January 12, 2011: Acts 20:22-24 & Romans 1:14-17 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Joyce Lai, Gracepoint Hsinchu

Acts 20:22–24

If vs. 24 can be characterized as Apostle Paul’s “statement of purpose” for his life, what is the “statement of purpose” for my life?  Based on the way that I have lived my life, how would I fill in the blanks to the statement: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may _______________   and complete the _________.”  What steps can I take to make my life conform more to Apostle Paul’s statement of purpose for life?

Apostle Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and everywhere he was going he had warnings of prison and hardships, yet he was not into preserving his life, self-promoting, or shrinking back in any way. Rather, he considered his life worth nothing to him, if only he may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given him – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

I was thinking about how easy it could be for me to think that my statement of purpose is the same as Apostle Paul. I’m out here in Taiwan, serving God, reaching out to students, trying to love the people around me. But if I really paused to think about it, I have to ask myself am I really compelled by the Spirit, moving in the ways God wants me to, even if prison and hardships face ahead? I think often instead I am compelled by my own emotions, my ego, my preferences, my own agendas. When things are familiar and comfortable, when it won’t be too taxing on me physically and emotionally – I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. In other words, do I really consider my life worth nothing to me? Or is some of me, trying to preserve myself, remain safe, comfortable, self-promote in some way?

The steps that I must take to make my life conform more to Apostle Paul’s statement of purpose for life, is to push forth when the hardships come, push forth even not knowing what will happen to me. I have to fight against every hesitation, the fears that entangle, my own sins. There are people to meet; in fact, the gospel obligates me to everyone. The spiritual battle seems only more and more fierce, but the gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” As I get older, I have to fight against my body, against notions of wanting to just slow down, of just settling into grooves. In this cold weather, no matter how much I want to crawl under the covers, I have to get up. When I do not want to have a tough conversation or be confrontational and rock the boat, I have to deny myself and do the hard thing. When I am hurt, I have to let go and be gracious. Though prison may not lie ahead, hardships certainly will. To make my life conform more to Apostle Paul’s statement of purpose for life, I must ensure every moment of my life is living FOR Him. It’s because I am learning that I can consider my life worth nothing, but this.

I’m thankful for the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task to testifying to the gospel of His grace. I can consider my life worth nothing to me – just when I think about my own experience of his endless mercy and grace, that he would ennoble my life that was once in such hopeless darkness and despair with such purpose and hope. The reminder of His grace in my life compels me to press on. It’s His spirit, the truth of this gospel, and the love that I have received. And as I press on, I have the undeserved privilege of experiencing His grace touch the lives of others. As I think about the past 3 months here, how we are able to witness 5 salvation decisions here in Hsinchu, I am so amazed how God is so good and His grace so boundless. What an undeserved privilege! This reminds me that I cannot slow down and encourages me to keep pressing on, dying to me and living for Him.  I just marvel that God would use me in this way and give me this task to testifying to the gospel of His grace. Daily, I’m reminded of the obligation I have to others and really pray that I will live out a statement of purpose that conforms more and more to Apostle Paul’s.

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Submitted by Jisup Hong

Acts 20:22–24
• If vs. 24 can be characterized as Apostle Paul’s “statement of purpose” for his life, what is the “statement of purpose” for my life?  Based on the way that I have lived my life, how would I fill in the blanks to the statement: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may _______________   and complete the _________.”  What steps can I take to make my life conform more to Apostle Paul’s statement of purpose for life?

