Scripture

Acts 20:13-38

We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

Reflection

It’s easy to begin something new. There is always a sense of excitement about a new beginning. But life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Many people get excited about serving God in some new way or new ministry. They start with gusto. Then other activities compete with serving, or they get criticized, or it simply doesn't go the way they thought it would, or they didn't get the thank-yous or accolade they expected. So they quit.

Paul didn't want that to happen to the elders in Ephesus. He wanted them, just as we want for ourselves, to sprint across the finish line, not to drop out of the race. The secret to Paul’s strong finish is summed up in verse 24. “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Paul considered his life worth nothing to himself. Don't take this as self-degradation. Paul knew his worth to God, but that meant he had to put his own selfish desires aside. His life only had meaning in the context of God’s calling - to testify to the good news. He set his eyes on the goal of completing that call. He had one mission, one purpose, and all else faded in comparison. That is some serious focus! He set his eyes on Jesus and kept running toward the finish line despite many, many difficult obstacles. My guess is that there were many times when he couldn't see the “finish line,” or even imagine it still existed. There had to be dark days in the midst of so much adversity. Yet Paul persevered. 

Paul was “compelled by the Spirit.” It was not by his own insight, strength, or power that he ran the race. He did not know what was around the next corner except “prison and hardships.” Wow. That sounds like something that would make me run the other way.

I think Paul did not imagine he had a choice because he did not see himself as a volunteer for God. This was his job, his mission, his sole responsibility. He was fully committed to what God called him to do, no matter the consequences.

I think too often we think of ourselves as volunteers in this Christian mission when really we are compelled to follow Christ wherever he leads. It is not a choice; it is a mission. 

Prayer

Dear God, Please give me ears to hear you, eyes to see you, and courage to follow you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.