“And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22–24).
AS CHRISTIANS, OUR GOAL IS TO GLORIFY GOD AND GO TO HEAVEN. We do not serve God in order to receive any particular blessing in this life; we serve Him because we want to go, when our journey is over, to the place that He has prepared for us (John 14:1–4) — by any path through this world that may be necessary.
As Paul traveled to Jerusalem following his third missionary journey, it appeared that trouble awaited him there, perhaps involving imprisonment or worse. But Paul said, “None of these things move me.” Paul had plans, of course, but his only real goal was to serve God, and if that required imprisonment, then so be it.
Too often, we become rigid about what we want and what we plan to do. We develop “hardening of the categories,” and we can’t think outside of the narrowly defined set of circumstances we’ve attached our minds to. We think we’re pursuing a goal, when in reality we’re only pursuing a particular path to that goal.
But with any worthwhile goal, especially that of glorifying God and going to heaven, the path may change — indeed, it probably will change, despite all our dreaming and planning. When it does, what then? Do we resent it? Do we become bitter? Do we give up the goal just because our preferred path has been denied?
One measure of how important a goal is to us is how flexible we are in reaching that goal. If our hearts are fixed on one scenario and we give up the goal if that situation doesn’t materialize, then it was only the scenario that was important to us and not the goal. But surely, glorifying God and going to heaven is a goal worth reaching by any path that may be required. The path may change dramatically (and even painfully, as it did for Paul), but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is finishing the race. That’s the goal, and reaching it is worth whatever flexibility is asked of us.
“A windmill is eternally at work to accomplish one end, although it shifts with every variation of the weathercock, and assumes ten different positions in a day” (Charles Caleb Colton).