Sitting at our graduation ceremonies, we naturally dream of fame, wealth, and a nice home in the suburbs, with our 2.5 children. Our default setting is to aim in life for the personally satisfying and comfortable goals of notoriety, prosperity, and tranquility. As parents tearfully observing from the bleachers, we instinctively want the same for our robed children.
But the Apostle Paul aspired for the achieving of something far greater with his life. He was navigating his life right into a shipwrecking hurricane of persecution in Jerusalem, where the Spirit compelled him to go. This course would ruin his comfort, prosperity and tranquility. But that didn’t bother him much:
“And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24).
Later, when his Christian friends who feared Paul would suffer harm tried to deter him from heading toward Jerusalem, Paul said:
“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
Calvin Comments: “Paul was not so gripped by a blind love of living, that he lost sight of the reason for living.”
That’s striking. Don’t let the love of living blind you of the reason for living — and that is to pursue our chief end, which is glorifying God. And if we lay down our life in the process of glorifying Him, then so be it! Paul lived for a cause far greater than himself — for King and for Kingdom.
In Shakespeare’s Henry V, the King inspiringly rouses his grossly outnumbered troops to hurl themselves against the French forces, to sacrifice if necessary their precious lives for King and Kingdom. In summary, he shouts: “For centuries to come, English gentlemen shall think themselves accursed who were NOT here, and they will hold their manhoods cheap, who fought NOT, and shed NOT with us their blood on St Crispin’s Day.”
That’s how Paul lived for His King; and so should we.
H. C. Trumbull wrote:
“If a man is not ready to die, he is not ready to live. He who is unready to lay down his life at the call of duty, will not use his life to advantage while it is spared to him. It is a great mistake to suppose that it is a man’s first duty to take care of his life, or to preserve his health, or to look out for his own interests. His first duty is to do right. His second duty is to do right. His last duty is to do right. If the responsibility is upon him for the hour to risk his health, or his life, in behalf of his family, or of a stranger or of any trust committed to him, he ought to take the risk, and push ahead at any cost. Living is a good business for a man only when a man is as ready to die as to live. But it was “for the name of the Lord Jesus” that Paul was ready to be bound or to die.”
Now that’s a life worth living!
This kind of thinking drove Jim Elliot to dying on a riverbank among the Auca Indians, a Pastor to spending his life laboring in obscurity among the inner city underprevileged, and an entrepreneur to quitting a cushy VP position in a big corporation to start from the ground up and slug it out in a small business start-up whose employees could enjoy a culture that seeks first the kingdom.
May graduates and parents alike aspire for such lives spent for King and Kingdom.