On the Gospel of Necessary Endings



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 18:1–6 

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”


Life is hard and the ministry of the gospel is even harder, which is why learning to work in the strength of the Holy Spirit is of paramount importance. Apart from the strength of the Spirit, we will fail. In the strength of the Holy Spirit, all things are possible.

However, sometimes . . . maybe even often . . . we meet up with failure even in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s take care to keep reminding ourselves this is why we are working our way through the Acts of the Apostles.

We need to see a live demonstration of what working in the strength of the Spirit looks like.

Acts and the early church often get idyllically summed up as an exploding movement with everybody having progressive dinners with everybody else along with neighborhood devotions, singing, and s’mores around the campfire every night. You know—the good old days. If we could just get back to that, everything would somehow magically be fine.

By now, we see this is not the case. Acts is filled with hardship, struggle, failure, internal conflict, external opposition, violence, suffering, injustice, and, yes, miracles, mass conversions, growth, excitement, visions, dreams, joy, love, and peace.

It’s tempting to think of the apostles as we think of a championship major league baseball team where nobody carries their own luggage, stadiums are always packed, and it’s all high fives and autographs.

In reality, it’s far more like Single-A baseball with long bus rides, cheap motels, empty ballparks, and a rarefied “call-up” to the next level.

Paul faces a tough decision in today’s text. Do I quit or press through? He had been preaching his heart out week after week to the Jews about Jesus. Not only were they non-responsive to the gospel, they turned abusive toward Paul. Paul finds himself way beyond an if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed-try-try-again moment.

Paul did something we typically look upon with great shame and even disdain. At the same time, it may have been one of his more strategic decisions.

Paul quit.

He gave up on the Jews. Sure, he would preach in synagogues again and some Jews would be converted, but Paul crossed the Rubicon that day in Corinth. He would go after the Gentiles now with an undivided heart.

Quitters never win?

Sometimes quitting is the only way to win. Sometimes, quitting is not giving up—it’s changing directions. The operative words: necessary endings. 

If we listen carefully, we can hear one of my favorite songs queuing up, “On a warm summer’s evening, on a train bound for nowhere . . . .” Sing along if you know it: “You got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.” 

Remind me sometime to tell you my story about that song.


“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”1


Is it time for you to quit something you haven’t been able to give up on? Does it feel shameful to consider it? Why?


Today we will sing “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” (hymn 3) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here.  

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt


  1. Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1956, 1958), 79.

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

5 Responses

  1. Paul reasoned with people and tried to persuade them to change their world view. He testified to the reality, presence, and authority of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Creator who became a man. But when people began to abuse him, Paul shook off his clothes in protest and moved on to find people who were willing to listen with an open heart.

    Don’t be deterred from humbly loving and obeying the living Jesus with passion and persistence. Sure, some people will respond to your enthusiasm with abuse. (Remember that Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”) “Bless those who curse you,” and move on. Keep talking to Jesus and talking about Him and the Holy Spirit will lead you to other people who will open their heart as you reason and share your testimony with them. Then you and they will see live demonstrations “of what working in the strength of the Spirit looks like.”

  2. A pastor friend and mentor once shared regarding his visit with a hypochondriac parishioner, “ She is enjoying poor health!” People often do prefer a “known Hell” to an “unknown future” and stay in the same spot! Thank you for today’s sharing!

  3. This morning’s Wake-up call brings to my mind two previous facts revealed in God’s word. First of all, when Jesus sent out the seventy two to prepare the way for his coming. They were instructed to seek out a “person of peace”, and remain there at that house while sharing the good news of the kingdom. If no such person could be found in that town, they were instructed to “shake the dust off their shoes “ and move on to the next town. (Luke 10:1-16) The second was that Paul was specifically called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. His love for his fellow Jewish brethren was sometimes an impediment to his primary calling. This particular event confirmed for Paul that he would now seek out the more likely-to-be-open Gentiles, whom the Holy Spirit would have already prepared in advance to receive the Gospel of the Kingdom. Paul’s primary mission to be a herald of the Gospel remained consistent, but his primary target audience were now the Gentiles.

  4. I needed this today. Not every church that left the UMC, is thriving and focused on Jesus. Some are morally conservative; yet for them it’s not about Jesus. I pastor one of those churches. I’m conservative and I appreciate their morality. But, I’ve been beating my head against the wall for three years… and it’s winding down at the church. My wife and I have a strong network of prayer partners, and we know Jesus is leading us. Pray for us Jason and Rachel Greene, Decatur Alabama. Wesley FMC.

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