Acts: Day 32

Paul Goes to Jerusalem


Today's Text: Acts 21:1-36, Joel 2:28-29, John 19:13-16

Text: Acts 21:1-36, Joel 2:28-29, John 19:13-16

You know those movies with the sad endings you watch again and again? You know how they end, but something in you hopes beyond hope that somehow the ending will be different this time. The guy and the girl will get together. The epic battle scene will end in the good guy’s favor. But it never happens, does it? Because the ending has already been written.

This is how I feel when I enter the final chapters of Acts. I know Paul’s imprisonment is coming, but I want it to end differently this time. I want Paul to be free to bring the gospel everywhere and to everyone. When I read Acts 21, I don’t want that fateful day in the temple to come—the day that changed Paul’s course forever. For the remainder of the book, our friend is either in prison, en route to prison, or under house arrest. This is the last we see of Paul as a free man.

Who hasn’t experienced a change of course? There we are, trucking along, doing fine and—BOOM—something happens that changes our direction. Something messes with the end of the story we’d planned for ourselves—an unexpected, and often unwanted, shift.

When this happens to me, I look at God with shrugged shoulders. “What are You doing?” I ask. “Why is this happening? What now?”

I’m not often given specific answers to these questions, but these shifts always remind me that God is the author of my story, not me. When I surrendered my life to Christ, I gave up ownership of myself (Galatians 2:19-20). I no longer call the shots, and a change of course is a good, though hard, reminder of this critical part of the Christian life.

While we can’t predict how or when these shifts in our stories will occur, we can expect them. Paul did. When his friends warn him about his potential fate in Jerusalem, he asks,

“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

-Acts 21:13

Knowing full well the danger he faced, Paul continued the ministry he was called to. He didn’t allow the unknown to paralyze him. He had been transformed on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-25), filled with the Spirit, and now he lived as though his life were not his own.

As a Christ follower, I want to do just that: follow Christ. I want to live life with open hands, being prepared and ready for what God has in store, rather than resistant to it. Under God’s care, we may not always know what’s coming next, but we can trust Him, come what may.

Some of the stories in our lives will have sad endings we’d like to change. But the Story of our lives? We know how it ends. We’ve been promised the best ending imaginable. Our good and faithful God will prevail, and we will get spend eternity with Him.

In the meantime, let’s trust God with the other stories, the changes of course—no matter how trying, no matter how unexpected. Knowing that He is God and He is good, let us say with confidence, “The Lord’s will be done!” (Acts 21:14).


  • Emilee Meurer

    I’m currently in the process of support raising to go on staff with a church. This was a sweet reminder to hold fast to what I believe the Lord has called me to, no matter how hard this path has been and no doubt will continue to be, and what a gift it is that God’s presence is with me and will not leave me.

  • Olivia Adams

    When I finished reading through this, I had my husband read the last paragraph because we’re in a season of waiting and a ‘what now?’ kind of moment. His time as a youth pastor where we are at and my first year teaching has not gone as anticipated so with all of that we have determined we aren’t supposed to stay where we’re at so we are preparing to move come the summer time but there’s a few months that’ll be kind of awkward at moments so we aren’t exactly looking forward to it and are just ready for the change but it’s not time yet. So after I showed him this and what was crazy is that the lesson for Sunday school today is the same lesson just different story. He just looked at me and then shook his head. It was funny and frustrating at the same time

  • ed sheeran songs list

    It’s always good to see it from a different perspective My experience confirms that. I have to think about it some more. Can you expand on this?

  • Stephanie

    I said a prayer for you today untidy. God loves you so much. You are his daughter. I pray that He will bless you, that His Spirit will fill you with all peace and joy and comfort in the midst of this crazy life.

  • My life is complex just now, and I’m tired. It was hard reading today’s thoughts, but they pointed me back to God being in control and trusting him, even when I really feel like giving up. I don’t feel much better, but I appreciate not being given platitudes.

  • T’y’…(bbgbñg

  • Nikravesous

    This is a poignant lesson for this season in my life. I am stuck between feeling called to go to grad school and wanting to start a family, between staying at my job with many opportunities to advance and moving somewhere that we could afford for me to stay home when kids do come. God is opening some doors and not others, not the ones I was prepared for. I am always antsy to KNOW WHAT’S NEXT and figure out how to PREPARE but I need to sit back, take a deep breath, and say “God’s will be done!” I’ll walk through the doors that are open and if it is not His will, He will shut them.

  • This spoke right to me. As a recent college graduate I can not seem to find a job. Anxiety overwhelms me both ways – to find that job and to not find that job. My husband and I have had a specific plan for years to pay off our student loans, but with me not having a job it is changing our course dramatically. Delaying the time to have kids and so on. I hold tight to the truth that God is the Author of my story and His plans are more than I could ever imagine. So, I will step off the throne and let God take over. I will stop resisting anxiety, because I know that He is in control. He is for me.

    • DebbieinAZ

      Praying for God to supply the perfect job for you in this season of your life. Also, that you will have patience and peace in the waiting, and He will use this time for His purposes. Be blessed sister.

