by Kathy Howard
What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. –Acts 21:13 ESV
My husband and I love to hike. More often than not, when deciding where to hike, we choose the longer and more difficult trails. Not because we enjoy suffering, but because those trails usually provide greater benefits. The hard trails reward hikers with gorgeous waterfalls and breathtaking views. They weave through silent, ancient forests and past abundant flora and fauna. Yes, when you’re hiking, the best trails are often the hardest.
The same is true in our walk with God. His best path for us is often difficult. The apostle Paul not only knew this truth, but he fully embraced God’s will for him no matter where His path might lead. Throughout the return leg of his third missionary journey, the Holy Spirit had been leading Paul to Jerusalem. The Spirit had even revealed that trouble waited for him there (Acts 19:21 and 20:22). God’s will for Paul included suffering.
We first read this incredible truth during the account of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. When Jesus sent the Damascus believer Ananias to visit Paul (Saul), Jesus told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16 ESV).
Sometimes God delivered Paul from persecution—like the time Paul escaped Damascus over the wall in a basket (Acts 9:23-25). Sometimes God delivered Paul in the midst of persecution—like sending an earthquake in Philippi to open the prison stocks (Acts 16:25-26). But then we see that God specifically directed Paul to go to Jerusalem, where suffering awaited him (Acts 20:22-23). And Paul obeyed, knowing what lay ahead.
Yet, as sure as Paul was of God’s will for him, many of his fellow believers and friends urged him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12). When the Spirit showed them how Paul would suffer, they had reacted with a desire to keep him safe. They understandably but wrongly jumped to the conclusion that he should run from this particular trial.
Paul stood at a crossroads. Would he turn away from suffering or would he follow Jesus no matter what lay ahead? God had constrained Paul to go to Jerusalem; to turn away would be disobedience.
“Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus’” (Acts 21:13 ESV).
God does not always lead us into suffering, but sometimes He works in and through our trials to carry out His purposes. Sometimes He uses fiery trials to refine our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7) or deepen our relationship with Jesus (Philippians 3:10) or to proclaim Christ’s salvation to the lost (Acts 16:30-32).
Paul’s path through Jerusalem ultimately led to imprisonment in Rome. Several years later, during that imprisonment, Paul wrote these words to the believers in Philippi: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV).
Let’s pray: Father, your will is always perfect, even if it’s hard. Help me obey you wherever you lead. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
This post is adapted from “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts.”
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.
Here’s more about “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts”:
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This volume of Deep Rooted — 50 devotions through the book of Acts–will show you how to interact with and apply Scripture, not just read it. Finally, a devotional with some meat on its bones! Available now on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3rEiYRf
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