Acts 20 - August 20
Has there ever been a time where you had to say goodbye to a person you would never see again? The emotions that come with that are overwhelming, and that is what we find in verses 17-36. Paul is being led by the Holy Spirit to return to Jerusalem and he calls the Ephesian elders to come meet him at Miletus. Keep in mind that from the time that Jesus departed from the disciples in Acts 1 till now has been about 20 years. So, Paul has been laboring for a long time already, and it is here that Paul feels that life is about to change for him. Verse 22-23 “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” Just from this alone you can see how little Paul regarded his own life. Someone could easily say, if the Holy Spirit is telling me that I will go through trials there I am going to go somewhere else. Paul takes the opposite approach, even though there is knowledge that he will go through trials and tribulations he puts himself in the hands of God and follows the instruction of the Spirit. So instead of taking the path of least resistance, he continues on the rugged path knowing that if God is with him, he is safe. Paul rightfully prepares the people he is leaving to be well aware of the dangers that will come. He instructs the elders to always be watchful, to care for the flock, to guard those disciples to not be led astray. I wonder what it would have been like to be there at that moment. Paul poured into these people night and day, he spent time with them, he encouraged them, he was the one who brought the gospel to them, he prayed for them, he counseled them, he loved them with all his being, and now the guy who they all looked up to was leaving probably to endure severe suffering. That must have caused them to be really sober minded in terms of giving up their lives for the sake of the gospel. Paul assumed that he would not be able to see them anymore, so in their minds at the moment that was the last time they would see him. I can imagine them lingering as much as they could so that they would not have to say goodbye. He knelt down, prayed with them, kissed them, embraced them, and then went with him to the ship and sent him off.
Sometimes, in moments like that, it might be hard to say much, do they encourage him? Do they ask for more counsel? Do they bring up good memories? Under overwhelming emotions, it will be difficult to compose oneself, but Paul had been an example to them with his life in the time he was with them. Even in the circumstance of him leaving to face trials on behalf of the gospel is a testimony to them to keep on walking in the faith. Paul loved the gospel and was willing to die for it. These two paragraphs do not do this passage justice, I would encourage you all to meditate on this through the day.
So, what can we glean from this?
- Paul chose walking close to the Lord rather than being comfortable. Paul knew that what awaited him was going to be difficult and hard, yet he still decided to listen to the urging of the Holy Spirit. He knew that no matter how difficult the situation, if God was with him, he would be safe and cared for. If he chose the comfortable road, I do not think he would have known God as deeply as he did. Where do you find yourself today? Are you always choosing comfort? Do you always try to find the path of least resistance? Or are you walking the rugged path being held by the hand of God?
- Paul spent his life wherever he was. Paul refers to his life in 2 Timothy 4 as being poured out as a drink offering. No matter where he was, he spent his energy, time, and strength on the gospel. Preaching, teaching, guiding, and strengthening other people and churches. No matter what vicinity he was in, he made it his aim to be spent. Are you spending your life for others? Or are you trying to reserve your strength to do what you want to do for yourself? Have you counted the cost of the christian life?
- Paul made disciples. It was a bitter departure for Paul not because of the place, but because of the people he was leaving behind. Paul built and made disciples, and these were now the people leading the church. He knew Jesus commanded them to make disciples of all nations and that is what he did. This was not just something he did because he had to but because he loved these individuals. He poured into them like no one's business. Are you making disciples? Are you loving others? Or are you living for yourself?
The motivating factor for Paul he wrote to the Philippians in chapter 3:7-8 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For this sake I suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Paul knew by doing all the things listed above, he was being brought closer to Christ. That was his aim in life.