  • Catherine

    I love that God is the author of my story! Let the adventures continue!

  • This came at the perfect timing. I was literally wondering why I had to be the one who struggles with anxiety, as if I’m the only one. We don’t always know God’s plan, I pray to remember that God’s Will be done, and to trust in Him. Thank you everyone for sharing your stories.

  • Brittany

    What a faith Paul Had… to be ready for whatever may come, life or death he would carry out the will of the Lord! My family has been going through some tough stuff… Finances, sickness and pain… yet God’s hand is in and through it all. I pray that I will continue to grow in my faith so that I will be as bold to say that whatever may come, His Will Be Done! It won’t do me any good to worry about what will happen next, but it will make me strong to believe and stand firm that God is in control and that His Will is greater than any of our plans to “fix” or “change” our circumstances… I’m slowly learning to see what it means to trust in the Will of God through every and any season, no matter how hard and now matter what the outcome may be!

    • Kristin Erickson

      Loved reading this, thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts. Praying for your family now, and that you can get through this hard season.

  • I have to wonder…if Paul had gone to Jerusalem without the warning of danger, and everything happened just as it did, would it not have been credited to Paul as suffering for the cross? Why was the warning important? Couldn’t the warning have been prompting from the Holy Spirit to change course?
    I am reminded in Isaiah 55:11 “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where to I sent it.”
    God will accomplish His will. I want to respond in obedience, but I believe it doesn’t necessarily depend on whether I take path A or path B. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

    • Antonia

      I think that is where the Holy Spirit comes in. I’m sure Paul knew what he was doing. He likely felt in his spirit that this was the necessary course. If it was a warning to change direction then he would have felt that prompting from the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew the cross was coming too and knew he would be betrayed but did nothing to stop it because he knew what was necessary.

      • Janet

        Thanks Antonio. I don’t disagree with you. I was just thinking about the fact that Paul received this warning. It is clear that he was certain about where God was leading him and obedient to that call. Why do you think though that it was important for him to know what was going to happen when he went to Jerusalem? When I think about listening to God’s calling, we may be aware of danger and/or risk, but seldom, I think, do we know exactly what will happen. We go forward trusting God’s will for us. I guess the answer is maybe in the testimony and example to others of Paul’s willingness to suffer for the Lord. I am grateful that we serve a loving God who goes before us and will never leave us.

        • Tricia J

          Maybe the prophesy was not for Paul but for those around him and for those of us who are reading the story now.

  • Acts 21:1-36 & John 19:13-16 brought to mind the mob-mentality. Can you image all the Jews collectively shouting for the death of Paul and for Jesus to be crucified? We get so worked up in groups, and it turns ugly very fast.

    Ladies, I want to ask you to pray for my city, Minneapolis, today. We woke up to the news of an innocent black man, Philando Castile, being shot to death over night after being pulled over for a broken taillight. His girlfriend videoed what happened, and even though it’s hard, I would encourage others to watch the video. She cries out to God to protect her dying boyfriend, who was reaching for his ID when he was attacked. I can barely imagine the heartbreak and shock she felt as she prayed for his life to be spared. Let’s pray for her, and her little girl who was in the backseat, witnessing everything. We can also pray for the police officer, who although he did something very wrong, must be torn up inside as well.

    • Rochelle

      Amen; definitely praying for that family and everyone involved. It’s tragic indeed.

    • brenda

      yes I had just read about this tragedy before I started my SRT devotion this morning. You can hear the fear in the police officers voice as he tried to justify his actions. Definitely praying for your community and all involved, the girlfriend and child who witnessed it all before their eyes. Praying!

  • This reading took on a different route for me today. As a Type A overachiever, I always want to be in control of my path and clear on what’s coming up ahead. This reading made me realize that this need to be in control actually leaves me feeling out of control… overwhelmed and anxious. Instead, I need to be strong in the fact that I am not on my own path or controlling the outcomes, God is. I need to stop worrying about tomorrow and put my trust in Jesus.

    • Sarah

      I too struggle with that which I am not in control. It’s tough to say “Your will be done.” I am recognizing though more and more as I read scripture that the perfection and control I seek is an illusion. All things are in his hands. If I can remember how he loves me that shouldn’t scare me so much, but if I am honest it does. I will practice over and over remembering that fighting his love and control over my life only hurts and causes fear. Letting go of the rope and trusting, recommitting daily to his will being done.

    • Christa

      . This reading made me realize that this need to be in control actually leaves me feeling out of control… overwhelmed and anxious. Thank you for this insight. As a fellow control freak, I’d never thought of how much that has the opposite effect on what I’m trying to achieve! Thank you! I needed to hear that!

    • Christa


    • Rochelle

      Wow – well said. Something for me to chew on today.

  • This definitely stirred up a lot of emotion as I read the passage in John. When Jesus physically lived here on earth, He went through all of the trouble, hardship and persecution that we can expect to go through at times. He CAN relate to us. Then, reading the passage where Paul is taken by the people, I couldn’t help but wonder what Paul was thinking. Was he thinking about the moment Jesus was captured? I feel that, although this was the most difficult situation to go through, Paul must have had some reassurance in knowing that he literally was doing the work of our Savior. Despite the hardship that was to come, Paul was not alone in this journey and he knew this full well.

