Acts 20:24 – “But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, if only I may finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have obtained from the Lord Jesus. . . “
If only I were prettier, younger, richer. . .
If only I had finished school, found a job, done things differently. . .
If only I could get married, start over, lose weight. . .
How many times have we been guilty of “if onlies” in our lives? And how many times have we been told that dwelling on them is not healthy, for we cannot change our past; we can only change our future. And what are “if onlies” but excuses, really, for why we are not content in our current situation?
If there is truly something we should have done, we should probably still do it—better late than never. But, if our “if onlies” are regrets which keep us from accomplishing something in our present, we need to look to God and press on.
Paul had a different definition for if only—not a regret but a plan. He had faced much adversity in his ministry of spreading the gospel; yet, he said, “None of these things move me. . . if only I may finish my course. . .”
In other words, none of the hardships I have suffered matter; I have put them behind me. As long as I finish what God has called me to do and accomplish His plan, my purpose will be fulfilled.
What does it take for Paul to finish his course? If only he can stay true to God; if only he can endure the battle; if only he can stay strong.
His “if onlies” are not self-focused regrets. His “if onlies” are purposeful decisions to continue in God’s plan for his life, despite obstacles, so he could finish his course.
And in case you are now ready to take a “grin and bear it” approach to finishing your own course. . . keep reading. Paul doesn’t stop there. He adds “with joy.” If only I may finish my course with joy!
How does Paul count his life as worth nothing, face the obstacles in his way to complete his tasks with joy? Because it is for his King. Paul has received God’s grace, His unmerited favor. He has surrendered himself totally to God, trusting Him fully.
When we surrender totally to God, when we walk in God’s plan for our lives, joy should be a by-product. The Bible says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Neh. 8:10) Paul’s strength came from his joy in his relationship with God and provided everything Paul needed to stay the course and finish the race with joy.
Are you serving in joy? Draw near to God.
Until next time,