The Course

Acts 20:24 - ”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.”

In my sermon on Sunday, I explained how Acts 20:17-38 are Paul’s final words to the Ephesian church elders after spending about 3 and a half years in the city. It’s an emotional speech as he is very aware that this is the last time he will see these people he had grown to love and hold dearly. He details how the Holy Spirit is leading him onwards to Jerusalem, where he will be met with imprisonment and afflictions.
But how did Paul persevere in such occasions? How could he take himself to Jerusalem despite knowing what lay in front of him? We see from this verse that Paul is starting to come to the conclusion that his earthly ministry is beginning to wind up. He refers to finishing his “course” which is the same word used as 2 Timothy 4:7 where he refers to finishing his “race”. Paul is concentrating on finishing strongly, but in his wisdom he gives tips on how we can live strongly.
1. You are on a mission given by Jesus
This might seem an obvious statement, but it’s one that can easily be overlooked. Paul talks about how his course (life) has been given to him by Jesus Christ, and that is the same for all of us. This means we are stuck with the mission and plan Jesus has for our lives whether we like it or not. You can’t opt out of it, you can’t choose not to play your part. Like a private in the Army you are under orders of your commander. This may seem constraining, but it is actually freeing. Your life is in the hands of an all-loving God who is sitting outside of time. He knows what has been and what will be. Therefore, when the Spirit calls you to Jerusalem to face trials and afflictions (he’s probably not literally calling you to this!) he can also be your counsellor and healer during this time.
2. We should be Paratroopers
It seems like a vast majority of Christians see the religion as being one you can ride in a first class seat. If you pay your money, show up at check-in on time, and go through the safety briefing then you will hypothetically be taken on a cosy flight with an inflight meal and drinks to your chosen destination. Unfortunately this isn’t what Jesus has called us to. In fact he’s asked that we live more like a Paratrooper. Paratroopers are somewhat famous for their slightly mad and often borderline heedless attitudes as they jump out of planes into severe war-zones. But, that’s the sort of flight that Jesus offers us; at any opportunity he could call us to jump out and land in a war-zone, or a barren land, or a hardened community. This is why we can not be precious over our lives, we need to be ready to give it up at the drop of a hat because we have not been guaranteed a journey without turbulence.
3. You need to know what the goal is
To finish the race you need to know where the finish line is. To win at football you need to know where the goal is. To pass your assignment you need to know what the question is. To complete anything in life you need to know exactly what is expected of you, and it’s no different with your own mission. No matter what gifts, skills, or talents you posses they should all serve to the same purpose: “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Our lives must remain faithful to the Gospel at all times. We must be bearing witness through our words and actions, and if they betray that, then we are guilty. So keep your eye on the finish line to make sure you stay on course and do not stray. Remember that your goal is to glorify Jesus, and share that story with the world.