Dive Deeper

Unstoppable (Part 35)

Woon Hin Swee


Tried and true. When we’ve used a method that has worked well for us it is very natural that we would continue to trust in it and believe it to be the right way to go. But what happens when results suddenly don’t turn out the way we expect?


Acts 21:17-40 describes what takes place during Paul’s missionary journey to Jerusalem. Here we discover that what was thought to be a good recommendation leads to a less-than-desirable outcome. Yet, would what happened be considered a failure in the plan?


  1. What do you do when your good ideas fail? Have any failed within the context of Christian living and church life?

  2. Read Acts 21:17-26.

    a. Why do you think James and the elders of the church of Jerusalem advised that Paul should undergo a purification rite at the temple? Was it wise advice, or not?

    b. Why do you think Paul agreed to go ahead with this custom? Why did he not challenge the accusations against him directly? (See 1 Corinthians 9:20.)

    c. What would you have done in Paul’s shoes?

  3. Read Acts 21:27-36.

    a. This is not the first time that a religious group has risen up to persecute, and even attempt to kill an apostle because of his testimony of Christ. Can you remember or identify (an)other instance(s) when this has taken place in the book of Acts?

    b. Seeing how this has become a familiar pattern, why would Paul and the apostles continue to preach their testimony of Christ without fear? What was a stronger motivation than the possibility of death? (See for e.g. Acts 21:13, Romans 8:35-37, James 1:2-4,12, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Peter 1:6-7.)

    c. How does this encourage us in our own personal times of trial or difficulty?

    d. Can we differentiate between trials or difficulties that arise when we obey the Word of God (including his commands and commissions) and other trials or difficulties that occur in our ordinary lives? Should our attitudes towards them be different as well? If so, how?

  4. Read Acts 21:37-40.

    a. What did Paul’s arrest lead to? (You may continue to read on to Acts 22.)

    (i) Recalling Acts 21:1-16, did the prophecy by Agabus come to pass? What might this tell us about the nature of prophecy?

    (ii) Do you believe that Paul’s move to Jerusalem was a failure? Why or why not?

    b. What has God called us to do? How ready are we when they “fail”? How can we prepare ourselves today?


It is not stated if Paul had done the right thing by heeding the advice of James and the elders. However, we do know that this persecution and arrest was an open door to a unique opportunity that would eventually lead Paul to Rome (Acts 23:11, Acts 28). 

Paul’s ordeal might not have been a desirable experience in the eyes of man, but it did not stop him from being fervent in his God-given mission to preach the Gospel. Furthermore, God did not shield Paul from hardship, but used the ordeal for His purposes.

In our journey of living as Christ-followers who desire to do God’s work, we might face obstacles, hardships, and even severe persecution for our witness of Christ. However, we can take heart that God uses everything for His purpose, and there is no waste even if it seems like we have not “succeeded” in the eyes of man. Furthermore, those who are obedient can look forward to a glorious hope and imperishable reward that awaits us in eternal life. Let us live with this confidence and not let hardships in this life hold us back from obeying His call to be His witnesses to the ends of the world.


“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)