at the forefront of my thoughts as each day unfolds? Is my vocation the aim of my life … or is the focus to complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me to do? I think these are questions that many of us ask ourselves.
But even as I ask these questions, I wonder: “Do these options have to be mutually exclusive – meaning both cannot happen at the same time?” God forbid! I believe the answer should be they are mutually inclusive – meaning neither can happen independent of the other. What I do for a vocation can and should be aligned and integrated with the work God prepared in advance for me to do. For God should not be relegated to a part of my life … when He IS my total life. Thus, I believe our occupations should facilitate the achievement of what the Lord Jesus has commissioned for each of us to complete during our time here on earth. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Cf. Acts 17:28).
My friends, when the Word of God convinces our souls of the truth and we place our faith in Jesus, a new dimension of life enters our existence. Our spirits … our inner beings … are born again! Our concept of “self” is radically altered. We are changed from within! We are new creations! The old has gone, the new is here! And so, the value or worth we placed on our previous existence is changed as well. What we thought we valued for our lives is replaced with a “purpose” of far greater significance. Our lives, resurrected in Christ, have a new motivation: to live worthy of the Lord; to please Him in every way; to be productive in His Kingdom for His glory! As Paul encouraged, “Forget what is behind and press onward to what is ahead. Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Cf. Philippians 3:13-14)
So Now You Know…
Have a Blessed Day!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~ Hebrews 12:1-3