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Plan for Endurance

Competition begins in earnest today at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England. I am excited because I am going to have the opportunity to watch some of the best athletes in the world compete in their passionate pursuits. It never fails to inspire me when I watch people who have endured to this point. They have all faced challenges, setbacks and injuries but they found a way to stay at it until their opportunity unfolded. I love that because it is how I want to live my life.
It is one of the reasons I have so much respect for the apostle Paul. To be sure, he did not start well. With great zeal, he tried to shut down the church that God Himself was putting in place. “Opponent of God” is not something I want on my resume! But, he finished well and that is much more important. As I read Acts 21 this morning, I noticed three commitments Paul made that resulted in the endurance to finish his race well.
1. He had a plan. His goal was to reach Jerusalem (Ch 20). He mapped out his route by ship and booked passage for himself and his travelling companions. He sought out lodging in Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea during layovers in those towns. (v. 4, 7-8)
2. He had counted the cost. The trip to Jerusalem was anything but a vacation. It was going to be hard work and it was going to be personally dangerous for Paul. It wasn’t like some of the situations we all get into where we are surprised when things go bad. It was clear from the beginning that Paul was going to suffer. Everywhere he stopped on his trip, he was reminded. In Tyre, “Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” (v. 4) In Caesarea, “. . . a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”‘” (v. 10-11) Even his travelling companions joined in the chorus, “When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.” (v. 12) Paul would not be dissuaded, however. He knew this was God’s will for him. He had already decided he would follow through and had determined in his heart that the price must be paid despite the difficulties.
3. He was connected to people. Many of the paths we walk take us to difficult challenges because we live in an imperfect world. It helps when we realize we are not alone in the journey. Paul understood this so he deliberately connected himself to people who believed in his God and in His sovereign right to lead us. In Tyre, “All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.” (v. 5) In Caesarea, “the people there pleaded with Paul not to go . . . When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’” (v. 12-14) Amazingly, “Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay.” (v. 16) Finally, when he arrived in Jerusalem, “the brothers and sisters received us warmly.” (v. 17)
The application is easier to state than actually live out but I at least have a place to focus. I need to keep making plans that are consistent with what I know to be God’s will. I need to count the cost ahead of time as far as I can determine it. I need to stay connected to people who will encourage me along the way. For all of you who have believed in my journey, “thank you!”

One Response

  1. Endurance is always costly. It is earned, and not just given to us. Physical exercise seems to be the one place I work on endurance the most. I’ve been working at increasing my cardio endurance the last few months. I rarely wake up wanting to go to the gym or do a longer bike ride. But I know if I pay the price of working through the discomfort and get the work done, I will feel better and benefit in the long run.

    Thank you Bill and Pam for all you have done and for being faithful to God and His calling. Those of us that have been exposed to your teaching and ministry efforts have benefited greatly! Keep up the good work 🙂

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