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How to Get Ready for Our Final Good-bye (Part 1)

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How can we get ready for our final good-bye? 1. Get alone with God (vs. 13). 2. Pursue the right priorities (vs. 14-16). 3. Determine to be devoted to the Lord (vs. 17-19). 4. Strive to spread the gospel (vs. 20-21; 24). 5. Keep focused on our finish (vs. 22-24).

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How to Get Ready for Our Final Good-bye (Part 1)

The Book of Acts - Part 72

Acts 20:13-24

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - February 1, 2015

BACKGROUND:

*In this Scripture, Paul and his mission team were at the end of Paul's third missionary journey, and were on their way to Jerusalem. This part of their travels began at Troas, where Paul preached all night. That night God miraculously brought a young man back to life, after he dozed off and fell from a third-story window.

*The rest of this chapter is an extremely important portion of Scripture. In these verses Paul reflected on the past. He also tried to prepare the church leaders of Ephesus for life without him.

*In vs. 25, Paul will tell them that they would never see him again in this world. But Paul was ready for that final good-bye, and God wants us to be ready. With this background in mind, let's begin by reading vs. 13-24.

MESSAGE:

*God wants us to be ready for our final good-byes. How can we get ready?

1. First Christians: We must get alone with God.

*We must be intentional about getting alone with God. Paul knew this very well, so in vs. 13, Luke wrote: "Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot."

*John Phillips explained that "the distance between Troas and Assos was about twenty miles. Paul determined to walk that distance. He wanted to be alone. The others agreed to meet Paul at Assos, boarded a coastal vessel, and sailed away, heading for Assos.

*One of the problems of a busy life is the lack of time to be alone with God. Paul evidently felt the need for spiritual renewal. The third missionary journey had been extensive and very strenuous. His planned visit to Jerusalem, which he felt could no longer be postponed, was one filled with peril. Paul needed solitude in which to think over the past, prepare for the future, tune up his own soul, and be sure he was walking in God's will.

*Then, too, he needed to give final instructions to the elders of the great Ephesian church. Already the winds of heresy were beginning to blow across Asia Minor, and within a generation Gnosticism would be in full bloom. Paul needed to think through the best way to bring together the Ephesian elders, and pray about his last message to those men." (1)

*Just like Paul, we need to be very intentional about having times alone with God. That may be a private retreat like we see here, but most often it involves a daily time of prayer, Bible study and reflection.

*This will not happen by itself, because we are all bombarded by distractions and a busy schedule demanding our attention. Most of us tend to be way too busy, so we have to take time, make time for personal Bible study and prayer.

2. How can we get ready for our final goodbyes? We must get alone with God. We also must pursue the right priorities.

*Of course, we will not be able to get alone with God unless we pursue the right priorities for our time. We have to recognize that we can't be in two places at the same time. The choices can be very hard. And in vs. 14-16, we see Paul making one of these tough choices:

14. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene.

15. We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite Chios; the following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium; the next day we came to Miletus.

16. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.

*A.T. Robertson tells us that "it was only a year ago that Paul had left Ephesus in haste after the riot. It was not expedient to go back so soon if he meant to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost. And remember that Paul had a good reason for going to Jerusalem. They were carrying a large collection of money for the poor, struggling Christians in that city." (2)

*The point here is that Paul had to make a hard choice: Spend some of his precious time with his close friends in Ephesus or hurry on to Jerusalem. And I know it goes without saying, but we really can't be in two places at the same time. So, the question is: Are we making the right choices with our time?

*Ed Young is the long-time pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston. He is also a long-time friend of Cliff Barrows. When Cliff's wife, Billie, died in 1994, Ed was asked to preach the funeral along with Billy Graham.

*Dr. Young told of something that unexpectedly happened at the funeral. In the middle of his remarks about Mrs. Barrows, the aging Billy Graham paused to make an apology to all of those who were a part of his evangelistic team.

*As he looked out over the many families and generations represented, Billy Graham began to cry. He then tearfully stated, "I want to take this moment to apologize to the families of all the members of my team and to apologize to my own children. We stayed away from home too long, -- many times months at a time in crusades and trips around the world.

