FINISHING THE COURSE

Scripture Reading:  Acts 20:17-27

“But 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.”  (Acts 20:24)

Paul was determined to return to Jerusalem (v. 16).  On his way there, he stopped at Miletus where he sent for the elders from the church at Ephesus, in order to say farewell to them.  His address to these elders is very moving and it enables us to see the heart of the Apostle Paul.  He deeply cared for those to whom he ministered.  He served the Lord and them with humility and with tears and trials (v. 19).  He did not hold back from declaring to them “anything that was profitable” (v. 20).  His basic message was always “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 21).

But the time had come for him to go to Jerusalem:  “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me” (v. 23).  Acts 21 through 26 tell us about the difficult time Paul had in Jerusalem.  He was mobbed at the temple, arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin and the secular authorities.  He eventually appealed to Caesar and was sent to Rome.

Paul had some idea of the sufferings that awaited him.  Thus he opened his heart to those Ephesian elders and said, “But 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” (v. 24).  

Paul held loosely to the things of this life.  His priorities were clear:  “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7,8).  The highest value of his life was knowing Jesus Christ and the second was the ministry to which he was called — “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  As Paul considered the end of his life and ministry, he wanted to finish the course God had ordained for him and he wanted to finish well.

At the end of his life, Paul wrote these words:  “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4:6-8).

Lord Jesus, as I consider the end of my life and ministry, I desire to finish well.  Let me hold loosely the things of this world and hold tightly the the things that matter most — knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and serving You faithfully until I finish the course You have laid out for me.

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