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Acts 20:13-37 (NIV)
Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders
13 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. 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.
What do you suppose the Ephesians will miss about Paul?
Lord, it is a blessing when You send a strong preacher, an honorable leader, or an inspirational teacher to us. It is easy to follow their lead and to be motivated by their strength. We rely on their spiritual words and rest in their work. That is what Paul was to the Ephesians. They relied on him for strength and courage and to lead them in the Word. When he left them, they would not only miss him personally but now they had to stand up on their own to continue preaching Your word and carry out Your mission. It can be overwhelming without a strong leader. But they had a good teacher and example that they could emulate. And they had Your Holy Spirit to lead them. The church is no different. Pastors and Leaders come and inspire us and then they go. We cannot be dependent solely upon a leader but need to take ownership of our faith and of our church community. We are called to look after ourselves and everyone the Holy Spirit has placed in our care. We are called to be like shepherds to Your church since it is precious to You. You bought it with the blood of Your own Son. A pastor can come and a pastor can go, but it is Your Word that binds us together in Your love. Teach us what we can learn from competent leaders while they are with us, but when they move on, let us not despair. Let us carry out Your mission by following the examples that we have learned. The time is now. We don’t have to wait until strong leaders leave. Help us to stand up today, and take it upon ourselves to grow in faith, care for our church, teach the Word, and to serve the weak or needy. We are the church. We are Your people. Holy Spirit, help us to take personal responsibility to gather together in worship, in small groups, and in community with each other to grow in love and to serve You, Your church, and Your people. Amen