Goodbyes to people you love and love to be with in good times and through bad times are hard. Tears come and flow freely with long hugs. Loving words are whispered in ears. What matters most is what is said.
This next passage is all about what matters most in loving God and loving His people. Paul is leaving Asia and is Spirit-led to go on to Jerusalem. We can learn much from Paul’s affirming and encouraging words at his departure. The love of God, the love and devotion to Jesus in Paul drenches every word with care through the tears for the people he leaves behind. Spirit-led, passionate words encourages leaders he developed over the past three years to now carry on the work God began through Paul and his associates. These are God’s actions through His apostles and disciples, followers and leaders.
God still acts through us today as believing followers, shepherds, leaders, servers–passionate lovers of Jesus for what He has done in and for us. Our obedience to God reflects the depth of our love for God.
ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples
Acts 20:17-38, The Message
On to Jerusalem
17-21 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus for the leaders of the congregation. When they arrived, he said, “You know that from day one of my arrival in Asia I was with you totally—laying my life on the line, serving the Master no matter what, putting up with no end of scheming by Jews who wanted to do me in. I didn’t skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus.
22-24 “But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won’t be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.
25-27 “And so this is good-bye. You’re not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God’s inaugurated kingdom. I’ve done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God’s will for you.
28 “Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.
29-31 “I know that as soon as I’m gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard. Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another.
32 “Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.
33-35 “I’ve never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I’ve done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’”
36-38 Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again—he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.
WHAT WE LEARN…
Paul reminds servant leaders what matters most:
- Jesus saves us. God leads us through His Holy Spirit. We love, trust and obey.
- No matter what—Preach the Truth of Jesus Christ.
- Laying our lives on the line, as Jesus did for us, is the cost of discipleship and our blessed privilege.
- Radical life-change before God with an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus is living with eternal purpose in the Kingdom of God.
- “What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.”
- Give your best to the Master Jesus, holding nothing back of God’s will.
- Leaders, “Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.”
- Vicious wolves of evil will come to draw the sheep away. “So, stay awake and keep up your guard.”
- Life is ALL about God! “God, whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.”
- “Work on behalf of the weak and do not exploit them.”
- Don’t worry about wealth or fashion, God will take care of our basic needs. “You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’”
- PRAY – Pray to God for each other. Pray when life hurts. Pray in goodbyes and hellos. Pray for God’s leading. Pray through the tears.
- Pray for God’s will for this is who matters most in life.
Goodbyes are hard when you send us to other places to share your Truth. Paul’s example of passionate serving leadership is not only inspiring but necessary for our own maturing in your work of grace and mercy in us. Thank you, Jesus for being the Perfect example. Thank you for teaching Paul how to be fully devoted to You and the Truth of salvation with eternal life. May we always remember Who and What matters most in this life as we prepare for eternity with you. May we live passionately and truthfully. May our authenticity, because of You in us, speak volumes to those seeking what is real and what matters most to them.
In Jesus Name, Amen