“But none of these things move me; nor do I count 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 testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)
There are certain verses I know I had read many times before, but there is a first time I remember reading the verse. For me, Acts 20:24 is one such verse. The first time I remember reading it was the summer of 2007 while I was in the second of a three week mission trip to Taiwan. It was my third summer teaching English summer camps with a Taiwanese church planting organization called Village Gospel Mission, but this particular week had been very different from any of the weeks I had experienced in the two prior summers. If I’m being honest, the ways that it was different all directly or indirectly resulted in things being less easy and less comfortable. I am not proud to say it, but my attitude about the differences in this particular camp hadn’t been the greatest and I found myself missing the previous week and longing for the following week that would bring a change.
Halfway through the week this verse was part of the morning devotional reading and it hit me like a thunderclap. I realized that all of my unhappiness was the direct result of considering “my life dear to myself.” I had arrived with expectations of how things would work based on past experience and when things went in a different way that reduced my comfort level my natural reaction was to be unhappy. Yet here I was in a small farming village in Taiwan that had no church within half an hour helping to prepare the soil for (the long term hope was) an eventual church plant. How amazing is that, what is comfort next to that?
Fast forward almost eight years. I am now the father of two children under the age of three and am continually reminded of this verse. It would be dishonest to deny that being a parent has its hard parts. However, at least in my own life if I’m brutally honest with myself most of the “hard” things mean that I’m required to put my children ahead of myself. Up to this point a lot of that has been in very legitimate areas (think sleep) but my attitude about it is still directly tied to how I view my life. Am I holding being comfortable as something to be dearly grasped onto? Or do I view it as an opportunity to better learn about the character of our savior and lay down my wants and desires that I may serve others?
It’s amazing how changing from a mindset of “this is affecting me in an undesirable way” to “what really matters is I have the opportunity to ____” changes everything.
Andrew can be reached via email here.