The following is a lightly edited transcript.
I’ve enjoyed being here very much and I want to put an underline under what the speaker this morning said about your pastor, namely, that he’s a gift to you, not just because that’s what it says in Ephesians 4:11, but because having heard him preached only once and give one Sunday school lesson, I think you’re very fortunate because I heard a lot of preaching over the years and I don’t remember too many messages, but it’s two weeks and I can tell you some key insights from John 10 tonight that I hadn’t known before about the two different sheepfolds and why Jesus can be both a shepherd and a door. That’s good preaching, and so I hope you encourage him and give him all the vacation he needs.
I’ll try to fill in a little bit tonight and I ask you to open your Bibles to Acts 20, and as I was pondering what we might talk about tonight, I decided to pick a verse or two that are very, very precious to me and very applicable I think to every church even though I don’t know much about this church. Let me set this on the stage of Paul’s life for you and then read a few verses with you and then we’ll get into it.
Paul’s Relation to the Church in Ephesus
Paul spent about three years in Ephesus beginning and building his church, and that’s longer than he spent anywhere else in his ministry that we know of, and then he leaves and goes up through Macedonia down to Corinth and probably spends the winter of AD 56 in Corinth about three months, probably wrote Romans while he was there, and then he heads back up through Macedonia. He had intended to cross over, but there was trouble, so he goes back up through Macedonia, over to Troas and then gets in a boat and starts to head for Jerusalem and it says he’s hurrying in Acts 20:16, so that he can get to Jerusalem if possible by the day of Pentecost.
It has been 26 years or so that Pentecost has already become a Christian holiday, a Christian festival and not just a Jewish one. At any rate, Paul, the Christian that he is, wants to be there for it and he’s hurrying, which means he’s tortured with whether or not to stay in Ephesus for a final greeting. He doesn’t think he’ll ever see these people again and he’s so eager to get to Jerusalem on time, he won’t do it. He skips Ephesus, but he doesn’t skip the elders of Ephesus. He puts in at Miletus, which is about 20 miles south.
Now, that’s where we pick it up in verse 17, so let’s read from verse 17 through verse 25: “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” You see, he feels that he doesn’t have time to get in embroiled in the whole congregation. You can imagine the kind of farewells there would have to be. We went to a family reunion yesterday of eighty people or so. Well, if you had to say goodbye to how many hundreds of people probably converted in Ephesus, he would just be emotionally drained or it’d take him too long.
He says to himself, “I must see the elders. They are the pillars in the church. I won’t go to Jerusalem and pass these people for the last time without at least talking to the pastors in the church.” Now, here’s what he has to say to them:
“To be faithful is to have your heart bound to the will of God by the Spirit of God.”
And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. (Acts 20:18–25)
Now, the verses that I’m not going to talk about, verses 18–21, as you notice, Paul was looking back on what he had done while he was there in Ephesus, talking about the way he served. In verses 22–25, he talks about his present confidence and concern in his future, and that’s what we want to talk about and it might be good for us to ask why he would talk to the elders of Ephesus about his own future. I think the answer is he’s not just going on here about himself as though there was some special interest in his life. Like every good Christian, I think, Paul wants to build not only his words into the life of his people, he wants to build his life into their lives. He talks about himself.
You remember he said to the people in 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” He wants to do that here and that’s why I think he spends half of his sermon talking about himself. It seems strange and yet he’s endearing himself to the men, imparting who he is as a devoted Christian to those elders and saying, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Better Than Life
Now, we’re going to look at Acts 20:22–25 and here’s the theme that I want to put over these verses. If you go away with anything tonight, go away with this phrase, “Faithfulness is better than life” — and I’m talking about your faithfulness.
It’s true that God’s faithfulness is better, and in fact, Psalm 63:3 says, “Your steadfast love is better than life.” But here, I’m making the point that your faithfulness is more important than staying alive and your faithfulness is more important than any quality of life for which you might strive on this earth.
