>The following is the devotion that will be used at Racin’ into Summer 2008, an event put on by Emmanuel Student Ministries on May 25th.

Acts 20:22-24

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

In 1984, Derek Redmond from England broke the British record time in the 400m race at the age of 19. During the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea expectations were high; however, 10 minutes before the race, he was forced to withdraw due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. Over the course of the next year, Derek had 5 surgeries to repair the tendon. By the time the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain rolled around, Derek Redmond was a man on a mission. He was one of the best runners in the world and it was finally his time to prove it on an international stage.

In the semifinals, the top four runners advance to the finals. At the beginning of the race, Derek takes the lead, all he needs to do is maintain his pace and cruise right in to the Olympic finals. However, a little more than halfway through the race, he suddenly hears a pop and there is a sharp pain in his leg. Derek slows himself down and falls down onto the track, clutching his right hamstring. As the medical staff is coming onto the track with a stretcher, Derek tells them that there is no way he is getting on that stretcher, and is more determined than ever to finish the race. He slowly gets up and begins to hobble towards the finish line, each step more painful than the one before.

With a little more than 100 meters to go, Derek’s father, who had run from the top of the stands all the way down to the track surface, comes alongside his son, wraps his arm around his son’s waist, and tells him that they’ll finish the race together. Because his father helped him to the finish line, Derek was disqualified from the race, and his name will never be in the record book as one who finished that race. But the image of a father coming alongside his hurting son and helping his boy finish the race will forever be one of the most inspirational moments in Olympic history.

Once he heard the pop, Derek knew that his chances of getting an Olympic metal were gone, but he never gave up the hope of finishing the race that he had started. Derek’s name was never going to be in the record books, but that did not seem to matter to him. There was something deep within that was driving him to finish the race.

In Acts 20, the Apostle Paul is getting ready to leave the city of Ephesus after living there for three years. Paul knows that his time in that city is done, and he must return to Jerusalem. Now, this was a time when there were a lot of anti-Christian people around, especially in Jerusalem. Everyone, including Paul, knew that this was most likely going to be the last time they saw one another. Paul is certain that this will be the last time he speaks to the brothers and sisters in Ephesus, and he uses it as an opportunity to encourage them to live out their faith, regardless of the consequences.

In verse 22, Paul makes it pretty clear why he is leaving – he is compelled by the Spirit. He has this deep urge to travel to Jerusalem, even though he knows that he will likely be arrested and possibly killed for professing his faith. Have you ever felt compelled to do something? No matter how little sense it made, you felt a deep urge to do something, and you couldn’t explain why. That is what is going on here. Paul just knew that he had to go to Jerusalem, even though things were not going to be easy for him. But that didn’t matter because some things in life are so important that they cannot be ignored.

How many of you have been a part of something that was bigger than yourself? Maybe it is an athletic team, or maybe you’ve been on a mission trip, or maybe you’ve been a part of a musical group – something in which you had to be a part of a larger group, and it was important to you. Now, how many of you were a part of something so big, something that meant so much that you would be willing to face extreme difficulties, even to the point of death? That is what Paul is talking about here. Paul realizes that he is a part of something so much bigger than himself that even his own life pales in comparison.

Paul probably could have stayed in Ephesus and led a decent life. He did not have to continue his journey. He knew how difficult it was going to be; he knew what was waiting for him if he went to Jerusalem. Yet, he could do nothing else but go. He knew that in order to fulfill a call that was placed in his life, he had to go to Jerusalem. In verse 24, he says, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” This call was so important to him that not fulfilling it would have made his life incomplete and worthless.

There are two types of calls. The first type of call is the general call. The general call is the call that God has for each person. It is a call to come to God. If you never answer that call, it doesn’t matter what else you do in life. God calls each one of us to a journey, and the first step is towards God. Without taking this first step, we wander around without purpose. You may be alive, but you aren’t really living. There is more to this world than what we see, and until we acknowledge that, we are walking around with blinders on.

The second type of call is the specific call. I can’t tell you what specific call has been placed in your life. But what I can tell you is that this call is out there. You will never really know what this call is until you start your journey with God. And sometimes, you may be on the journey for a long time before you hear the specific call. God’s timing is funny that way. It never happens on our time, but it always happens in time. All I can do is encourage you to be ready to listen. And when you do finally hear God’s quiet voice calling to you, go after it. Nothing else in this life is more important than going after that call. When you start going after the call that God has placed on your life, you will begin to understand why Paul went back to Jerusalem, in spite of the hard times that would undoubtedly be there.

Just some musings from a traveling pilgrim.