When Paul’s mission team set sail from Ephesus (v.1), he knew they were sailing into trouble. He had said as much in the previous chapter: “The Holy Spirit is sending me to Jerusalem, and I know that prison and pain are waiting for me there” (Acts 20:22-23).
This fact was confirmed in an unusual way at one of the stops on their voyage. When Paul and his friends disembarked at Caesarea, they stayed with Philip, one of the original Seven (see Acts 6:5). During their stay they received a visit from a man named Agabus, a prophet. The only other mention of Agabus in Scripture is when God used him to predict and warn the church about a famine (see Acts 11:28). This time the prophet’s warning was for Paul alone, and it came through an object lesson: Agabus approached him, and reaching out, snatched Paul’s belt from around his waist! To the amazement of everyone in the room, the prophet used the belt to hog-tie himself and then interpreted this strange behavior: “The Jerusalem Jews will bind the owner of this belt and hand him over to the Gentiles.” That prophecy came true a few days later (v.27-36).
When Paul’s Christian friends (including his mission team) heard the prophecy, they began to cry and beg him not to go. Paul’s response to their tears and their response to Paul’s determination are some of the most inspiring words in the Bible (v.13-14). Why was Paul so determined to go to Jerusalem? Why would he ignore the tears and the pleading of his friends? Why would he ignore the graphic, foreboding prophecy of Agabus? Simply because he believed the Lord had told him to go there.
Two reasons from Scripture: first, Paul felt that he needed to give a report of his missionary efforts to the original church in Jerusalem about all the people who had been saved and all the churches that had been started since the decision back in chapter 15 that they would not make it difficult for the Gentiles to be saved. But the other reason is that Paul loved his people and he wanted to see them saved. I think this was one last-ditch effort to reach out to his fellow Jews and to gain an audience with their leaders so that that they might hear the gospel and be saved.
Paul was not ignoring the danger, and he was not suicidal. He reasoned that the potential progress for the gospel outweighed the potential danger to him personally. It was Paul’s commitment to “the will of the Lord” that simplified and focused his life and enabled him to say with confidence, “I am ready to suffer, and I am ready to die for Jesus” (v.13-14).
That same commitment will simplify and focus your life, too. Surrendering to the will of the Lord does not mean that you can’t have input anymore, or that you can’t have an original idea, or that you become a robotic slave with no identity. It just means that you have voluntarily placed your life and your future in the hands of a sovereign, powerful, compassionate God who loves you.
Somewhere along the way we stop praying with Jesus, “Not my will but Yours be done,” and we start praying, “Bless me, Lord. Be good to me, Lord. Treat me right, Lord. Grant my wishes, Lord.” And self-will gradually replaces God’s will. No wonder we lose excitement for the things of God — our plans are boring compared to the adventure of God’s will! And no wonder our walk with God becomes drudgery — He is supposed to lead, not tag along.
I am going to surrender to His will and follow Him today. Are you with me?