Monday, August 22, 2022

It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem
not knowing what will happen to me there.”
– Acts 20:22

 In the spring of 2001, my wife Christine and I made the biggest purchase of our lives. We bought a house. We had only been married for three years, and that 1,600-sqare-foot home in Victorville was our little slice of paradise. Less than a year later, we brought home our first daughter, Kayla. She was followed by our second daughter Haley in 2004, then Grace in 2006 and Cara in 2009.

For all four of our girls … that was their first home. They loved coloring pictures and playing with their American Girl dolls in the family room. They spent hours on the jungle gym and swings in the backyard. One summer Kayla even did pretend baptisms in the kiddie pool on the back patio. We loved that little house. So, as you can imagine, it was hard to say goodbye when we sold it in 2014. Before handing over the keys to our realtor, I walked through the house one last time, making sure we hadn’t left anything in the garage or the kitchen cabinets. I made sure the floors, countertops and bathrooms were clean. Then I locked the front door and drove away.

Some goodbyes are harder than others. And in Acts 20, the Apostle Paul’s goodbye to the church leaders in Ephesus must have been one of his hardest.

After serving for three years in Ephesus, Paul was called by the Spirit to wrap up his third mission trip. He intended to go to Jerusalem, but when he learned about a plot to kill him, he made an understandable detour. After visiting several cities over the following months, it became clear to him that he wouldn’t be returning to Ephesus. So, when he reached Miletus—about 30 miles south of Ephesus as the crow flies—he sent for the Ephesians elders to say a final goodbye. This speech contains some meaty instruction for these Christian leaders, and for all of us.

Paul begins by speaking about his PAST ministry: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day.… I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents” (vs. 18-19). Consider Paul’s four telling words: “from the first day.” He didn’t wait a week or even a few days before he started carrying out His God-given mission. Even though, at times, Paul was under attack, he stayed humble before God and ministered with love and compassion. And he served the Lord by preaching God’s word to everyone who would listen (vs. 20-21).

Paul then shifts to his PRESENT ministry: “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” And you’ve got to love what Paul says in verse 24: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Finally, Paul moves on to the FUTURE, warning the Ephesian elders that “savage wolves will come in and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (vs. 29-30). God had warned Paul that persecution was coming—not from jealous Jews or angry idol worshipers—but from within the church’s own ranks. These “wolves” would start teaching a false gospel of legalism, trying to divide and conquer the church for their own benefit. After preparing the elders as best he could, Paul embraced them and boarded his ship to Jerusalem.

I’d like to share three important lessons we can pull from this passage:

Lesson #1: Ministry rarely goes exactly as planned. So, you need to stay humble and roll with it. When he left, Paul was ready to sail for Jerusalem. And BAM! Curve ball. If he’d boarded that ship, he would have likely been swimming with the fishes by nightfall. So … change of plans! Paul rolled with it. That’s one of the secrets to doing good, long-term ministry.

Lesson #2: Like Paul, try to always have a “from-Day-One” attitude. You have precious little time to impact the lives around you. So, hit the ground serving. Years ago, when my kids were small, plenty of older and wiser Christians warned me how fast my girls would grow up. Turns out … they were right. And being involved in a ministry is a lot like having small kids: it’s temporary. EVERY ministry opportunity is temporary. So, don’t squander the time you’re given. Hit the ground serving and give it your all from Day One. And like Paul, when you’re looking at your ministry in the rearview mirror, you’ll know you did your very best.

Lesson #3: Finish strong. Far too many Christians start strong and finish weak. It may be too late to live out Lesson #2 in some areas of your life and ministry. But by God’s grace, you have the ability to live out lesson #3. Regardless of how you started, you can finish strong. Honestly, Paul didn’t start his ministry years very well either. As a young man, Paul wasn’t encouraging Christians—he was arresting and killing them. But he finished well. Once he made up his mind to give Jesus Christ his ALL, he fought the good fight, and he finished the race. So can you! 

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit

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