Acts 20:17-38 NIV
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,[a] 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.
Matthew 7:25-29 NIV
25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
- What have we been doing so far— Each week we
have looked at key questions that repeatedly come up in the early chapters of
the Book of Acts.
- One of the central questions that we are addressing in all of the previous messages center on — what would our future be? —- and what shall we do?
- These are very good questions for us to be asking, however it is even better to be able to see and understand just who we are as Pleasant Grove UMC, and what we are to the community and to ourselves.
- The themes that we have been addressing have
been centered on the Holy Spirit, then acceptance, generosity creativity and perseverance.
- Creativity — Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. Creativity comes about by examining an item or an issue and coming up with a new and different approach.
- Perseverance is the ability to keep doing something in spite of obstacles. People who persevere show steadfastness in doing something despite how hard it is or how long it takes to reach the goal.
- Today the theme is courage! Let’s see how Paul and we respond to having courage.
- There is an advertisement on TV where a little girl is about to jump into a pool and her mother is waiting to catch her — remember the advertisement – it’s current , but I cannot remember the name — anyway – the little girl hesitates and then jumps – and her mom catches her and they all laugh. The key to the little girl’s courage is to be able to trust that mom will be there to catch her.
- So what is courage?
- The first thing to understand is that courage
is only evident when we are actually doing something. The little girl had to
jump first before her mom caught her.
- There is a limited amount of courage involved to speak our intentions…”I’m going to march right in there and call his bluff.” “I’m going to tell the boss that I refuse to work for a company that harms people the way ours does.” And if you do — you are toast – out of there!
- Because words are often a first step toward action, stating our intentions does involve a degree of courage.
- But the big test is in what we actually do, not in what we say we’re going to do. Are we all hot air and no gumption no follow through! Or are we all bark and no bite?
- Because courage has to do with our actions rather than our intentions, we can be afraid and still have courage.
- There is the lesson of the cowardly lion in
the Wizard of Oz.
- The lion thinks he has no courage because he is afraid.
- When he discovers that the Wizard could give him the courage he seeks, he sets out with Dorothy and his friends.
- During their adventures on the way, the cowardly lion acts with courage to save the ones he loves…even though he is terribly afraid.
- By the time they get to the Wizard, the Wizard is able to point out that the lion has courage already.
- Even though he was afraid, he didn’t act on the fear.
- He let love for his friends take charge of his actions, and that love gave him courage.
- The lion learns that he doesn’t have to quit being afraid so much as he has to stop ACTING afraid.
- In order to have courage the lion simply has to do what love demands rather than doing what fear demands. That he feels fear isn’t important…it’s what he does that counts.
- How do we move from being so afraid to do anything to having the courage to do what is needed?
- Well, courage takes faith.
- Everybody has faith in
- You might have the courage to face a bully because you have faith in your own physical strength.
- You might have the courage to debate because you have faith in your intellectual ability.
- You might have courage to go back to school because you have faith in the educational system.
- It’s not wrong to have some degree of faith in any of those things.
- But the witness of
Scripture is that if you want to be sure your courage never fails; you need to
anchor your faith in the God who never fails.
- All those other things will be a help from time to time.
- But every one of them is also capable of letting you down.
- If you really want courage to face whatever you have to face, it needs to be anchored in faith in God.
- Courage is foundational to virtually every other Christian virtue, so much so that it is impossible to mature as followers of Jesus without it.
- In our reading for today,
Paul’s saying his final goodbye to the elders.
- He’s spent three hard and wonderful years with them. But now he’s heading to Jerusalem, and he wants to encourage them one last time.
- Look at the Scripture in
our bulletin and follow along:
- 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.
- Paul begins his speech
in verse 18, and he uses how he lived with them as the example of how to
- He’s not boasting. He’s explaining. And in verses 19-21, he explains what he means.
- Ministering means serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials, boldly teaching everyone publicly and privately of repentance and faith.
- It wasn’t only what Paul
said when he preached the Gospel, but also the life he lived that proved the
truth of the Gospel.
- When he was with them, the Ephesian elders didn’t see an inconsistency in his message compared to his life.
- That means how we share the Gospel matters. What
we believe matters, and what we do with what we believe matters because it’s
possible to negate with our actions what we say with our mouths. “All talk and
- Paul fought hard not to do that. He rested in Christ and humbled himself.
- Now, Paul wasn’t always
humble. Before his Damascus road, Paul served the Lord in pride, not humility.
- He never wept over his lack of righteousness.
- Paul believed he was righteous for keeping the law.
- Paul was free from the trials Christians faced because he was the one persecuting them!
- Then, Jesus saved him, and his life changed forever.
- Jesus sent Paul out to
preach and plant churches, and Paul obeyed with intensity, investing to the
point of tears.
- And Paul doesn’t regret these tears.
- He speaks of them as a proof of his ministry.
- It sounds strange, but
one sign of a vibrant ministry is the presence—not absence—of tears, because Gospel
ministry doesn’t harden our hearts.
- It cracks our heart open to God and to others.
- We begin to feel what others feel and weep with those who weep.
- It means our heart’s being transformed, that God’s doing work of restoration and healing.
- Paul says in 1
Corinthians 15:32 that the Ephesians were like beasts to him, the verses before
this passage tell us of a riot over Paul’s message, and the Jews opposed him as
he preached the Gospel.
- But he endured. He embraced it for the sake of Christ because everything good and worthwhile is also hard and trying.
- But believing this isn’t
easy for us. That’s why we need lots of exposure to the Gospel in lots of
places over lots of time.
- We need the safety to re-think our lives and see God in new ways.
- That’s why we want Pleasant Grove UMC to be a church where anyone can grow.
- We believe the Bible’s message is the only message that really changes us.
- Talk about yesterday at Emory UMC. Glyndon, Wesley, Mt. Zion, Deer Park Reisterstown, Piney Grove and others were there— more of the same concerns – but, PGUMC had the courage to take a first step toward moving away from the “moaning and groaning” to action – that’s courage!
- Paul could avoid the danger if he doesn’t go to Jerusalem. But here’s what he says: “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” (Acts 20:24, NIV). He knows it’s dangerous. But he chooses to do what pleases God.
- We know we need courage
to live lives that please God. But how can we become more courageous?
- We come together to encourage one another; to fill one another with courage, determination, and confidence to live as God calls us to live;
- to strengthen one another to do the things God has for us to do.
- That is what the fellowship of believers does.
- We come together to build up one another, to inspire one another to live as Jesus wants us to live, and to remind one another that we care more about what God thinks than what other people think.
- Closing Prayer: Mighty God, we come before you today grateful for grace. We have not always acted with courage. Too many times, we have gone along with the crowd instead of standing up or speaking out. Forgive us for the times we have let down you and others. Reveal to us the work you have for us. Guide us in your ways. Strengthen us by your Spirit. We are here to serve you. We are here to make a difference in our world. May all that we do bring honor and glory to you. Amen.