Thoughts from the Sycomore’s weekly reading of Acts 18…
18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.
Oftentimes we look at the overwhelming things that we need to do around us as well as the work that needs to happen in our own heart and soul and the immensity and intensity of the task either paralyzes us or spins us into a chaotic frenzy. In either case, very little actually gets done and the paralysis and frenzy impacts not just us, but those around us as well. This is why it’s important to look at our lives in terms of assignments—God’s assignments. I heard Pastor Edmund Chan of Singapore once say—“to start small and keep it simple.” This was one of the most profound things that I learned from my doctorate classes—because it spoke to me about seeking out God’s assignments.
I have to catch my breath every time I look at Paul’s life. He seemed to do everything and travel everywhere. It’s a good thing that he had “the gift”—a post for another day! He couldn’t have done what he did with a family. In the midst of his whirlwind of a life, it makes so much sense that the Apostle Paul lived his life according to the fulfillment of God’s assignments. He HAD to. We see in today’s text a glimpse into his crazy schedule. But before he sailed for Syria, it says that he had—“his hair cut off at Cenchraeae because of a vow he had taken.” The text doesn’t say specifically what that vow was (some scholars say that it was a Nazarite vow which was common during the Biblical times). And maybe it doesn’t really matter that much WHAT that vow was or Luke the author assumed that his 1st century readers would know what he was talking about (both of which are usually the case when something is not specified). Whatever the case may be, what is clear is that he took a vow. That vow shows me that in the midst of what may be the most intense schedule that anyone maintained, aside from Jesus Himself, what drove Paul and what grounded him—His commitment to God, or his commitment to fulfill the assignment given to him by God Himself.
It makes so much sense that God gives us assignments to steward in our lives. God is not only perfect in order, but infinitely compassionate and merciful as well. He will never cram something down our throats because He is never performance or task driven. His primary concern is always relationship. That is why the key to seeking God’s assignments for us in the midst of the overwhelming tasks or odds swirling around us (and within us!), is actually seeking Him. That first step of faith is always towards Jesus. Only when we seek Him, will we be able to discover His assignments. Now, this doesn’t diminish the fact that the tasks or the odds remain overwhelming. However, it helps us to gain insight and perspective of God’s heart for us, the truth about the situation (that those overwhelming tasks and odds are not our masters—only Jesus is!), and finally, it allows us to take that “small and simple” step of faith to take a hold of our assignments and fulfill them. #desiringGod2017