That’s what I want to get home and explain tonight. The questions I want to ask in order to make that plain is (1) What does it mean that faithfulness is better than life? (2) Why is that true? Why is faithfulness better than life? I see in this text at least three, maybe four answers to the question, what does it mean faithfulness is better than life. Let’s get these four answers from the text.
1. Bound to the Will of God by the Spirit
My first answer to the question — What is it mean that faithfulness is better than life? — is found in verse 22 and it means this: faithfulness is better than life means being bound by the Holy Spirit to the will of God.
Let’s read verse 22, “Except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment,” I get the wrong verse here. Where does this bound? I’m reading the wrong verse 22. “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained [deō; bound] by the Spirit.” Now, what does that mean? The versions here divide on whether that word “spirit” should have a big S or a little s.
The King James along with the New American Standard Bible has a little “s” — “Bound in the spirit” meaning my spirit is bound. It’s enslaved to go this way. Now, the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version has a big S. The reason for this is that in the Greek you can’t tell. It could be either. They didn’t capitalize spirit for God’s Spirit or our spirit. It’s just the same letters. You have to judge on the basis of context.
I think the best thing to do in a case like this is to ask, “Now, what difference would it make here, one way or the other?” I ask myself the question, “If it’s a little s, Paul is saying in verse 22, ‘I am going to Jerusalem because my spirit has a big rope tied around it pulling me there.’” I would ask the question, who tied the rope and who’s pulling? My answer to that would be God and God’s Spirit and that would be big S. Well, it doesn’t seem to make too much difference then because if it’s Paul’s spirit that’s bound, it’s the Spirit of God binding. If it’s the Spirit who is binding, it’s Paul’s spirit who’s bound. I think we can all agree on this point. To be faithful is to have your heart bound to the will of God by the Spirit of God. That’s what it means to be faithful, to have your heart or your spirit bound to the will of God by the Spirit of God.
Let me insert something from my morning reading while I’ve been on vacation. I’ve been meditating on Colossians and reading it through and I’ve noticed three places in Colossians where it talks about being assured of the will of God. One of them is in Colossians in 1:9. It’s a prayer that says, “From the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Here’s Paul praying for the Colossians that they would not be half full for a half sure of what the will of God is, half full of knowledge about the will of God, but all the way full.
Then you get over to chapter 4, verse 12 and you find this wonderful fellow, Epaphras. Colossians 4:12: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand  mature and  fully assured in all the will of God.”
I remember saying to Noël the other night, “In my ministry, my biggest struggles don’t seem to be with sin. My biggest struggles are, ‘Do I visit this person or that person? Do I read this book or that book? Do I preach on this text or that text? Do I discipline my children in this way or in that way? Do I treat my wife good this way or good that way?’”
“All you have to know is God will be there.”
I have hundreds of decisions I have to make every day in the ministry, all of which are good and none of which I’m told to choose in the Bible. The Bible at no given point tells me the time when I should spank with two swats or five swats. There’s extraordinary wisdom required in just living day-to-day life. I thought to myself when I read that, I wonder if I have neglected prayer, extraordinary prayer.
Paul says he prays all the time that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and Epaphras does similarly. The word is agōnizomai. If I were to tell you that Greek word agōnizomai, what English word comes to your mind? Agony. Agonize. He agonizes, he struggles, he fights for this church that they know God’s will.
Do you pray that way to know the will of God? I’m not talking about major decisions only — spouse, vocation, faith — I’m talking about the hundreds of things all day long you have to choose between, when to get up in the morning, what to read for devotions, how much to eat, when to take a second helping. There are just hundreds of decisions. Do you pray and pray that way that God would show you?
As I’m reading about the life of David Brainerd, a young missionary that died when he was 29, a missionary to Indians a couple of hundred years ago, I’m noticing that one of the things that characterized the likes of David Brainerd is that he really took prayer and fasting to find the will of God seriously. Listen to this:
Lord’s Day June 13, 1742, felt something calm and resigned in the public worship. Monday, June 14, felt something of the sweetness of communion with God and the constraining force of his love, how admirably it captivates the soul and makes all desire and affection centering God.
