After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ ” When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. Acts 21:10-15 NIV
Paul was coming to the end of his third missionary tour. It had been a long four years of service, with most of it in Ephesus. God had given amazing fruitfulness (see Acts 19:10), but now it was time to return to Jerusalem. The prophet Agabus, moved by the Holy Spirit, foretold of Paul’s impending arrest and imprisonment by the Gentiles. Not exactly an exciting future!
We note Paul’s response compared to his companions. They assumed that this arrest and imprisonment was something to be avoided at all cost. They pleaded with Paul, seeking to influence him to change his mind about returning to Jerusalem. They assumed that this was not what God wanted, for certainly God would want his servant to continue his ministry.
Paul’s response was very different. He had no ‘death wish’ nor was he a fatalist. But he was not one to be driven by fear of the future or a fear of man. He had many times in the past seen the Lord deliver him (see 1 Corinthians 1:8-11). His confidence was in the Lord. He would not be dissuaded. Jerusalem awaited and there he would face his destiny.
It’s easy to assume that the avoidance of known opposition, persecution, or trial is the way of wisdom. Certainly one should not go looking for a fight. Remember Ecclesiastes 9:4, “Anyone who is among the living has hope–even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!” But, Paul’s destiny had been outlined by the Holy Spirit through Agabus the prophet. We note that none of Paul’s companions we saying, “The Holy Spirit spoke to me and says, ‘Don’t go to Jerusalem, Paul.'” No, it was their emotions emanating from the thought of losing their friend, Paul, that drove them to plead for him to change his mind.
Sometimes we may have to choose between the Lord and the pleadings of our friends. Those can be difficult choices in the moment. Listen carefully to be sure it is the Lord speaking and not just the burrito you had for lunch! Then, trust Him who knows the future and is able to ‘do above and beyond what we can ask or imagine.’ He is faithful!
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5 NIV