“And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:22-24, NKJV).
Emerson said, “The hero is no braver than the ordinary man; he just fights five minutes longer.” Perseverance in the face of difficulty is a quality that is indispensable in the lives of those who leave a lasting mark on this world.
Paul was a man of indefatigable resilience. In his own words, which are filled with a passionate faith as he surveys the gloomy prospects of impending persecution, he says, “None of these things move me.”
Consider all that Paul endured as he pressed forward in faithfulness to Christ. Here is his own testimony:
“I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day.
“In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers.
“I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches.” (2Co.11:23-28, The Message).
It strikes with a sense of profound sobriety how none of these things fit with the happy American Gospel we hear blathered from so many pulpits today.Today’s preachers promise wealth and happiness, and a life free from pain and suffering. They wink at sin, and avoid controversy at all cost. They are soft as marshmallows….and equally as tasteless.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “There has never yet been a man in our history who led a life of ease whose name is worth remembering.” The Psalmist said it best, “Thou hast enlarged me in distress” (Psalm 4:1). Paul was one such man.
What was the secret of his prevailing faith; how was he able to persevere with so much dead set against him?He himself tells us the answer. As we read his own words we discover four distinguishing characteristics that stand out — charting for each one of us today the pathway through our own difficult challenges.
#1 – He had conviction of Spirit — “I go bound in the spirit,” he said. The word means to be irrevocably resolved in commitment to the present course of action. There is finality to the conviction Paul possessed. He was a man “bound in chains” from which there was no escape neither offered…nor desired. Any appeal made to Paul by his friends, urging him to take it easy, fell powerless to the ground. Something far more powerful held him firm to his dangerous course of action. “I go bound in the spirit,” he said.
#2 – He had courage of Heart – “not knowing what will happen to me there, except that bonds and afflictions await me.” It takes a man or woman of immeasurable courage to walk headlong into open hostility. Those who seek a life of ease will never reach the heights of glory gained by those who press upward against great oppositions.
#3 – He had composure of Mind — “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself.” Here we see the true magnificence of a selfless man. Paul was not looking for a chance to advance his career, bulk up his portfolio, sweep the competition, nor leave his mark in the Vaulted Halls of Man’s Celebrated Giants. Something higher and far nobler had captured his imagination. He had set his thoughts upon heaven, and the honor of the name of Jesus. And, though dismissed by the world as a fool with a misspent life, he is now cheered in the realms of glory as the Great Apostle of Grace.
#4 – He has constancy of Purpose — “that I may finish my race with joy.” And what a race he ran! Through valleys and over hills; in the thick of the woods, and out in the open meadows; upon rocky terrain, and across the hot desert sands — he ran with faith, and finished with perseverance. Such is the internal power of a prevailing purpose in life. I once read that a man can stand almost anything except a succession of ordinary days.
My friend, in what ways can you benefit by Paul’s example as you face your own challenges in today’s world? How might his words find a place in your life, and embolden you to rise in a new resolve of faithfulness — even if it’s against all odds?
Can we count on you to be an immovable man….and immovable woman? These are the soldiers we need on the front lines.