Listen to this now, “I set apart this day,” I think this on several Mondays, I think Monday was a fast day for Brainerd typically, “I set apart this day for secret fasting and prayer to intrigue God to direct and bless me with regard to the great work I have in view of preaching the gospel to the Indians.”
He didn’t know what group to be sponsored by for sure. He didn’t know when to enter the ministry. He didn’t know what Indian tribe to go to. He didn’t know how to go about the ministry. He had a hundred questions about his future ministry and so what did he do? He fasted on Mondays and prayed all day. I said to Noël, “I just wonder if one of the reasons that I am so in my conscience continually aggravated by indecision on the good things I have to choose between in life and in the ministry is because maybe I don’t set some of those days aside the way I should.”
Point number one then an answer to the question, what does mean that faithfulness is better than life, is this: it means being bound by the Spirit of God to the will of God. That’s verse 22.
2. Content in Ignorance
Here’s the second answer, faithfulness is better than life means that you are content not to know in detail what tomorrow will bring. You are content not to know in detail what tomorrow will bring. “Behold I’m going to Jerusalem bound in the Spirit,” that’s point number one, here’s the second one, “not knowing what shall befall me there.”
You simply are not told in life what tomorrow is going to bring in detail and part of what it means that faithfulness is better than life is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. As I was working this afternoon, my mind inevitably, this always happens when I get real moody and look in beautiful places, my mind went back to my mother’s funeral — 1974, my father was 56. My mother was killed in an automobile accident. I can remember sitting under the canopy by the grave singing “Because He Lives, We Can Face Tomorrow,” and one of the verses at the end says, “I know who holds the future because he lives . . . He holds the future and life is worth living just because he lives.”
I can remember sitting there saying, “I have no idea what dad is going to do. He is 56. He can’t change his clothes by himself.” Here we are fifteen years later and miracle upon miracle has come into his life in my judgment. The ignorance is irrelevant. Who cares if we know tomorrow because we know God! Faithfulness to God means you don’t have to know whether your job will be there tomorrow, whether your health will be there tomorrow, whether your kids will be there tomorrow. You don’t have to know. All you have to know is God will be there tomorrow. That’s the second thing that it means.
3. You Won’t Let Go
Now, third, faithfulness is better than life means you don’t forsake Christ when you know that tomorrow means trouble. You don’t forsake Christ when you know that tomorrow means pain. Now, that’s in verse 23. “Not knowing what will happen to me there,” he said in verse 22, except he does know something, “except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” You ought to be content with ignorance about tomorrow and if the Holy Spirit were to say to you, “Tomorrow is going to be awful,” faithfulness is better than life means you don’t cop out, you don’t leave the Spirit, you don’t leave Christ, you don’t leave the faith, you don’t leave the church. You keep on heading for Jerusalem.
“Faithfulness is better than life means you don’t cop out.”
Why does Paul tell the Ephesian elders this experience that he’s having with the Holy Spirit? I think the answer is because it doesn’t matter. He wants to make sure that they know that if they see bleakness on the horizon, it doesn’t matter. In fact, you remember back in chapter 14, he said, he told them in every church that they must enter the kingdom through what? Does anyone remember? Through many afflictions or tribulations (Acts 14:22). You must enter the kingdom through many tribulations. Count on it. Tomorrow we’ll have trouble in it. You’re ignorant about the details and you know enough that there’s going to be trouble.
It reminds me just now as I say it at a wedding homily that I preached thirteen years. The wedding text was John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Three points: (1) In the world, you have trouble; (2) be of good cheer; (3) I’ve overcome the world. That’s a good marriage text and it’s a good life text. Paul says and this amazes me, why would the Holy Spirit do this to Paul? I mean you’d think telling him once would be enough. It says, “In every city,” he tells him, don’t get your modifiers mixed up here. It doesn’t say that he told him that he have trouble in every city.
He says he told him in every city he’d have trouble, that afflictions and imprisonment await him. The Holy Spirit just keeps telling him and telling him and telling him and all I can think is that the Holy Spirit really wanted to test Paul’s faith all the way along the way. In every city Paul comes in, the Holy Spirit whispers in his ear, “I’ll not promise you anything easy here. Persecution here. There’s going to be persecution in Jerusalem and in Rome. I called you to suffer.” Faithfulness is better than life means when you hear that message, you say, “Okay, it’s all right. I’ll go with you.”
