Today’s Reading: Acts 19-20
Paul did not spend much time in Antioch before he set out on his third missionary trip going back to many of the areas he had visited before. This gave him the chance to check in on those who had come to believe in Jesus on his previous trips. His purpose was to encourage and strengthen them. On this journey, Paul found many believers who had repented of their sins and been baptized with John’s kind of baptism of water, but they had not yet been baptized by or received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The first thing he said was, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?”
“We’ve never even heard of that – a Holy Spirit? God within us?” – Acts 19:2 (The Message)
Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. They began praising God and telling others about the actions of a God who would love them enough to live in them.
Paul traveled through the country we now know as Turkey, stopping in Ephesus on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He stayed there for two years teaching both Jews and Greeks. It is possible that Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth during this time in Ephesus.
God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled…Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect. – Acts 19:11-12,18-20
Paul was wrapping up his ministry in Ephesus and making plans to go to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem and then Rome. But before he could carry out those plans, trouble began to brew for Paul. Those who made their money from the worship of false gods were losing business and creating accusations against Paul. God rescued Paul from an intense situation, allowing Paul to leave and go to Macedonia and then to Greece, where he wrote the second letter to the Corinthian Church.
Paul made many more stops as he hurried to make his way back to Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost. Rather than go into Ephesus, Paul sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him in Miletus, where he said these words of farewell:
“You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now, I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have one message for Jews and Greeks alike – the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.
“And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it to finish the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
“And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declare today that I HAVE BEEN FAITHFUL. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know…
“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 20:18-27, 35
What a wonderful testimony – one I hope to have as I feel my time on earth coming towards an end.
– To be able to say I served humbly and opened my heart up to others.
– To be able to say I survived hard times or opposition, not because I shrank back and avoided, but because I stayed true and committed regardless of the situation.
– To have no feelings of regret – regret that I didn’t say enough or that I wasn’t bold enough in my faith, that I loved others enough to have tough conversations.
– I want to work hard in order that those in need can be helped – to live a life that echoes Jesus’ words – “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – (Acts 20:35)
Paul knew that jail and suffering were in his future, and he was right. Yet Paul said, “My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it to finish the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” – (Acts 20:24)
Lord, give us that kind of passion and determination. Help us to keep our eyes focused on you and your calling, knowing in confidence that you will be with us – even when suffering is ahead. And Lord, we pray this morning for all who live in Turkey, Iraq and the surrounding areas. Lord, we pray your protection on the innocent and we pray for those who are daily giving their lives to protect others from terrorists. We pray for all the refugees as they struggle to protect their families. Help them to reach their destinations safely and provide for their needs, we pray. Amen.