Then Paul replied, “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.”
Since he would not be persuaded, we said no more except, “The Lord’s will be done.” (Acts 21)
Commitment is an odd concept for many of us. On the one hand, we believe that it is a good thing to be committed and loyal, a person that can be counted on and trusted. Yet, when it comes time to actually do the committing, we balk. It could be that we are afraid of committing to the wrong thing. Or perhaps we just value our freedom so highly, that we don’t want to be held back in any way.
This attitude towards commitment has had a devastating effect on many of the institutions that we once held dear. From civic groups and social clubs to sports teams and even marriages, our communities are struggling to find people willing to commit. Trying to plan a get-together for a group of friends can be an exercise in frustration, as people neglect to RSVP and even if they do, they may or may not show up!
Sadly, this tendency has infected the church as well. Research shows that even “regular” church-goers are attending less frequently than in the past. Those who do attend are not as likely to volunteer to help, and when they do it is a short term of service. Please, understand that this is not an indictment, but an honest look at where we are as a people and as a church. I think that this is something that warrants some close attention and self-examination.
I am so grateful that we live in a country where our rights to worship God according to our conscience and the dictates of our religion are protected. However, because our faith is “safe,” we lack the clarifying urgency that believers in other countries and cultures possess. We can afford to be less attentive to matters of faith and observance because the stakes do not feel as high. We do not have to fear physical harm or criminal/political repercussions.
However, there IS danger involved when we allow our spiritual lives to take a back-burner. When we fail to set aside time for daily prayer and worship, our spiritual growth is stunted. When we do not study the Word in the context of community, we run the risk of mis-interpreting what God is saying, or simply read our own biases into Scripture. When we fail to gather with other believers, we cannot be encouraged and supported and miss out on opportunities to be the encourager!
Someday, when we stand before our Creator, we will have to give an account for our stewardship of the spiritual gifts that he places within each of us. The book of Revelation makes clear of the terrible consequence of “luke-warm” commitment. I pray that none of us suffer that fate!
When faced with the prospect of imprisonment, suffering and even death, Paul was unwavering. He had seen the risen Lord. He had witnessed signs, miracles, and wonders. When others tried to dissuade him from preaching the gospel, Paul was relentless because he knew the importance of the Great Commission and he knew his role in it. We need that kind of clarity and commitment today!
What is your role in the community of believers? Do you have one? What spiritual gifts do you possess and how are you exercising them? Have you allowed worldly distractions to take your focus off of Christ and his church? When you are faced with adversity, are you able to say, as Paul did, “I am ready?”
PRAYER: Father, thank you that we live in a context where we are not persecuted for our faith, and we are able to worship you without fear. Help us to fix our eyes on you, on what is truly important. Help us to discipline ourselves, to embrace commitment rather than run from it. We desire to be a part of what you are doing…in our families, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!