Maybe: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may outdo others in the eyes of men and complete the …” but there is nothing to put in that second blank.  Complete what?  There is no complete.  The vision I had for a comfortable life?  The vision I had for glory through fame or accolade?  Not really.  Most of my life, I have lived aimlessly because I did not know what was worth pursuing—whatever was worthy was whatever people around me thought—sometimes it was good grades, sometimes it was being cool, sometimes it was being funny, sometimes it was hanging around the right people or listening to the right music, watching the right TV shows.  And when I look back I found that life had passed by and I had no sense of assurance that anything I did was worth doing—in fact, it all seemed quite meaningless.
What did it mean for Apostle Paul to finish the race?  To preach the gospel to the ends of the earth?  Then he never finished the race.  I think it meant being faithful and zealous to the very end.  I think it meant not getting caught up in another battle, a lesser battle—like being a great Jew, being a great tent-maker, or being great in the eyes of men.  To complete the task—what task?  Testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.  Yet how could that ever be completed?  Seems impossible, and yet that was what he was chasing after.
For me, there are too many other things that I value besides the call of Jesus to be a witness to the gospel—I value comfort, having a predictable seemingly controllable life, success and immediate measurable results in whatever work I do, I value emotionally not being burdened, I value doing everything well, I value being accepted and like by people, I value efficiency, practicality, elegance, balance and harmony, and I dislike disorder and messyness.  Apostle Paul’s life was none of these things, in fact, perhaps exactly the opposite of these things—his life was anything but these things.  I try and try to let go of these things, but they keep coming back.
Romans 1:14–17
“These… verses express the theme for the book of Romans, and they contain the most life-transforming truth God has put into men’s hands. To understand and positively respond to this truth is to have one’s time and eternity completely altered. Paul was imprisoned in Philippi, chased out of Thessalonica, smuggled out of Damascus and Berea, laughed at in Athens, considered a fool in Corinth, and declared a blasphemer and lawbreaker in Jerusalem. He was stoned and left for dead at Lystra […] But the Jewish religious leaders of Jerusalem did not intimidate Paul, nor did the learned and influential pagans at Ephesus, Athens, and Corinth. The apostle was eager now to preach and teach the gospel in Rome, the capital of the pagan empire that ruled virtually all the known world. He was never deterred by opposition, never disheartened by criticism, and never ashamed, for any reason, of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
• Reflect on what both of the above passages tell me about the nature of the Gospel, and its impact on the life of a Christian.  What is the gospel that it should become Apostle Paul’s consuming life mission, obligate him to everyone, and cause him to proudly declare to all unashamedly?
It is completely consuming, completely obligating—it is something that does not play nice with other things in your life.  The gospel is the power of salvation for everyone who believes—it was for me, and it is for everyone—it is eternal life.  It is so obligating that it perseveres through all the opposition and discouragement that Apostle Paul experienced.  The nature of the Gospel is that it is from God—it is not of human origin, and did not originate from me—it is a gift from God—given by grace.  I have it, because I received it.  For Apostle Paul it changed everything—the way that he would live, the way that he would die.  The nature of the gospel is that it is intense—it is anything but a casual thing.  It demands total response, total commitment, total surrender, total allegiance—and all that to the very end.
• Reflect on what the Gospel says about God, about me, and about my connection to others, and consider the ways in which these truths have or ought to dominate my life.
The Gospel—says that God’s love for us is so pure so intense, that he sent his own son to die for us on a cross to save us from our sins.  It says that I am so sinful, so wicked, so depraved, that it took no less than the perfect son of God dying on a cross to redeem me.  Yet it also says that I am that precious to God.  In receiving the Gospel I have received the power of salvation for everyone who believes, and so I have received something that obligates me to all men.  I am obligated to all men, because I am obligated to Christ, and Christ has identified himself with sinners—to the very least of men.  It is a great and weighty obligation, because it is a matter of eternal life and death for every person.  Through the gospel my eternal destiny has been changed from death to life—a reality which is presently invisible, and yet is a greater reality than anything presently visible.  Except for the gospel—and that there were people that were faithful in sharing it with me—that I would have been headed for hell.  These truths ought to change everything about me, my life—what gives me my sense of worth, what I get down about, what I get excited about, my relationships, commitments, visions, dreams, hopes.  It should fundamentally change how I see each person—the sense of burden and responsibility I should carry being a person who is in possession of this Gospel that is the power of salvation for everyone who believes.  And yet, much of the time, I am thinking of one thing or another, things that need to get done, mundane things, and I do not see myself and others in that way.  I do not see the time that I have and the relational contexts that I am placed in in that kind of light—that in this short time that we have, that God desires for all men to be reconciled with him.  It is a weighty and difficult burden to bear, one which when I am cognizant of it, I am thankful that I am not bearing it alone—and that I have the church, and that in fact, as the church, that this Gospel has been entrusted to us.
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