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When the chips are down and the stakes are high, what choices will we make? Some decisions can have eternal consequences and also change the lives of others. The Apostle Paul was faced with some critical decisions during his ministry and he always put God and his calling before personal considerations.
An example of Paul’s dedication and faith in God was evident during his visit to Miletus near the end of his third and final recorded journey. Because he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost, he decided to bypass Ephesus, as he had previously spent considerable time there. He stopped at Miletus instead, which was the next major port on his journey, sending word to the Ephesian elders to meet him there (Acts 20:17).
Paul’s path since his miraculous conversion more than 20 years earlier had not been an easy one. People hated him and the message he taught, as he testifies: “I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night, and a day adrift at sea..."(2 Corinthians 11:23-28, New Living Translation).
During this meeting with the Ephesian elders Paul revealed his distress because of the division and apostasy he knew would develop after his departure. Then he confided he knew great trials awaited him in Jerusalem and that he would not see them again in this life: “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. 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. And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again”— that is, until that Kingdom comes (Acts 20:22-25, NLT).
Verses 36-38 of Acts chapter 20 then records the end of Paul’s visit to Miletus: “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.”
In spite of knowing what awaited him, Paul got on the boat anyway.
Life is all about choices. Perhaps none is so great as whom we will ultimately serve—God or ourselves. And God’s Word tells us that as times grow harder and as the days grow darker, the consequences of our choices will become ever more serious.
When the chips are down, knowing what lies ahead, will we have what it takes to get on the boat anyway?