I am ready to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Does that sentence shock you? Is it something you can relate to? When I read that line, something happens inside me – doubt. Can I really say that? Do I really mean it?
Paul did. In Acts 21, this man of faith faces his closest friends, brothers, and sisters and declares, in effect, “I’m not only ready to suffer in prison, but I’m ready to die for Jesus.”
I believe he was willing to die solely because he knew the source of his LIFE. As he encourages the Church in Colossae, he writes, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory” (Colossians 3:2-4 NLT).
Paul was ready for the will of the Lord to be done, no matter the cost, because he knew the GAIN. In fact, while sitting in prison, he said “For [Jesus’] sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8, 10-11). The gain was (and is) life!
At first, Paul’s choice probably shocked and confused his loved ones. What could be the point of marching into a place so overtly dangerous and hostile to the Way? Why would God take Paul, their influential leader, and send him away, possibly for good? I bet they were afraid. I bet they were saying, “Paul, we need you!” Scripture tells us that their hearts were breaking.
Even so, more than they trusted in Paul, they trusted in the Lord’s will. Choosing to believe God’s plan even when the pieces didn’t make sense, they surrender: “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
I think the question this week is clear: Are we willing to follow Jesus no matter the cost? When it costs us comfort? When our friends and family think we’re crazy? When life feels like it’s falling apart? When His thoughts and ways are so high that we can’t possibly attain them? Maybe the question is better stated this way: Is Christ my life?
I think this week is an opportunity to ask the Lord to reveal any false hopes and to answer the tough questions. Do I only feel secure when I have a certain amount of money? Is my confidence based on the opinions of others? Am I shaken by unexpected news? Am I only “good” when life feels conflict-free?
As we are honest about our gods, we can look to the real God, who is an ever-present help in trouble and a refuge for us. We can resolve, “…we will not fear though the earth gives way…” (Psalm 46:2).
We will know for sure that Christ is our life when we can look our fears in the face and submit them before our God: “Lord, not my will but yours be done.”