After three years of teaching and preaching in Ephesus, Paul bids farewell with a parting speech that commissions Christ-followers to continue the good work he has established. Paul has set an example for them, modeling what it means to be a devoted follower of Christ. He now leaves them in God’s hands. Paul reminds them of God’s grace. He has been the recipient of immense grace, transformed from a persecutor to a preacher. Paul recognizes the power of grace to build them up for the present and keep them in God’s hands for eternity (their inheritance). He reminds them that he has shown them the power of hard work in providing not only for himself but also for the needs of others. Ephesus was a contemporary city flourishing in culture and the arts. It was much like our culture today. People were drawn to wealth and prestige. Paul warns them against the pitfalls of greed. He encourages them to be great givers and recognize the blessing of giving rather than receiving.
“And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. I have never coveted anyone’s silver of gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:32-35
We are all called to carry out the ministry of Christ. Jesus reached into society and touched the lives of people in all kinds of social and economic groups. His mission, his ministry was to extend grace and serve others. He observed those around him and was sensitive and open to their needs. He gave his life as a sacrifice for all of us. He wants us to be nothing less than devoted followers. We are the recipients of great grace (unmerited favor), and we have the responsibility of carrying out his mission, Paul’s mission and the mission of the church. In our society too many people are walking around staring at their phone or some other device. They are oblivious to people they walk past. It’s a good excuse not to notice the person who needs a smile, a touch, a kindness. If you don’t see it, you aren’t accountable. Right? Wrong! If you don’t see a speed limit sign and are pulled over for speeding, ignorance doesn’t keep you from getting a ticket. We are accountable for what we refuse to see. True, some things will evade our notice, but if we are devoted followers or Christ, we will have our heads up and be receptive to the needs of those around us. We will not just notice, but we will act. Giving is better than receiving. It sounds good. Many say they believe it, but if you aren’t living it, then it’s not real. No one can make you believe it, receive it or do it; only by opening your heart to the Holy Spirit can you become a fully devoted follower or Christ.
What does grace mean to you? Grace changed Paul from a murderer into a messenger. What has grace done for you? Why are people afraid to open their lives to the Holy Spirit? Why are people afraid of being fully devoted followers of Christ? What are they afraid of losing? What are they afraid of gaining? How has the Holy Spirit changed the way you think and live? Give an example from your own experience of how giving is more blessed than receiving?
Learn to give. Test it for the blessing factor. Plan some ways to give than cost you something. Note the rewards of your sacrifice. Allow grace to dominate your thoughts, conversations and encounters this week.
Dear Lord, sometimes I’m afraid of what being a fully devoted follower might mean in my live. I want to be selfless, yet I’m selfish in so many ways. Forgive me and renew your Spirit within me. Allow the greatness of your grace to permeate me. Mold me into the devoted follower you desire. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.