4. Relinquish the American Dream
Number four, the fourth answer to what it means then that faithfulness is better than life is that therefore you set your face not to live for the American Dream. Acts 20:22–24: “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”
Let the American Dream talk to Paul for a minute here, “Wait a minute, Paul. You’re getting old. You’ve been around for a long time. How about letting up? How about a little cottage on the Aegean Sea? Timothy is young. Hand over the reins. Don’t you know that when you get to 65 you putt? You play golf. You buy more things. You goof around and spend the last twenty years of your life getting ready for glory by doing nothing. Don’t you know that? Making life more comfortable. Come on, get out of your head, Paul, this trip to Jerusalem. You’re likely to get killed in Jerusalem and that crazy hair brain scheme that you might make it to Rome and this wild-eyed scheme that at your age you’re going to Spain. I mean don’t you know you should let up?”
Paul says, “I’m going to Jerusalem and I’m going to Rome and I wrote in the book of Romans three months ago that they’re going to send me to Spain. I’m going to die on the road or in the water.”
I’ve been watching more TV here on this trip than I ever watched because I don’t have a television and I’m glad I get to watch TV on vacations because then I could talk about it for a year or two and then watch a little more and talk about it for a year or two and the ads of course are the best commentary on American culture that there are and they’re not a good commentary in my judgment. I look at things so differently it seems than the way most people look at an ad. They’ll say, “What’s wrong with that?” I don’t ever ask that question. My question is, does that ad cultivate holiness in me? Does that ad make me hunger for heaven? Does that ad endear my heart to Jesus Christ? Does that ad liberate me from the love of the world? Does that ad make me more radically committed to the cause of Christ?
All hangs in the kinds of questions you ask, how you feel about something. Basically, I get mad at TV ads because they are driving the love of the world home to me — basically what TV is designed to do. I don’t think TV in itself is evil. I wish Christians were more powerful in their use of it, but as it stands in the hands of the world, TV is designed to endear your heart to the things of the world — I mean innocent things like hamburgers and cars and things.
If somebody says, “What’s wrong with that?” I say, “Look, the question isn’t what’s wrong with it, the question is, what is the design of this ad? The design is to wean you away from any wild-eyed dependence on Jesus Christ and make you depend upon the world,” innocent world I’m saying, “I eat hamburgers. I drive a car. I’m wearing this crazy tie tonight that somebody sold me and I fell in love with these little speckles probably because of some advertisement.” I’m talking this driving sense of, “Love me, love me, seek me, seek me,” that the world says through television — about eight of them between every few minutes of a show.
There’s a lot of work to be done that’s why I said the fourth meaning is faithfulness is better than life means setting your face against the American Dream or not letting the American Dream drive you.
Mapping the Church
Let me give you some rough statistics. I’d call this rural Georgia. I live in a big city. We live in the city. I’m a city boy. I feel like I’m bombarded every day with all the worse things in the world. Of course, you got your problems here too. In fact, I remember Ray Bakke said one time, “The only difference between the city and the country when it comes to evil is just density.” That’s all. All the evils are here, just a little scathe, so you don’t feel quite as tied on when you’re in the middle of Atlanta or say Minneapolis. I don’t mean to say, “You guys are in heaven or paradise,” but I sometimes worry that my people who live in the big city, and not to mention people who live in rural Georgia, lose touch with the extraordinary need of the world beyond America.
“Our wealth is no sign of our godliness.”
Let me show you what I mean. There are approximately 5.5 billion people. We passed the 5 billion mark back in June of 1987, I think. About three billion of these people live in societies or cultures that have been reached by the gospel. That is, a church has been planted, so if those churches did their evangelizing work, these three billion people could be reached with a message they can understand. About two billion people live in societies, cultures, groups that don’t have any church planted so that if those churches were to do their work, these people could hear the gospel in a language they can understand, so two billion people now are effectively unreached by the gospel.
