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.”
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).