Passion and Tears

Acts 20:22-31
22And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,
23except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.
24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
25And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.
26Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all,
27for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
28Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
29I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
32And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
33I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.
34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.
35In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
36And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.
37And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him,
38being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Life is filled with farewells. Just this last Monday I bid farewell to my daughter and her family as we came back home from our visit to Washington. It’s tough. As I hugged Anabel good-bye, I knew that she would look for me in the morning. At only 2, she didn’t understand that grandma wouldn’t be there the next day. But I leave them in God’s hands knowing that He is far better able to care for them than I am, even if I were still with them. And we are blessed because if this were 100 years ago we may possibly never see them again. That isn’t the case in 2014 and I am grateful.

Paul faces just such a farewell as he spends these last moments with the Ephesians. He has come to love them as his children and it obviously breaks his heart to leave them. This passage is filled with passion and tears. The world is a dangerous place and he fears for their faith. So he leaves them with a few warnings that we do well to heed along with those ancient Ephesians. First, he tells them that God has already warned him about the dangers to his own life. He faces imprisonment and afflictions and they are not to be concerned about him. He knows it will happen and that God will take care of him as He sees fit. Then Paul warns them that their faith will be attacked by those who would fill them with false information and try to drag them away from what he has taught them. That too is happening today. Without a solid personal knowledge of the Bible we are subject to every strange teaching that comes along. To see this happen would break Paul’s heart and he sets them up to watch out for this occurrence. We face the same danger from those who would drag us into false beliefs. I’ve never quite figured out why people need us to agree with them about their beliefs but there are those who will go to great lengths to get us to believe what they believe. But just because someone peddles their ideas doesn’t mean we have to buy them. Once again, let me stress that if you know what the Bible says for yourself you are far less likely to be the victim of someone’s bad ideas.

Paul’s passion for these people is admirable. He clearly loves them and wants the best for them. Leaving them hurts but it is the story of his life as a missionary. Even today we are the benefactors of his message as his legacy continues 2,000 years later!

Dear Lord, please continue to guard my heart and mind from those who would drag me away from You. And please protect those that are far away from my reach. Keep them safely in Your arms and draw them ever closer to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.