*That was a critical mistake I made as a father and as an evangelist. I want to ask for my family to forgive me, and for the families of all the team members who traveled with me to forgive me." (3)

*Church: Even the best among us need to learn to pursue the right priorities, and it's not an easy thing to do.

3. But to get ready for our goodbyes, we must pursue the right priorities. We also must determine to be devoted to the Lord.

*We need the same kind of godly devotion Paul demonstrated in vs. 17-19:

17. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.

18. And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you,

19. serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews."

[1] Paul was totally devoted to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and holiness is a huge part of our devotion.

*As Paul told the church leaders in vs. 18, "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord.

[2] Holiness is a big part of our devotion to the Lord. So is humility.

*In vs. 19, Paul also said that he was "serving the Lord with all humility." Many years ago, F.B. Meyer said, "I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other. And that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller, but of stooping lower." (4)

*Humility is a huge part of our devotion to the Lord. Paul reminds us of this essential truth in Ephesians 2:8-9. There he said this to all Christians:

8. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9. not of works, lest anyone should boast.

*John Stevenson explained: "You cannot boast in your salvation. You cannot even boast in your faith. Boasting in your faith would be like boasting in the fact that you reached out to take a check from somebody.

*Suppose you have a giant debt, but then some kind and generous person offers to pay it for you. They write out a check made out to you for $500,000, and you reach out and take it from them.

*How absurd it would be if you then went around telling everybody: 'Isn't it wonderful that I had what it took to reach out and grab that check?' The wonderful thing was not that you had received the gift, but that it was given in the first place." (5)

[3] Humility is a big part of our devotion to the Lord. But so is tenacity.

*In vs. 19, Paul is telling us that he tenaciously kept on serving the Lord, in spite of the fact that he had "many tears and trials which happened to (him) by the plotting of the Jews."

*It takes faith, tenacity, and grit to keep on serving the Lord. Ron Hutchcraft told about a vacation his grandsons took a few years ago. And Ron said: "Our grandsons recently experienced the vacation of their young lives. Mom and Dad took them out West to see the Tetons, Big Sky country, and Yellowstone National Park. And God made sure they got plenty of memories: The herd of buffalo that basically surrounded their vehicle, the moose that was right by the side of the road, the elk that posed patiently for all the pictures anyone wanted to take.

*But as impressive as all that was, nothing impressed them so much as this water that kept shooting high out of the ground. Of course, it was the amazing geyser known as Old Faithful. Our grandsons, Mr. 5-Year-Old, and Mr. 2-Year-Old, couldn't stop talking to us about it on the phone.

*In fact, our older guy told his mom, 'I want a geyser.'" And Ron said: "We're working on that for Christmas. Our grandson says he wants an Old Faithful of his own. So does God. He's looking for some 'old faithfuls' He can count on.

*See, faithfulness is so valuable because it's so rare. Today many people stick with a responsibility or a commitment as long as it feels good, as long as it's fun, until the novelty wears off, or so long as I'm being treated right or appreciated. But our Lord modeled something much more noble: Seeing your job through, even when everyone deserts you, even when you want out, even when the world is against you, and even when they nail you to a cross.

*He is faithfulness. That's why He wants faithfulness in His followers." Ron added this: "In Revelation 19:11, the Apostle John said: 'Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True. . .' Jesus is called 'Faithful and True,' and I hope that's what they will be able to call you too, as you grow into one of God's 'Old Faithfuls.' However small your assignment, however tired you may feel, however unappreciated you may be by people, stay faithful!" (6)

4. This is the kind of devotion God is looking for in us, so we must determine to be devoted to the Lord. We also must strive to spread the gospel.

*We must make a maximum effort to share the good news about Jesus Christ. As always, this is what we see Paul doing in vs. 20-21. There Paul said:

20. . . "I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,

21. testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

*Then down in vs. 24, Paul said that he wanted to finish "the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus." And what was that ministry? "To testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

*In these verses we see Paul doing everything he possibly could do to spread the good news about Jesus Christ. Paul pulled out all the stops. And he used 3 different words here to describe his efforts: He "proclaimed it." He "taught it." And he "testified to it."

