Remembering Our Mission While on the Journey
I often hear something to the effect that the Christian life is not about a destination but a journey. I disagree with the first part of that statement; of course, the Christian life is about a destination, as Paul said, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). It is the destination, “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” that makes the journey worthwhile (Revelation 21:2). But the journey is still vitally important; indeed, rather than “journey,” I prefer to call it, “mission,” for that is the purpose of our journey here on earth—to be on mission for Christ.
This is something that Paul never forgot. While Rome was his earthly destination at this particular time, the journey provided for his mission. While on the doomed ship, he took courage from his faith in God’s promise to him to en-courage (literally to put courage or strength into someone) the crew that they would all live. He even ate before them giving thanks to God.
Now he is on the island of Malta with friendly pagans. When they see a snake dangling from Paul’s hand, they assume that “Justice,” referring to a goddess, has found him out for some horrid sin. But when Paul fails to die according to expectation, they then assume he must be a god himself, thus displaying the futility of the pagan mind. When Paul hears that the father of the chief man of the island, Publius, is sick, he prays for, lays hands on, and thus heals the man. As word of the healing gets around, many others on the island with various diseases come to Paul to be cured. I imagine some natives on the island then really thought Paul a god, but I am also sure that though it is not recorded, Paul did not allow any such notions to long reside. Paul said, “To live is Christ,” (Philippians 1:21) and that was what he was doing on this journey—encouraging sailors, building fires, and healing people—meeting human need with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
They remained at Malta for three months and then sailed away in another ship bound for Rome, Paul’s destination. There were several stops where Paul was refreshed by the brothers along the way. He finally reached Rome, alive and well after almost three years, but not until he had witnessed before the Sanhedrin, Felix and wife Drusilla, Festus, King Agrippa and wife Bernice, and the friendly Malta islanders. Let us never get so caught up in where God wants us to go that we forget the mission He has right before our eyes.