Act 20:32-38, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.”
I have always admired the Apostle Paul. Without a doubt, he was a “man’s man”, yet he learned how to live in Christ and be connected to the power of Christ. Paul, in the Book of Acts, is ready to depart. He writes a few paragraphs to others under the inspiration of the Spirit to help them continue in the grace of God. He uses the word “commend”. Commend means to commit or place before. All that Paul could do as he prepared for his departure was to commit those who followed him to Christ and His word. I love that little word “able”. It literally means to give power. All of the riches of grace that are ours in Christ can be found in the Word of grace. As we live in its truth, we discover more of our inheritance in Christ.
Paul told the followers to focus on Christ being their life and to focus His word. Then he warns of the one thing that will destroy that focus. He speaks of coveting in his concluding remarks to this church in Ephesus. Coveting kills our focus and passion for the things of God. It robs us of a thankful and joyful spirit. Paul was obviously in the ministry to give and not recieve. He spoke of how he was not a stranger to work. He labored not only to provide for his own needs, but also the needs of others. There is a greater blessing in giving to others than receiving from others. So often, we cast that phrase (it is more blessed to give than to receive) out to others, except it has a hook in it with hopes to drag some of that receiving end back to us. This is not agape love. Agape love gives without thoughts of any returns.
Recently, I helped my in-laws, who are downsizing, move from their house to a smaller apartment. Both are getting up in age, and surely that day will come when they will see the Saviour’s face. As a part of the relocation, they had to sell some of their possessions. My wife and I were discussing the ones they sold and kept. One item that my wife has always been enamored with was a small piece of wood, approximately 10″ x 10″. This wood had an inscription written on it in unique writing done 50 years ago by her father. It was designed and made by her father days before his marriage to his wife, Pat. The inscription says: “This House has Wall-to-Wall Love”
On the back of the plaque were carved the initials of him and his wife to be. I have known this man and his family for 23 years. I can assure you that of all the possessions they will someday leave behind, there is none that will compare to the love they have shown to others. The love they had for that little adopted girl in 1968 continues to grow and to be seen by others. The love they have for family and friends runs deep. Their lives can be summarized by what they gave to others, not what others gave to them, except One – the Saviour!
I wonder when you and I are gone, what will be left that is of great value? I wonder if when all your stuff – gadgets, trinkets and trash – have been dispersed, how long before the memory of you will be lost forever?
Paul concluded his emotional farewell to those he mentored, and even fathered, in the faith with a summary for them to stay focused on Christ. “Christ is my life,” he taught them. Then he warns them of covetousness and its destruction. As I read this passage, I can see the tears swell up in his eyes as he remembers each of them. Determining this is the last time they will see his face. He knelt and prayed together, then hugged and kissed before they took him to the ship to depart.
May today you live for others as if it is the last time you will see them. O would our world be a happier place. Looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearance of our Saviour, may we live forever in that land were we’ll never say goodbye in glory – up there.
When my life work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand,
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
By the print of the nails in His hand.