*Paul also tells us in vs. 20 that he spread the gospel everywhere he went, both publicly and privately, as he said, "from house to house." That makes me think of the house churches that are meeting today in countries around the world where Christians are being persecuted.

*God wants us to be like Paul! He wants us to make our best possible effort. He wants us to do all we can to spread the Word of God. That includes things like Sunday School, VBS, Orange and Upward for children. It also includes things like the Fish Fry and Evangelism Rally last night, and the special offering for the Gideons next Sunday.

*But doing all we can to spread the gospel also includes us inviting people to church, telling people about Jesus, telling them what it means to be a Christian, and telling them what God has done in our own lives.

*God can use us where we work, play and live. But we have to do all we can to share our faith. Pull out the stops for Jesus! That's how to get ready for our final goodbyes.

5. We must strive to spread the gospel. And we must keep focused on our finish.

*Paul was certainly focused on his finish in vs. 22-24. There he said:

22. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

23. except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

24. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

*Just like Paul, we must keep focused on our finish. David ring is a great example for us. Mary and I first heard David at the Texas Evangelism Conference in 1987. He was born in 1953 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the youngest of eight children. David's dad was a Baptist minister, but he died in 1964. Even more painful was the death of David's mother in 1968, after a battle with cancer.

*David has cerebral palsy, and he has never been able to speak very plainly. He said that he could not walk like the other children. And he could not use his hands and arms like everyone else. He suffered a whole lot because of the remarks of the other children.

*When David became an orphan at age of 14, no one wanted him, so he went from family to family never finding a home. David was in much pain, both physical and mental pain. He was constantly being ridiculed in public. He was told that no one liked him, and that he would never amount to anything.

*He gave up on himself, and felt others, including his family, had done the same. One sister, however, did not give up on David Ring. She encouraged him to go back to church and school. Eventually he did return to church, and at a service in 1970, David gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ. David Ring who felt like a nobody before, says now he is a "somebody for the Lord Jesus."

*Strengthened by his new relationship with the Lord, he went back to high school. There he served as manager of the football, basketball and track teams. David was also voted Most Popular, and Vice President of his class. In 1971, David was called by God into the ministry, and he entered into full-time evangelism in 1973.

*David Ring has preached to hundreds of thousands of people. And I once heard him say this in his garbled voice, "I have pain every moment I am awake." Then he said, "When I see my Lord the first thing I am going to say to Him is 'Why? -- Why have You been so good to me?' I have cerebral palsy, but it doesn't have me, -- not for a minute. Count your many blessings and it will blow your ever-loving mind what the Lord has done for you."

*David Ring also said, "The thing I want to hear most from the Lord is, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.'" (Matthew 25:21). (7)

CONCLUSION:

*David Ring is getting ready for his final good-bye. We all must do the same, so be like Paul.

-Be intentional about getting alone with God.

-Pursue the right priorities in life.

-Determine to be devoted to the Lord.

-Strive to spread the gospel.

-And keep focused on our finish.

*Let's ask the Lord to help us as we go to God in prayer.

(1) Adapted from EXPLORING ACTS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Paul purposely alone" Acts 20:13

(2) Adapted from "Word Pictures in the New Testament" by Archibald Thomas Robertson - Acts 20:16

(3) HOW TO FATHER by Ed Young, Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas, ACD1496 - Source: "In Other Words" - December 2007 - www.iows.net

(4) Sermon Central sermon "God's Requirements for Revival - Humility" by Rick Flowers - 2 Chronicles 7:11-15

(5) Adapted from Sermon Central sermon "Faith and Works" by John Stevenson - Ephesians 2:8-10

(6) Adapted from KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 10906 - SOURCE: A Word With You By Ron Hutchcraft #4368 - TITLE: The Grandeur Of An Old Faithful - AUTHOR: Ron Hutchcraft - DATE: 10803

(7) Sources:

Background information found in article: "David Ring to speak at Arbor Baptist Church" - St. Clair Alabama Timers - Gary Hanner - 03042004

SermonCentral sermon "Thorns of Life" by Bill Butsko - 2 Corinthians 12:2-10

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