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Paul's example was a key to his success. Acts 20.17-24

Paul’s Legacy (3)

Pray Psalm 55.1-3.
Give ear to my prayer, O God,
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and hear me;
I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily,
Because of the voice of the enemy,
Because of the oppression of the wicked;
For they bring down trouble upon me,
And in wrath they hate me.

Sing Psalm 55.1-3.
(Bread of Life: Break Thou the Bread of Life)
Hear now my prayer, O Lord, hide not from me. Answer me by Your Word and set me free!
Wicked men sore oppress; restless am I. Lord, ease my soul’s distress and hear my cry!

Read Acts 20.1-24; meditate on verses 17-24.

Preparation
1. What did Paul call the elders of Ephesus to recall?

2. What mattered most to Paul?

Meditation

Paul set forth his own example as a reminder and template for the elders from Ephesus – humility, diligence, faithfulness in work, both in public and in private, striving to build up the church and each member in the faith of Christ (vv. 18-21). His preaching and teaching – daily, publicly, and house to house – were reinforced by the example of his dedication, perseverance, and pastoral care.

From his experience in Ephesus and Greece, Paul was convinced that persecutions against him would increase in the days to come (vv. 22, 23); yet his only concern was to remain faithful and complete his ministry for the glory of God and the Gospel (v. 24). That was where Paul would know joy (v. 24), in giving himself to others, whatever the cost.

Paul insisted his life as such didn’t matter (v. 24). What mattered to him was the Gospel, that those who were called to it should persist faithfully in it, following the example and instruction of the apostles and the Lord, and always working to make disciples, build the Church, and further the ongoing Kingdom work of Christ.

Both Paul’s teaching and his personal example were critical to the work of ministry. We know from his epistles that prayer also was a major tool in Paul’s ministry kit. Pastors and elders do well to follow him in their own ministries, with humility, tears, diligence, boldness, laboring in prayer and the Word for Christ and His Kingdom above all.

This is how we can encourage the people to whom God sends us.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Paul was warned by the Holy Spirit, in every city he traveled through, that trouble awaited him in Jerusalem. He didn’t know what kind of trouble would happen, but it sounded like “chains and tribulations” awaited him there (Acts 20.22, 23).

And his response? “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24).

He was saying with the psalmist, “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart” (Ps. 119.32). And Isaiah, “But those who wait upon the LORD, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40.31). And the writer of the book of Hebrews, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Heb. 12.1). And he affirmed his own words written later to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4.7).

But most importantly, we sense from Paul’s attitude, he was living to the fullest the dictate of the Lord Jesus Who said: “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.
So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Lk. 17.7-10).

Ann Patchett in her book, These Precious Days, recounts a conversation with Father Charles Strobel about this passage of Scripture: “He told me a story for Luke 17, in which the servant who does everything that is asked of him and then, joyfully, does more, is called “a worthless servant” (or “unprofitable servant,” or “a servant who deserves no credit,” depending on the translation). It is a state of loving service so deep, so all-encompassing, that the servant loses himself, so that the worthlessness becomes a kind of transcendence.”

That was Paul. Warnings about his life or about potential suffering were not his focus. His only concern, and sole purpose in life, was his loving, all-encompassing service to Jesus Christ and those he was called to serve.

A “worthless servant” we would do well to imitate (1 Cor. 11.1).

For reflection
1. Which aspects of Paul’s example do you try the hardest to imitate?

2. People are looking to the example of your life. What do you want them to see?

3. In which area of your life do you need to improve the example you set for others?

This is success for a teacher, to educate his disciples by his own accomplishments. John Chrysostom (344-407), Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 44

Pray Psalm 55.16-23.
Call on the Lord to grant you more of His great salvation, to fill you with His peace, prepare you for today’s trials and struggles, bear your burdens, and keep you firm in the faith as a witness for Jesus Christ.

Sing Psalm 55.16-223.
(Bread of Life: Break Thou the Bread of Life)
Lord, I will call on You, answer and save! Morning and evening too, my voice I raise.
Grant me Your peace, O Lord; answer my foes! All who reject God’s Word He overthrows.

Many assail, O Lord, many betray. See how they draw their sword across my way.
Take up my burden, Lord; strengthen and bless! Let judgment by Your Word  their souls distress.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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