Acts 20 makes a significant change in focus for Luke as he recounts the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the nations.
C. Peter Wagner comments that “in the remaining nine chapters of his book, Luke gives us very little additional information about missiology, church planting or power ministries … concentrating more on Paul’s experiences of being jailed and defending himself in courtroom-type scenes” (The Acts of the Holy Spirit, p. 490).
With this in mind, I was struck by Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders in Miletus: “You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me … And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work … of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. And I know that none of you … will ever see me again” (Acts 20:18-25, NLT).
The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, promised jail and suffering to Paul, and he embraced it as certainly as one would accept any promise from God. And this was not a unique or momentary season of trouble for Paul. In the apostle’s very calling, Jesus promised that ” ‘Saul [Paul] is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake’ ” (Acts 9:15-16).
Later, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul reminded his dear friends that they had “been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” (Phil. 1:29, NLT).
It seems that there is a theology of suffering. The essence of theology—the study of God—is more than doctrine; as the Puritans taught, it is teaching that enables us to live for and serve God.
Suffering, in some extraordinary and mysterious way, enables us to live for God. And this life lived for God is powerful and transformational—even during a season such as when Paul confessed his suffering and weakness because of his “thorn in the flesh” (see 2 Cor. 12:1-8) while, at the same time, handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched his body were instrumental in healing people in Ephesus (see Acts 19:11-12). These extraordinary miracles give new meaning to his declaration, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Cor. 12:10).
I want to know more about this theology of suffering and the power that comes when I acknowledge that God is at work. I want to be able to embrace this mysterious work and serve my God who is glorified in weakness and in loss.
“Jesus, may the global and, in some places, the suffering Foursquare Church be a glory to you even as we suffer. May we all live confessing that our lives are worth nothing to us unless we use those lives for finishing the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
By: Jim Scott, Foursquare vice president and director of Foursquare Missions International
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