Endurance (Part 4): Keep Moving Forward

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24

I am completely fixated on the life of the Apostle Paul. Here is a man that began his life in pursuit of persecuting followers of Jesus and ends up becoming one of the greatest Apostles that ever lived. I began reading in the book of Acts a couple of weeks ago and it covers how Paul was transformed into a follower of Christ. As I was reading this, I could not stop asking myself, “Why Paul? What was so special about him that God hand-picked him to be such a vital instrument to expand the Kingdom of God?” I wrestled with this thought for quite a while before I flipped my mindset from ‘Why Paul?’ to ‘Why not Paul?’

When God met Paul on the Damascus Road, he took his sight and forced Paul to rely on faith. He gave him an assignment and Paul kept moving forward. He walked into the unknown and allowed God to be his guide. This meeting between God and Paul became his testimony that he used time and again as he went from city to city proclaiming the name of Jesus. His testimony became one of the most powerful tools that he used to bring Gentiles to Jesus. If you remember, Paul was a Pharisee. They persecuted followers of Jesus because they were teaching outside of the Law of Moses. Paul was a self-righteous hypocrite, and yet God still had a plan for him!! This man watched people get beaten and killed and he approved of it, but God saw what Paul could become.

Now, Paul’s journey was not easy. He was told that his life would be full of suffering and imprisonment, but he did not care because he knew what his purpose was (Acts 20:24). Every time he found himself in a situation that looked impossible, he KEPT MOVING FORWARD and relied on his faith because that is what radically changed his life in the first place. Paul was able to endure so well because he accepted the will of God for his life and knew what his purpose was and nothing was going to stop him from accomplishing that. There is a particular part of Paul’s journey that got my attention as I was reading. While Paul was being transferred from Jerusalem to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial, he had to endure so much over that time. He was bound on a ship that had to sail across the Mediterranean Sea in order to get to Rome and ended up shipwrecked on the island of Malta (Acts 27). Paul’s ability to endure in all of this seems supernatural, but his faith in God is what caused him to keep moving forward.

Shipwrecked

As the ship was sailing across the sea during the winter season, there was a massive storm that did not end for fourteen straight days! The captain of the ship could no longer keep its heading and finally succumbed to the strength of the storm.

“The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.” Acts 27:20

Everyone on board lost complete hope and figured death was inevitable. Paul, as a prisoner, never waivered and reminded the crew of what God told him. Paul used that moment to magnify God and bring hope to a hopeless situation. During this shipwreck, not a single crew member or prisoner died, just as God had promised. After landing on the island of Malta, Paul was gathering sticks to make a fire and was bitten by a poisonous snake. Are you kidding me? As if he has not had to endure enough on this journey? A demon-possessed (all snakes are demons to me because I hate them) snake bites Paul and does not let go. The crew sees this happen and watches as Paul shakes the snake off of his hand and throws it into the fire. They thought that Paul was going to fall over dead, but realized, after a while, that he was going to be just fine.

What happened next is a pivotal moment. The crew determined after the snake incident that Paul must be a god, but they completely missed that the entire time they were on that journey that Paul was pointing to God the entire time! That was the only reason he was able to endure!! Paul gave all glory to God and realized that the persecution he would have to endure was nothing compared to the glory that was brought to God through it! He does all of this, still being a prisoner, and still awaiting trial in Rome.

“Paul did more for the Kingdom of God while in prison than most of us do with a lifetime of freedom.”

Why not you?

I don’t know about you, but when I read through Acts and read about how much Paul endured for the Kingdom, it made me realize that my problems are not that bad and it inspired me because I want to be able to have enough faith to endure like Paul. You see, when I asked myself the question of why did God select Paul, I was also asking God the same question about me. How could God use me after everything I have been through? How can God use me after all the mistakes I have made? How can God use me when I have so little faith? Then, at the same moment I flipped my thinking about Paul, I flipped my thinking about myself.

Why not me? Why can’t I be used by God and make such an impact for his Kingdom? What I have come to find out about myself is that I stand in my way more than anyone else. I am not going to give the enemy credit for standing in my way because my own thinking beat him to it! The enemy just took advantage of that situation and try to confirm my thoughts about myself. See, the enemy we have is smart. He didn’t dig the hole that my thinking put me in, all he did was give me the shovel. So how do I overcome this thinking? Where do I start? What kind of a journey do I need to go on? Well, I figure that it is similar to what happened to Paul. First off, I just pray the name of Jesus CONSTANTLY. Did you know that the name of Jesus is so strong that the enemy HAS to flee when Jesus’ name is proclaimed? Are you tired of being chastised and put down by the enemy? SCREAM the name of Jesus and the devil MUST flee.

God had to make Paul blind to force him to rely on faith to keep moving forward. I needed God to take the blinders off of my eyes so I could see the promises he has in front of me. The only way to keep increasing in faith is to keep moving forward. Keep moving into the unknown and let God work. Wouldn’t you rather be bound by the Holy Spirit than allow your own thoughts keep you captive? That is why Paul writes in Philippians to fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, and pure. But it has to be intentional. I have to want to fix my thinking. This is extremely hard to do when going through trials and having to endure because I doubt my faith so easily. I start asking ‘Why God?’ way too soon. Instead of knowing that God is in control, I want to know why the heck life is so hard right now and what is the quickest way out. Ouch…. That is like a trial within a trial. When you are enduring and God wants to test your faithfulness to him. I will admit, when Paul was in prison the first time in Philippi, the minute that earthquake happened and the jail cells opened up, I would’ve been like ‘Bye Felicia I am free!’

In all seriousness though, how quick are we to put on our blinders in trials that we become so self-centered and miss what is going on around us? I know that I lack in this area and I need to start seeing what is going on around me and how I can use my circumstances to bring glory to God. Ultimately, I want to be used by God just as Paul was used but if I cannot simply endure for a time, then how in the heck do I expect God to use me for greater things? I am not saying that greater things only happen when we endure but being able to endure through some hard circumstances grows our faith and brings glory to God. God, I want to be better than this!! I want to know that when troubles and trials come my way, it is always an opportunity to bring glory to God. Don’t let your circumstances derail your faith.

If you want to be used by God to do great things for the Kingdom, then expect opposition and being driven far outside your comfort zone. God is not going to oppose our willingness to let Him work in our lives, but the enemy will. So expect a storm. Expect that trouble is coming. Don’t put the blinders up, but keep your eyes open to what is going on around you and know that God is taking care of it.

If you would like to learn more about what having a relationship with God is like, please reach out to me via the email link at the top of this page or through the contact tab found on the home page on this website. There is nothing that you have done in your life that can separate you from God. God longs for a relationship with you, but it requires us to surrender to his goodness. So, if you are on the fence about this whole God thing, I encourage you to take the leap, because a life with God is so much better than a life without God. Just know that your life is a life that is worth living!!

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