Acts 20:24 – 24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
What does it look like for someone to say, my life is worth nothing to me? One thing that we can see from Paul is that he became totally unaware of himself, his needs, and he seemed unfazed by whatever life threw his way.
At Ephesus in Acts 20, it says for 3 years, Paul taught them day and night with tears the whole counsel of God and he warned them about the potential pitfalls and dangers. It didn’t sound like Paul had any downtime. Day and night with tears. That’s hard work. We work hard day and night for many things that will not last. Are you working this hard to invest in things that will last forever — your relationship with Christ and people?
In the next chapter, the Holy Spirit warns Paul of the suffering he will undergo in Jerusalem. And a prophet named Agabus confirms this to be the case and how Paul will be bound up. And the brothers weep and beg Paul not to go. And he answers them in Acts 21:13 – “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Sure enough, Paul was bound up, he was thrown into prison and put in chains and he was transferred from one Roman court after another. He was like a hot potato. Nobody wanted to deal with him. And I love the scene when Paul is before King Agrippa and Paul is trying to persuade the king to become a Christian and the king scoffs, do you think I can believe in such a short amount of time. And Paul replies in Acts 26:29 – “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
This scene begs the question — who is free and who is bound up? Paul is so free, though bound up in physical chains. The kings have their power and their position, but in their hearts, they are the ones bound up by so many things in this life.
Paul, being a Roman citizen, appealed to Caesar so after the proceedings, he was put on a ship for Rome. And on the way, they are shipwrecked.
And Paul could have had a self-pity party. He is working so hard to do God’s will but there seems to be so many setbacks. But there is Paul again, making a fire because it is cold and raining and he starts to feed the others. And while trying to make a fire, a snake bites him. But Paul shrugs it off and he keeps going. He doesn’t wonder, why is that snake biting me, maybe I should not be feeding these people? He doesn’t suffer from analysis-paralysis. His goal is obtaining Christ and his heavenly prize and that single-minded focus gets translated practically into a life of service to others.
It is only possible to live this way if you resolve that your physical life means nothing to you. Meaning, life here and now can be filled with suffering and misunderstandings and hardships and constant service for others but we are unfazed. Why? Because, like Paul, we are focused, not on our happiness or well-being, but we are fixed on finishing the race and completing the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. But perhaps, this still sounds too abstract. What does it mean to consider my life worth nothing to me? How can I possibly live the way Apostle Paul did? Is Christianity just all work, and gritting our teeth and trying real hard through our efforts to be selfless servants? Next time, we’ll look into one spiritual secret of Paul, which I believe, enabled him to live the way he did.