Two thousand years after Jesus said to this church, “My church, go and make disciples of every people group, every nations,” there are approximately 150,000 Protestant missionaries in the world today, and approximately 95,000 of those come from North America, about 35,000 from other Western countries and about 30,000 from non-Western countries. Of those 150,000 Protestant missionaries, 90 percent of them work in the people groups among the three billion who are reached already and ten percent of the 150,000 work among the people groups who have the two billion people who are not reached. Now, God is doing a great work in the world today. About 3,500 new churches come into existence every week — Christian churches. And about 70,000 Christians are won to Christ — people are won to Christ every day in this world.
When you hear encouraging statistics like that, it’s very easy to forget that there are about 12,000 groups or societies of people in which there are two billion people who do not have churches yet planted that can evangelize them. Now, I say that just to show you that the American dream on television isn’t going to tell you about that. They’re not going to tell you anything about the most important fact in the world as far as what the church should be doing today. It’s so easy to see how we inebriated and made apathetic and drunk by letting the world set out awareness patterns.
Being Aware of Your Surroundings
I’ll give you some more examples. About 37 percent of all professing believers today live in communist countries. About 37 percent of all professing believers live in communist countries. If that sounds high to you, think of China and how big it is. A fourth of the world’s population is in China almost, and then think of the USSR. There are hundred million believers in the USSR — professing believers. That’s a third of the population. These 37 percent of professing believers in this world who live in communist countries are under constant threat from the government. Marxist ideology simply rules out legitimate Christianity.
Now, we’ve seen some remarkable answers to prayer in Russia, in the USSR recently. I think glasnost, openness, perestroika, change are answers to the prayers of God’s people and I was over in Manila hearing testimony. There were 71 Christians that got out of Russia to come to Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Manila three weeks ago, and the stories we heard are that extraordinary loosening is happening in Russia today. It’s wonderful. People have been praying for Russia. We don’t know of any religious prisoners today in Russia. Now, I would guess there are some, but the ones we knew about have been effectively released.
Now, that’s encouraging, but China is in exactly the opposite direction. We all have our hopes up and then Tiananmen Square, the Chinese who were there in Manila told us that since Tiananmen Square, the slaughter there, the clampdown has been horrendous on the church in China. Hong Kong, which goes back to Red China in 1997 is panic stripping since Tiananmen Square.
About 1,400,000 signatures went on to a petition that went straight to London within two weeks after Tiananmen Square saying, “Isn’t there anything we can do to turn this return around?” Now the reason that I tell you this is that the television isn’t going to tell you this. The world is not going to tell you that one-third of your family is in danger.
What would you do if a third of your kids live in a situation where their daily lives were threatened and their freedoms were threatened? I’d tell you what you do. You’d pray like crazy. That’s what the church in America ought to be doing. We live in a fantasyland in America. America is the Disneyland of the Universe. It is utterly unrealistic.
About 70 million today are on the brink of starvation. About 400 million consume less than what we would call minimal dietary requirements — 400 million. These are cumulative figures. They’re not separate figures. About 800 million total are what would be called people who live in absolute poverty in the world. One-half of the children of those people die before they get to five years old. About 195 million of them are Christians.
“Finishing the race means getting the crown.”
I know that when you talk about poverty in the world, a lot of people just write it off and say, “Well, if they become Christians, they get rich just like we do.” That is so incredibly naïve. Just take the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Where did Lazarus go? Where did he go? Abraham’s bosom. The rich man went to hell. That’s where America’s going to go. Our wealth is no sign of our godliness. It’s the temptation. According to the parable of four soils, it chokes, it kills — the love of money does and the danger of riches. There are 195 million Christians at least who are absolutely poor by the world’s standards. Christians in this world earn 68 percent of the world’s income. Approximately three percent of it goes to the church and five percent of that three percent goes to any kind of international ministry.
The only reason for giving you those statistics is to just say that there’s a Jerusalem to go to. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem to die if he must die, which is what verse 24 says, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Faithfulness to Paul was better than life.
