My church has been preaching through the book of Acts this year, and I was rostered on to preach a couple of weeks ago. The passage for the week was Acts 18:18-28. My first thought when I looked at it was, “What on earth am I going to get out of that?!”
It’s one of those parts of the Bible that I think many people would skim read or even skip completely: it’s a list of names and places that don’t mean much to most of us today. Paul travels a great deal throughout the book of Acts, but this passage is mostly a summary without many details about what happens. It also mentions Priscilla & Aquila and Apollos and where they came from and went to.
As I was praying and thinking about what I could speak on, this phrase came to me very clearly: “Don’t assume that where you are now is where God wants you to stay.” It’s a truth I’ve seen work out in my own life, but it is also something I see consistently reflected in the stories of the Bible. God is in the business of moving people. Whether physically or spiritually, He has places to take us that we have not yet been to.
These biblical stories are more than geography lessons; even though I do personally find the historical geography fascinating 🙂 Geography is here a reflection of mission. When these people became followers of Jesus they didn’t settle down to live comfortable and well-established lives. For them, it meant just the opposite! They were constantly moving, learning, growing, sharing, seeking, listening and travelling.
In our modern western culture it can often seem like the goal is to settle down and make our lives as comfortable as possible. But the basic call of discipleship is Jesus saying, “Follow me.” It seems pretty clear to me that this means a journey, an adventure, a risk. It means stepping out in faith into new places, unknown places, unfamiliar places, even uncomfortable places.
I’ve met with believers in Africa and Asia who seem to get this far better than I do. People for whom becoming a follower of Jesus automatically means a huge shift, whether that literally means packing up their few belongings and moving to the other side of the their country or it means changing their whole outlook and perspective on relationships, economics, power and society. I’ve been so challenged by people I’ve met who come from cultures who see the world so differently to me, and so who don’t automatically assume that being a Christian means living a boring, safe and risk-free life. I don’t want to be comfortable. I want to be willing to go wherever following Jesus takes me. I don’t want to assume that where I am right now is where God wants me to stay.
I finished my sermon with one of my favourite illustrations from Francis Chan. If you’re a follower of Jesus and you want to be challenged and inspired about what that might look like, have a look at this: