“And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:10-14)
I was thinking this morning about the difficult task the prophet Agabus was given here. He had to go tell Paul that challenges were waiting for him up the road. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but part of me wonders if he asked God, “Why do I have to know this? Why do I have to be the one to take him the news that a battle lies ahead of him? Why do I have to be the bearer of bad news?” Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he realized that God had a plan and this was just part of it. I do wonder if he prayed for Paul as he traveled to tell him what God said, and if he prayed for strength and determination for Paul as his friends tried to persuade him not to go, and if he prayed for Paul as Paul decided to go ahead and face what came, knowing that God had sent him to Jerusalem. Did Agabus carry a burden for Paul from that point forward?
I like the picture of Paul’s determination to do what God told him to do regardless of the challenges, the difficulties, and the dangers that it involved. I wonder if when God shows me something to do if I would still be determined to do it if it involved pain, hurt, and difficulty. I hope I would be. Would I still stand firm in the path God has laid out for me if my friends were weeping and crying and asking me not to do it? The more I look at it, the more I realize how deeply Paul understood that this was what God wanted him to do. When it comes to the will of God, I need to be that sure. I need to be ready to do the will of God, no matter what the consequences, no matter how deep the pain goes, no matter how difficult it might be… even if it involves the physical separation from those who love and care about me. Paul was ready to die, if that was what was needed to accomplish God’s purpose. He had a great trust in God. Do I trust God that much? Am I willing to let God let bad things, hard things, difficult things, come across my path, so that he can work good through it? Am I able to say, God knows best, and let him work what he will? Can I see that he has the bigger picture and knows more than I do about things? Can I take the hard thing and know that he is using it to work good further down the road? Or will I see the hard thing and say, “No, it’s too much! It’s too hard! I can’t do that! I quit!” (As if quitting would make things easier and better… not!)
How determined are we to go through? If God tells us to go tell someone that hard things lie ahead, would we do it? Or would we sit back and go, “But what if I’m wrong? What if it doesn’t happen? Surely you don’t want me to tell them that, Lord! Surely you don’t want me to tell them that life’s going to get hard for them! Do I really have to see this?” What if God answers and says, “Yes, go tell them, and then, be their encouragement. Remind them that I will work good through the hard time, through the trial they will face. Remind them that I have a purpose in the trial. Stand by them to lift them up when other friends try to discourage them from doing what I have called them to do. Encourage them to press forward in my way. As they go, hold them up in prayer. Be their support, their friend, their encouragement. I know that if there was an easier way, you would want that, but still, I have told you this because I know I can trust you to share the news, and then to pray. I know that I can count on you to be their support. Stand firm, hold on, and when the time comes, press forward. Fight the battle with them. Be their help.”
And if we are the one who gets to hear that battles are ahead, how do we take the news? Do we dismiss it, and think, “No, that’s not going to happen. Surely this one is mistaken about what they heard. God didn’t say that, did he? Do I really want to go ahead if that’s going to happen?” Do we let the fears come crowding in and hold us back? How do we handle it if our friends and loved ones start telling us to hold back? Do we let their fears and concerns hold us back? Do we step outside of what we know God wants us to do because of what might happen, because of what we’ve been told will happen? Do we check to be sure that we know it is what God wants us to do? Or are we so sure already that we can do like Paul did and say, “I know God wants me to do this, so even if bad things happen, I know God will work good from it”? How much do we really trust God and how sure are we about his will for us?
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