Have you ever heard the phrase, “Famous Last Words?” This phrase is usually uttered before or after something unproductive has happened. Here are some famous last words, see if you can picture the scenario in your mind:
-“Don’t worry he doesn’t bite”
-“Sorry I knocked your motorcycle down, but gee that’s a cute tattoo.”
-“I wonder where the mother bear is.”
-“No, silly, that’s a dolphin fin!”
-“I left the million dollars under the ….”
We are concluding our teaching series on our life’s work/purpose, by looking at Acts 20:17-38. We’ve been looking at Paul’s time in the Turkish town of Ephesus. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen a glimpse of the legacy that God was leaving behind Paul. He was living out his calling, and God was using him to change lives.
Legacy, that’s really what we’re talking about. Living w/ purpose brings about a positive legacy. Living w/o direction brings about a legacy of a different kind. The question I’ve been asking is, “What makes you come alive?” I’ve asked this each week b/c I believe that God has given you desires that are linked to your purpose. I’m not talking about the desires of your flesh that sometimes get us in trouble. No, I’m talking about the desires that fill you up, that feed your soul, and feed those around you. So, what makes you come alive? And related to that, what’s the legacy you desire to leave behind?
So far, we’ve seen that living empowered lives means living w/ greater purpose. We’ve been challenged to put a plan to our desires, knowing that faithfulness to a plan feeds purpose and purpose feeds faith. We’ve seen that in the face of opposition we can rest on the living and personal God as our strength and help. And now, we finish up our series on legacy. I believe we all have God given desires, that when lived out, make us feel alive. I also believe that if we do, God will leave a great legacy of His grace behind us. So, what makes you feel alive? And, what would it be like if you lived it out?
Look at Acts 20:17-38. In this passage Paul is done w/ his mission in Ephesus. He has lived out his calling of testifying to the grace of Jesus. And now, he’s looking back, and chatting w/ those he ministered to. As you read Acts 20:13-38, put yourself in the emotional feet of Paul, and envision what it felt like for him to know he had lived out his calling:
“17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, y which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
Here we see Paul giving his final words/instructions to the Ephesian leaders. If we were to summarize his speech in 20:18-35, we could say he essentially says in verses 18-21, “I’ve worked humbly w/ one message, the message of Christ’s salvation. In verses 22-24 he’s essentially saying, “I’m called to go elsewhere and live out my calling” (his calling is in v. 24). We can summarize Paul’s words in verses 25-27 as, “I’ve been faithful to my calling.” In verses 28-35, Paul commends them to continue the mission, saying, “Feed and shepherd God’s people” and “I’ve supported myself.”
[Question: WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF PAUL, AS HE LOOKED BACK ON HIS MINISTRY IN EPHESUS? REGRETS?]
As Paul says these words you can see a legacy of respect, confidence, humility, and love. He could look back and know he lived a purpose filled life. The fact that they wept together as they said goodbye speaks to his success.
So, what makes you feel alive? What are your desires and what would it be like if you lived it out? What would it be like if you risked it, and went for the vocation God is inviting you to pursue? What would it be like if you forgave yourself or that person, and moved on toward empowerment? What would it be like if you pursued God’s call w/ intentionality? What are your desires and what would it be like if you lived it out?
My grandparents are deceased. When they were alive, they shared how they desired to be best friends to each other. This had been their desire since their honeymoon. As they lived their lives together, you could see the ways they daily built into each other. They encouraged each other, planned events together, and every night, they would sit on their porch and share about their days. They invited friends into this routine. They’d shared stories, laughed, and cried on their porch. When my grandfather died, grandma looked back and knew they had lived their desires of being best friends. Their daily routine was an informal plan to make this a reality, and the ride was one of rich, full life. Their legacy was one our family looks to as an example of friendship in marriage. They had a desire. They made an informal plan to make it a reality. And, they left an awesome legacy behind that feeds my family today.
So, what makes you feel alive? What are your desires and what would it be like if you lived it out? What’s the legacy you desire to leave behind, and what are you doing to live into that reality? God is inviting you to live that rich, full life, living out the desire He has given you. God’s legacy is love. b/c of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the legacy of love is released into our lives. God gives us desires that feed our faith and life. Living into those God given desires gives us purpose. And, living w/ God’s purpose results in a confident past. So, what makes you come alive, and what would it be like if you lived it out?
My prayer is that God would reveal those desires to you. My prayer is that you would intentionally move toward living into them, knowing He goes before you. May He be glorified as you live into that rich, full life.