As I started reading in Acts 17, I couldn’t help but glance ahead a bit. When I did, I found something very interesting.
There is no rest from service.
Our culture is replete with attempts to find rest. We have a busy week, and we just need a break. We finish a big project, and it’s time for vacation. We teach Sunday school for a year, and then it’s time to pass it on to someone else while we just sit back and learn for a little while. To be honest, it starts with childhood. Think about it – chores are worked through just to get to playtime. School seems to be one steady progression to the next break. We literally live for our rest times.
Not Paul. Paul persevered from one city to the next. Sometimes with violence. Sometimes in secrecy. Occasionally moving on of his own free will, but more often than not he was forced out. You would think that at some point he’d go to a new city and decide he just wanted to hide out for a little while – to take a break. Maybe he did. In fact, I get the impression he wanted to do just that in Athens. In Acts 17:16, we find Paul waiting for his companions, and while he was waiting his “spirit was being provoked within him.” He just couldn’t handle it! He couldn’t stop preaching! He couldn’t stop teaching! He couldn’t stop serving! His goal wasn’t to get to the end of a project – his goalwasthe project. And when one stopped, it was time for another.
I read that and think about how afraid I would be to go into each successive city. I just don’t see how I could overcome that fear and continue to set myself up for abuse and persecution. And then I read Acts 18:9-10 and I find an indication that Paul was afraid, too! Bold and strong Paul was afraid! And yet he still could not keep from preaching in each new city.
Acts 18 – where we get the indication that he was afraid – finds Paul in Corinth. And there God does give him rest in one aspect. God gives him rest from the persecution, just for a little while. But, there is no rest from the preaching and teaching. No rest from the service.
God does grant rest to us, but not the kind of rest we so often chase. It’s a rest that is found in His peace. It is a rest found in the fact that He looks at us and says, “Don’t be afraid.” It’s a rest that reminds us that He is in control of all things and that He always has work going on that He desires us to be a part of.
At some point, we have to stop letting our lives revolve around that next break – that next weekend or next vacation. That type of rest is ineffective and ultimately unrestful. Only when we get to the point where our spirits are provoked within us to continue service will we truly come to a point of discovering real rest – rest that comes to us even as we continue serving faithfully and passionately.