21 You know I have testified to both Jews and Greeks that they must change their hearts and lives as they turn to God and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 Now, compelled by the Spirit, I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there. 23 What I do know is that the Holy Spirit testifies to me from city to city that prisons and troubles await me. 24 But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace.
All of us have days when we feel frustrated, when we think what we’re doing doesn’t matter, or where we question whether we’re making any difference at all. The world can be a demoralizing and discouraging place. And when you string a number of difficult days together, it can lead to depression, questioning one’s career choice, or even doubting our own value as human beings. In my conversations lately, what I’ve been struck by is the common feeling SO MANY people in various professions seem to have – and I mean everyone from police officers to teachers to healthcare workers – and even my fellow pastors. So many of them are wondering: “Is what I do really worth it?”
Then I read a passage like this, where the apostle Paul literally says, “everywhere I go, God’s reminding me that prison and troubles await me.” We often talk about starting the day with some spiritual affirmations – how would you like to have the Holy Spirit putting that thought into your head every morning? That’s rough.
But Paul has this dramatic way of shifting perspective AWAY from himself and his own troubles TOWARD God, the Spirit’s calling on his life, and Christ’s promises for the world. “Nothing is more important than completing my mission,” he says. “And my mission is to tell the good news of God’s grace.”
Paul keeps perspective by remembering that how God judges him in fulfilling his mission actually has nothing to do with the success or failure of his message. It’s not about people’s reaction to him or what he has to say. It’s not even about whether his preaching takes place inside or outside a prison. It’s about his faithfulness to the message itself. Did he tell the story of God’s goodness, grace, and love in Jesus Christ?
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. Our work is about nothing more and nothing less than our faithfulness to the message itself. Did people hear and see evidence of God’s love and grace through us? If so, we did our part.
How people respond is between them and God. And only God can take credit for those responses anyway – not us! Jesus just wants to know: “Did you tell my story?” Paul understood that and his understanding gave him the encouragement to keep telling people the Good News, even when it meant resistance, persecution and prison.
Today, may the Spirit encourage us to do the same! Do your job, and leave the results up to God.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
When you find yourself discouraged today, remember that it’s about faithfulness, not success. It’s about telling the story, and not how people respond to it.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we struggle with the results of our efforts, let your Spirit touch our hearts to remind us that our task is to be faithful, not to be successful. Amen.