  • Loved this reminder today! God always knows best and His will is perfect.
    Praying this verse from David’s prayer in Psalm 143 today: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (verse 10)

  • Keri Underwood

    “but these shifts always remind me that God is the author of my story, not me. When I surrendered my life to Christ, I gave up ownership of myself ” I needed this today. Like needed it bad! Blessed by these words this morning, thank you!

  • Sarah D.

    Wow this is wonderful. “We may not always know what’s next, but we can trust Him, come what may.” That needs to be my life motto!! After being out of school due to dizziness from a concussion, this speaks to me so clearly. In the fall I’ll be going into my senior year of high school. I don’t know where I will go to college or how my health will be in this coming year. But i have to trust that God has a plan. He knows what He is doing, and He will work everything together for HIS good. Lord, your will be done! Help me to act how you want me to act and guide me this summer, draw me close to YOU!

  • Good morning SRT sisters! Loving Acts and this study so much this summer!! While hiking here in marvelous Mammoth, have enjoyed memorizing Acts 17:24-27…just a challenge to you all…how’s it going? Thanks SRT for encouraging us to keep God’s word in our hearts AND brains!!!!

  • This really speaks to me “When I surrendered my life to Christ, I gave up ownership of myself. I no longer call the shots”,….Thank you for reminding me that life is no longer mines to do as I please, but that I must always consult the one in charge for any course direction.

  • Why is prophesy used throughout Acts to warn of suffering ahead when it is already clear to him that in each city, he will experience suffering? Is the prophesy for the early church? Is it to remind us of the mission?

    • Krystan

      That is a wonderful question that is open to many different view points. I believe that it shows us how faithful Paul was to our Heavenly Father. He knew exactly what he was getting into, and it didn’t bother him a bit. How many times does our Father tell us to do something, and we are too concerned with the consequences to follow His lead? Paul was faithful.

  • Kelly Smith

    Oh how I needed this reminder today! My life is not my own. The shifts and changes put pressure on my faith. I long for stability and assurances. It’s in the shifting and uncertainty that my faith grows stronger. When I let go of my perceived control and give my life over to the will of God, I can be sure that things will work out according to His perfect plan. The ending may not look like I imagined, but it will be the perfect ending. I want to live like Paul, as though my life is not my own.

    • Jenna P

      I love that you said “perceived” control. We are NEVER in control, whether we are trying to be or not, so let’s show the Lord that we are aware of that and stop fighting His perfect plan!!

    • Marie

      The shifting and uncertainty; yes, I see my faith grow in these challenging times.

  • “Under God’s care, we may not always know what’s coming next, but we can trust Him, come what may.”
    I struggle with that at times. Thank you for that reminder. God is good. He’s in control.

  • Some challenges I’m pondering today:
    – Paul knows he will face opposition and suffering (v4, 11) but is steadfast in his intention to go to Jerusalem (v13). Am I willing to set out on a path for Jesus’ sake that I know will be costly to me?
    – Paul doesn’t provoke opposition (v20-24). He is willing to be purified and to fit in culturally – to be all things to all people so that some might be saved. Am I flexible where I can be for the sake of the gospel?
    – The opposition Paul faces is spectacularly unjust (v26-36), just as the opposition against Jesus was unjust. Am I willing to follow Jesus’ footsteps and suffer at the hands of those who do not love Jesus?

  • One thing occurred to me when reading this, and that is, when God’s will is not my will, everything is tough. The internal struggle that that conflict results in, is tough. Sometimes we commit ourselves & our lives to God, not understanding that this conflict will arise & knock us for six at some points…and we may cry, rant, and rave…forgetting we had told God ‘Have your way’, and only when we have spent all our energy fighting it, and reach a place of complete exhaustion, do we remember. Then it’s the process of coming to terms with the season we’re in, knowing it won’t last forever, and holding on to hope by a thread. Yes…it is hard to say to God ‘your will be done’, but it also the only and best way to live life. It’s the only attitude who’s reward is peace amidst what can sometimes feel like hell. It’s not giving up, it’s handing the responsibility over to one who is more equipped to deal with it correctly, who can see what we cannot, and who will always do so with our best interests at heart.

    • Dana


    • Nancy

      I love reading the comments almost as much as the lessons because of the wonderful insight you ladies bring to the table. Loved this Tols! Blessings to all of you today.

    • Christa

      This comes back to one of the most influential verses in my life: the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14. The more we grasp and claw and try to control our circumstances the tougher things become. It is only when we surrender that we are able to have enough peace to listen to His direction and become open to the path he’s trying to steer us down.

      • Tols

        I’m so glad you found a Bible reference that coincides with my thoughts. Noting that. That’s a wonderful verse. x

    • Susie

      Beautiful…thank you such a great reminder!

    • Bek

      wow! yes!

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