Acts 21-22, Psalm 129
Many Christians have held strong and maintained their profession of faith in Jesus under intense persecution. There are also those who didn't wonder but knew that if they went to a certain place or said a particular thing that they would be persecuted beforehand, and did so anyway. These individuals still exist today. Romanian Christian Minister, Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), was one of those men. He began an "underground" ministry to oppressed believers and Russian soldiers occupying his country in 1945. Found by the communists, he was arrested and spent 3 years in solitary confinement being continually tortured. He was then sent to a group cell where he was tortured for another 5 years. After 8 years he was released. Amazingly, knowing what would happen, he immediately resumed his work in the underground church. He was again arrested and though sentenced to 25 years was released 5 years later. Again he immediately resumed his work. He and his family then emigrated to Norway at the urging of some Christians from that nation. He testified and stripped to his waist before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee revealing 18 deep scars on his torso from the torture. Though Romania's Communist regime then threatened to assassinate him he would not be silenced. He authored numerous books, including, "Tortured for Christ" and was co-founder of Voice of the Martyrs.
We read in Acts 21:11 about a prophet from God, named Agabus, who demonstrated what would become of Paul if he was to continue on his way to Jerusalem, "When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.' " His friends hearing this pleaded with him to change his mind and not go there. Paul responded to them in 21:13, "What do you mean by breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." This is not the first time we see Paul respond like this. On his first missionary journey, in Lystra he was stoned by the people who thought that he was dead. We read in Acts 14:20 that he rose up and went right back into that city. When Jesus told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed, and be raised on the third day, we read in Matthew 16:22, "Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" Then Jesus responded to Peter in 16:23, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
Paul was commissioned by God, and nothing on earth would deter him from fulfilling that commission. How many of us don't realize our commission because we are too distracted to hear from God. These distractions could be from our social media, work, family, hobbies, etc. How can we ever know our commission unless we spend concentrated time in His Word waiting to hear from Him. How many if they knew their commission was dangerous would move forward like Paul? Jesus says in Matthew 10:28, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Jesus also says in Matthew 16:25-26, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Paul's finish line was not some arbitrary place on earth, or a certain age to attain, or good health, or happiness, but heaven. Nothing was going to deter him from that finish line. May we all be able to say what Paul did at the end of his life on earth in 2 Timothy 4:6-7, "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: