Acts 20:17-24 :
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to himself the elders of the assembly. When they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you all the time, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears, and with trials which happened to me by the plots of the Jews; how I didn’t shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, teaching you publicly and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus. Now, behold, I go bound by the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there; except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions wait for me. But these things don’t count; nor do I hold 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 fully testify to the Good News of the grace of God.
We read here that Paul explained to the leaders of the Ephesians Churches that he was “bound by the Spirit to Jerusalem.” He wasn’t “shrinking” from them at all by skipping a visit. Instead, Paul was on a mission and nothing was going to get in his way.
I don’t think that if Paul’s only reason to go to Jerusalem was out of duty to God that he would have been so focused and enthusiastic. I realize that it was his duty, but I would like to emphasize that Paul really wanted to do it also, and he indicates it in this passage.
Paul says that he already had been told many times that troubles were headed his way in Jerusalem. Without a clear direction from God, we might consider this a sign that God didn’t want him to go, but Paul knew that these things were going to happen and that God wanted Him to do it anyway. I just love what Paul said about the troubles he would face. He said that “these things don’t count; nor do I hold my life dear to myself.” The reason for this was interesting too: “So that I might finish my race with joy!”
If we are not experiencing joy in our lives as a Christians, it could be because something has interfered with the true will of God for our lives. It could even be that “duties” have replaced the will of God for our lives. Paul was so focused on his joy, that he was quite ready to go to death over it in Jerusalem. Paul’s joy was clearly not bound to earthly pleasure or personal gain on earth, but He was also not swayed by “responsibilities” either. Paul was focused on the righteousness of running his race for God. That is where our joy is too. If we want to be happy, we should do exactly what God wants us to do and not let anything get in our way, not even the fear of death.