It happened again yesterday. Someone asked me that hard-to-answer question that defies explanation: “How do you write to a deadline when your chronic illnesses flare up?” My standard answer has become, “I just keep writing.” But there’s so much more to it than that. How does one explain the strength and grace of God that makes it possible to keep going? I have found the same principle to be true in other areas of my life.
When faced with a difficult conversation, I take a deep breath, look the person in the eye, and start talking. I hate cleaning the house. What do I do? Pick up the toilet brush, and don’t stop until the last thing on my list is spotless. (Or, more recently, I pay my daughter to do it. J) Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. That’s the secret I’m discovering to many of life’s hardest things. I’m no scientist, but I can Google with the best of them, and Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states: “An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” I’ve been called unbalanced a time or two, do and I think the Apostle Paul might proudly accept the same calling for his faith. He didn’t know Sir Isaac either, but I think Paul realized the benefit of staying in motion…
Acts 20:1-3 – “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.” (emphasis added)
Paul traveled from place to place, offering encouragement to others. Was it because his life was all rose pedals and puffy clouds? Nope. He seemed to stir up trouble wherever he went. A riot in Ephesus. Persecution throughout his first missionary journey that resurfaced on his second tour. And now this new plot in Greece… Paul could have focused on the hard things, the danger, the warnings for the Church. Instead, he was the voice of encouragement…and he kept moving.
Acts 20:4-6 – “He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.” (emphasis added)
Notice some familiar names, some new ones, and that Luke (the author) joins them—using “we” to describe the narrative. Our human tendency is to establish a status quo in our habits, lifestyle, and even in our relationships. But Paul seems to have had the ability to surround himself with a variety of people in a revolving-door sort of partnership in ministry, allowing for fresh wisdom and new eyes to see constantly changing ministry needs. If we’re going to keep moving, we need to be ready for changes in relationships. This does NOT mean we can’t have close friends. Paul thought of Timothy as his son in the faith. However, in order to keep moving, we need to keep our hearts open to new people and the new wisdom and direction from God that they bring.
Acts 20:7 – “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.” (emphasis added)
Sometimes keep moving means physical sacrifice. I think Paul was tired. He didn’t just hop on a flight to Greece. He walked, sailed, crawled, etc. They didn’t get a burger at McDonald’s. They cooked. When Paul preached the gospel, he was the only show in town. The responsibility of building the Church was on his shoulders. Sometimes it’s physically daunting to keep moving…but that inexpressible, undeniable grace and strength from above gives us what we need to accomplish what He calls us to do.
Acts 20:8-12 – “There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’ Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.” (emphasis added)
This is comical! Paul literally bored a kid to death with his preaching! J So poor Eutychus falls out of the window, and Paul races downstairs, throws himself on the boy’s body, and says, “He’s fine. No worries!” Then Paul goes back upstairs, gets a sandwich, and starts preaching again. THAT is the epitome of keep moving! But the more important lesson is Eutychus. Notice, he stayed and listened until Paul left after daylight. I’m guessing he didn’t fall asleep again either! And everyone was comforted. Why? Because Paul kept moving…and so did they. When the enemy tries to interrupt with some sort of distraction, tragedy, etc., we have the choice of shifting our focus from God’s calling or trusting the Lord to heal what’s broken and keep moving. Undaunted. That’s what Paul was.
- Lord, I want to be undaunted by the enemy’s distraction tactics. Single-focused and yet responsive to the needs around me. It’s such a fine-line and one I can only walk with the wisdom and grace You give. To keep going when You call me to rest is disaster. To keep going by the power of Your Spirit in the direction of Your calling…is certain victory.