Finish the Race, Win the Crown
Now, the last question we want to ask is: Why that is so? Why could Paul say, “I’d rather die than not be faithful to my trip to Jerusalem”?
The answer is that finishing the race means getting the crown. You see verse 24 in one way says, “I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself because what is really valuable to me is finishing my course.” Let’s just think about that. It’s not a school course. What kind of course? It’s a racecourse. It’s a marathon course. He’s tired. His legs are killing him. His lungs are heaving, and he’s sweating like crazy, and there wasn’t anybody to squirt water into his mouth, and the world is saying, “Here’s a green pasture. Why are you going to Jerusalem?” Every one of you is on a marathon. We’re in a race.
Where is the one other place in the New Testament where the word finishing and the word course are put together? Does anybody remember that verse? Second Timothy 4:7:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
That’s why it is better to be faithful than to live. It is better to be faithful than to stay alive, and it’s better to be faithful than to have all that the American Dream offers. Paul would say, “I’d rather be suffering for Christ in a communist land if that were my call than to live to have all of the benefits that America could offer.”
There Will Indeed Be a Reward
Maybe the last question to raise would be: What’s the assurance and the confidence that the crown will really be there? In other words, if in response to what I’m saying, you go out and say like I hope you do, “I’m so tired of living for myself. I’m so tired to just thinking about things all the time. I want to do something for God. I want to be like William Carey who said, ‘Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.’ I want to do something radical.” And then Satan says, “Yeah, but how do you know the payoff is going to be there?”
There are two phrases in this text that I think are like two giant pillars sustaining the confidence of the crown. One is at the end of verse 24. He says that he wants to complete “the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
Now, let’s just take that little phrase, “grace of God.” Hold on to that, and let’s get the other phrase beside it. It’s in verse 25: “And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.” Let’s put these two phrases up here and look at them in closing, “grace of God,” and “kingdom of God.”
First question you ask when Satan tempts you to abandon the path to Jerusalem is: Can God really bring joy and life out of that much suffering? The answer comes back: He’s King. He reigns. Kingdom means authority, means ruler, means power, and so, kingdom means yes. God reigns. He can bring joy and crown out any life of suffering.
“It’s better to be faithful than to have all that the American Dream offers.”
I had a dream the other night, I can’t help but tell you this because this fellow in my church was murdered last weekend and I wondered it might have some connection. A young fellow, 25 years old I think, had been a missionary in the Philippines. I had a dream about some hostages, the ones we’re dealing with Iran about, and I had this horrible dream where they hung the guy with a bag over his head and they cut the rope just before he died and then started beating him up. It was just a horrible scene of torture, and I woke up and I just thought to myself, “I wonder if I’ll ever have to endure that?”
A young man died when he was 29 of an awful lung disease, so it wasn’t a pretty death, coughing up blood. His sweetheart was there. It’s an ugly, ugly scene, but 200 years later, he’ll be a hero. It’s exciting. I could be that brave. I’ll tell you it’s not going to be pretty when you die. Death is ugly. Most of the martyrs died horrible deaths, and I just wonder how they sustain faith that God is going to bring out of this horrible death beauty and glory, but the answer is he’s King.
Then the second question you ask after Satan tempts you to abandon the road to Jerusalem is not, can God do it, but will he do it? I mean you’re a Jacob. You’re not worth it. He isn’t going to do it for you. He might do it for somebody, but he isn’t going to get you to glory. You mess up too much and the answer to that is grace. The kingdom of God and the grace of God are the two things that will carry you through to Jerusalem and Rome, and maybe you’ll get even to Spain. Paul was cut down in Rome.
The two questions for application are these, test your faith tonight and ask this question: Do you long to be faithful to Jesus and to the cause of Christ more than you want to be alive or to have health or family or computer or whatever you might be wanting really bad right now?
The second question is: Is your daily focus and effort in life devoted to enhancing life in this world with all the TV commence to you to make it enhanced or is your thought day in and day out magnify Christ, devote yourself to Christ, live for those people who are without Christ in whatever way you can?